Once upon I time I actually felt a great deal of shame around keeping a journal. From the age of around 13 it was a grand secret that I kept hidden in my underwear drawer and in those days it mostly contained musings about how “unfair” things were. How “unfair” it was that I was being sent to bed ALREADY. The not-so-harsh parenting being documented day by day by emotional fury translated into words on paper.
Reading my journal entries back now, from the age of 13-16 it is easy to see that I was already experiencing more hormonal imbalance than was normal. The older I was getting, the more serious my self-esteem started to impact my wellbeing. It brings a tear to my eye to read about the self-harm and I quite simply cannot BELIEVE that it took me so damn long to identify the fact that my depression probably started way earlier than I have acknowledged in the past.
I used journaling back then to articulate my self-hatred and my hatred for the world around me. The “injustice” of it all. It was my opportunity to make sense of my circumstances (which, by the way, were not bad at all – just perceived to be).
I now try to journal just as freely, but with a little more structure. I make a point of noting how I am feeling right in that moment, instead of just documenting the events that have taken place. In fact, if you were to read my journals now, you’d probably have no clue what I even get up to at all. I then try and establish the events that have taken place that may have led to me feeling this way, and my initial thoughts to those events/triggers… I try and establish how and why I have ended up right in this moment, with these feelings.
That works for the positive feelings too. If I’m sat on my lunch break feeling great, I don’t use that as an excuse to not journal. I try and identify why I feel so great. It could be that I’ve had a really productive morning in the office, and that has made me feel competent which makes me feel in control which makes me feel happy. I might be able to attribute it to getting a PB in the gym, which makes me feel strong, which also makes me happy and accomplished. It cuts both ways.
The point is, journaling when I am low is always certain to lift me up a little, or at least gain some clarification on the situation, and journaling when I am already feeling good only serves to make me feel even better. I journal every day without fail for this reason. And all of the reasons below.
Its free and available 24/7
The beauty of journaling is that, minus the relatively small cost of purchasing a notebook and pen, its muuuuuuuch cheaper than therapy! You can jot your thoughts down when it suits you as well, instead of waiting for your appointment with a therapist which might not be for another few days, by which point it may be too late to remember/process exactly what was going through your mind in that moment.
Sometimes when I journal it is the most incomprehensible babble of words that don’t even add up to make intelligible sentences. OTHER times, my writing is like poetry. Dramatic, eloquent, and using a much wider range of vocabulary. Although it’s not one that I share with the public, or anyone for that matter, it is still my own little ring-bound creative outlet. The fact that it is personal and private makes that even more special for some reason. Like a hobby only I know about. Except you all know too now. Ok, moving on.
Through putting my feelings into words and articulating the situation that’s occurring I can sometimes manage to problem solve and get to the root of the issue pretty quickly. This can happen before I’ve even finished putting the pen to paper. I cannot even begin to describe the elation that you feel when you figure your own shit out. Sometimes, we need to stop and look at all the possible reasons why things are unfolding. In the heat of the moment it is easy to be narrow-minded and get carried away with our feelings but journaling allows us to review the situation with better perspective. Example: Jess thought: Oh my goodness I can’t believe Boss X just snapped at me he must think I’m really bad at my job, I knew I wasn’t any good, I’d probably cause less issues if I wasn’t here at all, I don’t know if I can cope with the rest of my workload now (motivation drops)… Jess journaling: So I felt really incompetent earlier because Boss X said this . Oh, but he did tell me he has a funeral to attend tomorrow. Maybe that’s playing on his mind. Ta-dah. Problem solved.
Patterns of Behaviour
Sometimes I’ll notice that I’m writing the exact same “issue feeling” that I wrote about yesterday. Oh and 3 days ago. And a week ago. Crap. If there is a recurring theme with my entries I notice. I notice that I’m writing about the same damn thing and that highlights to me that that is the problem area to be addressed. (Sadly, there are still some thought patterns that I still carry from the age of 13 – shocker – but don’t worry I’m working on those!)
It forces me to take a break
Because I journal on my lunch break, it forces me to step away from the office and work on ME for a solid 40 minutes. There is great power in doing something for yourself and getting a change of scenery means I come back to my desk in the afternoon with a renewed sense of energy. I can clear up anything that bothered me throughout the morning so that it can be at least somewhat dealt with, internally, before I carry on.
Well, this turned out to be quite a chatty/long/waffly post but hopefully I’ve inspired maybe one person to consider using journaling. I hope I have. 🙂