This is a guest post by Chaundra McGill. Chaundra is the owner of writing reflections and the author of the new free e-book, $1 Therapy: Achieving Emotional Well-Being Through Reflective Writing Therapy.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of keeping a journal? If the image of a teenage girl divulging her first crush on the pages of a padlocked diary springs to mind, I encourage you to reevaluate your notions of journaling.
For most of my life, I always heard that it was good to keep a journal, primarily from people who never kept a journal. As an English major in college, a few professors required journaling as a part of the curriculum and factored these forced logs into our final grades.
Needless to say, I did not find the musing of required classical readings helpful. As a writer, a mentor encouraged me to keep a journal because you need a place to jot your random ideas. Ok, this made a little more sense to me. But only until I turned to the pages of a journal to help me deal with my past issues and trauma, did I see a direct and pertinent need for a journal.
Let’s face it, we all need an outlet. Some people confide in their friends, some people pay a therapist, I used the pages of a journal. A journal appealed to me in ways that confiding in another human being could not, mainly because I never had to worry about my journal judging me or divulging my most intimate thoughts.
The physical act of writing my thoughts was similar to the release I felt jogging three miles on a treadmill. The emotional release of writing lifted years of pinned up frustration. The words I revealed on my journal pages allowed me to see clearly and sort out all of the confusion that swirled about in my mind.
But let’s get one thing clear, it’s hard to get started. When I first started journaling, I would often arrive at the page without a clue what to write about, which was extremely frustrating. So to help you avoid the same frustration, I have listed below a few journaling techniques that can help your get started on improving your emotional life.
This works well when you don’t have anything to write about, but just need to write. Simply place your pen to the page and begin writing. You can even write “I don’t know what to write about” repeatedly, until another topic flows from your pen. For many people, it doesn’t take long before a topic springs to mind. Also, be forewarned, it is common for people practicing this exercise for the first time to cry because your subconscious mind seizes this opportunity to release festering issues.
Arrive at the page with one word in mind and write as much as you possibly can about the topic. It can be anything: a person, place or thing. Some topics that have proven very helpful for me are: mother, father, uncle, home, love, death, goals, motive, etc. I personally learned a lot about myself and my feelings about a particular topic during this exercise.
Who am I?
Oh, the quintessential defining question. No, but seriously, who are you? Describe your life as it is today. Consider the various facets of your life, such as work, relationships, family, spirituality, etc. Describe exactly how you see yourself today. Writing this description will inevitably lead you to evaluate not only your present, but your past and future.