Thoughts and Feelings and Words
As a Psychologist in Calgary, journaling is a strategy that I highly recommend to many of my clients. It can be a great method for them to get in touch with their core emotions; a powerful way to explore and understand their thought patterns and really come to a deeper sense of self-understanding. I also use journaling in my own life and I really feel it’s a great strategy that can really help anyone who tries it to understand themselves better. I have also seen this strategy help many clients lessen the impact of anxiety and depression on their lives. I have also seen many clients use journaling as a great strategy to help them work out problems and make better decisions in their lives.
Journaling can be a very simple strategy in which we write down our feelings and thoughts on a regular basis, looking for patterns and insights that may help us improve our situation and live a better life. Journaling is a great way to capture and explore the emotions and thoughts that surround the events of our daily lives. It allows us to capture and explore our habits, actions and reactions to our world — it can help us really illuminate and interpret what’s going on in our lives and decide on better, more productive ways of thinking and acting. It allows us to evaluate our thinking, our emotions, and our behaviour in a way we wouldn’t normally do. Usually, in life, we go cruising along on autopilot and don’t make the effort to look at our thoughts, feelings and actions — journaling allows us to actually explore if our thoughts and feelings are really helping make our lives better.
Journaling allows us to take the time to be truly introspective and creates the opportunity for us to look at how we are acting and reacting in our world and perhaps find better ways of doing so. Journaling is really one of the best ways to advance our personal growth and emotional development. By getting your thoughts out of your head and putting them down on paper, you can really gain insights you may otherwise never see.
Journaling — Anxiety and Depression
Though regularly writing in a journal seems a simple thing to do — when you’re depressed or anxious it really may not be that easy. Writing about our feelings and emotions takes energy and sometimes too, it can be uncomfortable or even painful to write about the negative feelings and thoughts we have when we are anxious or depressed. But it might be worth it to try. Journaling is a proven strategy for helping people improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Almost always, part of the mechanism that maintains anxiety and depression is a brain that looks at the world through a negative and skewed filter. A depressed and anxious brain often selectively focuses on negative thoughts and opinions and disregards any neutral or even positive alternative thoughts. Journaling for anxiety-depression can really help sufferers explore their thoughts and feelings, help them feel better and look at their world in a more accurate and less negative way. If you do decide to try journaling be sure you check with your mental health professional and if it makes you feel worse — don’t do it.
Here’s some more information on journaling as a strategy for anxiety/depression:
Journaling and Problem Solving
Journaling is also a great way to help us get some perspective and solve our problems. How often do we really sit down and really look at a problem from a few different perspectives? We usually just think about it a little bit and then go with our gut and make a decision. That’s great sometimes, as our intuition and hunches can often help us make good decisions — but many problems might be better solved by actually looking at them more in depth. Journaling allows us to slow down, look at different perspectives and can really help us make a make a measured and reasoned decision. Writing things down allows us to better see all of the sides of a problem — writing can give us a clarity we may not otherwise see.
We can really only concentrate our mind’s power on the small parts of any problem we’re trying to solve. Although our brains are powerful problem-solving machines, they are still quite limited in their ability to look at all the parts of any complicated problem we may be facing. For example, close your eyes and picture the house you live in — notice you can really only see one view of it at a time. Can you see the front and the back at the same time? Not so easy. The same thing happens with a problem we’re trying to solve — we’re only really able to see a little piece of the problem at one time. Journaling gives us the ability to really look at all of the possible angles and perspectives of a particular problem. A powerful decision-making tool indeed.
Journaling: Getting Started
So, how do you get started — what should you write down in your journal?
A good place is to start with buying a journal that appeals to you, maybe it has funny cats on it, or it’s a particular design or colour, or maybe it’s a beautiful leather journal that appeals to you. Get something that appeals to you and makes you want to write in it!
One brand that is a bit spendy, but very well made and attractive, comes from the Moleskine brand: http://www.moleskine.com/
You can also journal electronically on your laptop or even try a Smartphone App like this free one at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stream-journal-easy-journaling/id972439087?mt=8
So what exactly should you be writing down? There is no right or wrong way to do this.
Here are some great ideas to start with.
Try to look candidly and objectively at the thoughts and emotions you’ve written about. Be frank with yourself, but be careful to not let the journal become a place where you beat yourself up or where you harm your self-esteem.
Sometimes it can help to just let a stream of consciousness flow and go with it!
Find a peaceful time and place to journal every day — make it a part of your self-care regimen.
Remember there is no right or wrong way.
Here is a link to a great website with many more great ideas on how to start journaling:
Keep your journal private — it’s important that you should feel free to share absolutely anything in your journal. Do whatever you feel is prudent to protect your journal and ensure that others aren’t able to access your private thoughts.
So give it a try for a few weeks and see if this method can help you reduce stress, solve life’s problems and find some new perspectives and ideas to improve your world.