To Journal or Not To Journal

Do you journal?

Do you commit to a regular journaling process in your life? Or are you a journaler who writes here and there? Maybe you journal and rarely even write, preferring to doodle, draw, paint or collage?

There are as many reasons for journaling as there are individuals journaling. You might turn to a journal:

  • for expression
  • to make connections
  • because you have a passion for writing
  • to track or process daily events
  • to not forget things
  • to capture moments and experiences you don’t want to forget
  • to document epiphanies
  • to illuminate themes
  • to work through difficult decisions and feelings
  • to dump thoughts from your mind to get on with the day or to get to sleep
  • as a container for creative ideas and inspirations
  • to begin to listen to your one unique voice
  • for grounding
  • for meaning-making …

There are infinite number of personal reasons to keep a journal. A growing body of research shows that therapeutic writing, writing that explores experiences, thoughts, and feelings, contributes to improved physical and psychological well-being. More, too, is being learned about the power of story. Our journal is one version, or perhaps many versions, of our story.

Did you “used-to” journal?

I meet “used-to” journalers all the time. In fact, I was a “used-to” journaler myself. People put down their journals every day for as many reasons as they picked them up in the first place. Often people feel stuck in their writing.

Finding different journal techniques may help breathe new life into your journaling process. If you have always used free writing, perhaps experiment with a structured list. Try a cluster or mind map. Write in your journal upside down. Explore the internet. Read a book on journaling or writing. Take a class and develop a toolbox of journaling techniques. If you find yourself always writing on the same theme, try a prompt outside of your normal repertoire. Be curious! If you tend to write in isolation, explore opportunities in joining a journal group. The power of writing along with others is potent.

But someone might see it!

This is one of the most common reasons I hear that someone “cannot” journal. There are many ways to keep privacy in mind that can bring you toward your journal versus away from it.

  1. Place a warning or request on the the first page of your journal that states your desire for privacy.
  2. If your journal travels with you, include your contact information so that a journal may be returned to you if it goes on walkabout.
  3. Use letters or code in referring to individuals and events if you are concerned about particularly sensitive material.
  4. Lock or hide your journal.
  5. Keep your journal on your computer with password protection or securely “on the cloud.”
  6. Write on looseleaf paper and shred periodically. Obviously, this is at the expense of the opportunity to review your journal but you won’t be able to review your journal if you don’t write one either.
  7. Journal about what this concern is really about…
Have you called yourself a Bad Journaler?

Or maybe that was just me?…

There are many right ways and no wrong ways to journal. Journaling can be a daily, weekly, monthly or catch-as-catch-can venture. More may or may not be better for you. At a workshop I attended years ago, a respected authority on journaling stated that he does not journal regularly but only when he needs to. What?! Make journaling work for you. There are no rules. You can even have more than one journal going at the same time and go to the one that “feels right.” The journal is a welcoming place.

Have you thought journaling is “Not for Me?”

Journaling is so many things. Journaling can be writing pages and pages. It can also be writing a brief list. It can be doodles, souvenirs stuck on a page, collage, paint, phone messages, or a blog. It can be a diary of dreams, a record of hopes, or a list of five things you are grateful for each day. There is no one right way to journal. It is worth repeating: There are many right ways and no wrong ways. The trick is finding one or more right ways for you.

bharrison-small Betsy Harrison, MA LCMHC is founding partner of Counseling Associates, a licensed clinical mental health counselor, a Certified Journal to the Self® Instructor and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator. In addition to her clinical work, Betsy leads workshops on reflective writing, curiosity and creativity.


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