My guest post first appeared on Lisa Douthit’s fabulous Wellness Warrior blog and is reprinted here with her permission.
As a kid, I couldn’t wait to get my first diary (I didn’t know I was journaling at the time). Always a writer since the age of ten, I was thrilled to receive a rainbow covered, hardbound book just for my thoughts, feelings, and adventures! How exciting!! Of course, I mostly filled it with scribbles of future short stories of goldfish and doodles of kittens, but that’s beside the point.
I filled it. And, over the years I filled many, many more as I entered relationships, one in particular with a man I didn’t realize was abusive until I wrote out the horrible ways he treated me. Journaling helped me break it off. When he contacted me, over twenty years later – and three months before he killed himself – I turned to those journals for answers. Ultimately, those journals became the basis for my books. Check out the best Skillmil resume writing services.
Journaling as a Lifeline
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it’s startling to look back on all those journals and see a lost, lonely child reaching inside blank pages for answers. Maybe I found them, maybe I didn’t…but now I can look back and see where I was. If I didn’t have those journals, I don’t know that I would have been able to capture the depth and vulnerability, the true emotion of those feelings and thoughts.
“We are mortal, we are human, and we are fallible. Our memories change as we weave through time. We are mortal, we are human, and we are fallible. Our memories change as we weave through time.”
Journaling became for me a kind of lifeline, a way to express what I couldn’t say. It still is, in a way, though I’m now a bestselling author.
As adults, we are busy and we are often sick – physically and emotionally — from all this busyness. No doubt, that statement resonates deeply with many of you – you know exactly what I mean. I am no different, suffering from chronic migraines, anxiety, and depression. I still journal, though it’s in a much different way – sometimes it’s only a word (a noun, verb, or adjective), a picture, or a sentence.
Many people are intimidated by journaling because they think there’s only one right way, and they can’t keep up with it. They buy a beautiful journal, start it for a few days, and then stop because they don’t write in it every day. So what? Do what you can, give yourself permission, and give yourself a break.
Cool Fact: did you know that journaling is actually good for your body and soul?
University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health. (Source: PsychCentral.com)
Here are just five types of journals I’ve kept:
Sometimes, I use all five techniques in ONE journal! Maybe one of these techniques will work for you:
- One-word or one-sentence: I do this a lot, particularly when I’m writing a book. It can be a random quote or sign, an emotion or how I’m feeling, or something that strikes me as I’m going about my day. I let it roll around in my brain like a marble, but the act of writing it down helps me so much.Example: I wrote this down just yesterday…Types of memories: thought memory, body memory, soul memory. What’s the difference?
- Visual: Polaroid cameras work best for this. Take a picture and glue-stick it to the page. Add a caption if you wish – I typically recommend just one word and the date. We are visual animals, and we tend to remember visually as well. One author I work with writes solely from her visual journals.
- Creativity: This is great for someone who is process-oriented like I am – it’s hard for me to let Ms. Right Brain take over. It’s messy! So a creativity journal is fun for me – I’ll take magazine clippings, print out something that catches my eye on Pinterest (which I love because I can organize it how I want LOL), add scribbles and stick-people sketches (writer here), use markers and colored pens – it’s like being a kid again. Often, out of that mess, comes inspiration for more writing!
- Gratitude: At my lowest point, after the C-Section birth of my second child, I suffered from horrific nausea and stomach issues, moderate post-partum depression, and as I struggled to lose the baby weight from months of bed rest and gestational diabetes, a new diagnosis of Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune thyroid disorder), as well as massive neck and shoulder pain. My husband (now ex) was at a loss how to run his business, take care of two kids, help me, and I felt pretty hopeless (despite meds and physician help).
My nutritionist suggested I start a gratitude journal, and I can’t even tell you how much this journaling helped me. I’m not really into ‘inspirational’ hokey quotes, so at first, I thought this kind of journal was pretty silly, yet I pushed through, every day asking myself, and answering these three questions:
- What am I most grateful for today?
- What did I achieve today?
- What excites me the most about tomorrow?
Asking myself those ‘GAE’ (Grateful, Achieve, Excite) questions helped to alleviate my focus on the negativity, something we all tend to do in times of strife. And you know what? I still ask myself those questions daily today. (It’s also a form of redirection – changing your paradigm to get out of that negativity loop, but that’s a whole other post.) For now, just remind yourself to ask those questions in a daily journal, and even mentally. That’s a good start.)
I often do this with my kids when they get stuck in a whining loop. Works wonders.
- Health: If you are working with any kind of health practitioner, they likely will want you to keep track of the kind of health episodes you came to see them for in the first place. For me, I’ve kept track of migraines for years. This type of journal is an excellent diagnostic tool for your practitioner, so they can have some idea of what you are experiencing. You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to choosing the right cbd oil similar to this full spectrum hemp UltraCell oil. At a minimum, look for a product that has been third-party tested. Reputable CBD companies will send out their products to accredited, third-party labs to be tested, the best ones are the delta 8 thc products.
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To really make it helpful for you, I suggest adding in as much detail as possible – not only “I had a migraine,” but also what else was happening at the time. I’ll track diet that day, sleep, stressful events, etc., anything that may have contributed. Why? Perhaps there’s some sort of pattern that will emerge. It always does.
I hope these ideas for journaling prove helpful to you. They certainly have for me, in more than one aspect. Try a few out and see what you think!
Ann Marie Ackermann saysMay 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm
At the very least, journaling is good for your writing!
You bring up some thought-provoking points. I still enjoy the feel of a pen on paper, whether it’s good for me or not. But you just gave me some great reasons to indulge even more.
Joshua saysMay 30, 2016 at 3:01 am
This is honestly really inspiring. I have used a website called 750words.com where you basically journal 750 words every single day. I stopped using it and journaling, but you have inspired me to try again.
Rachel Thompson saysMay 30, 2016 at 9:51 pm
thank you, Joshua! That’s so awesome. Sometimes it seems we set ourselves up for failure by setting up high expectations — honestly, if all I can get is a word in my journal, that’s good enough that day.
Something can be TRULY better than nothing, especially when we look back and see that one word representing what we felt that day. xx
Glen saysJune 16, 2016 at 4:55 am
I’ve been doing this every day for the past three years. It’s a really great thing. But I was never doing it strictly to get disciplined per se, it was more a way to fight depression and just get stuff done other than watching YouTube videos literally all day. I don’t often read the entries I’ve written, for me the act of writing is enough to get me motivated to do anything at all, which is way better than doing nothing.
Morgan saysSeptember 3, 2017 at 5:19 am
Thank you. So often I don’t journal (even though I journal a lot) because I think I have to fill pages. A line, a paragraph, a photo, a few clippings from a magazine (though I already do that one) makes it all more doable. Now if I could just get it down to one journal at a time. =)