In my previous article, I explained how journaling (keeping a journal) could be a powerful tool for change. I also revealed how I keep a journal and promised to describe other methods of doing so. Perhaps one of the methods I’m about to describe will whet your appetite and convince you to give it a try. I encourage you to do so, for once you enter the world of journaling, you will make many pleasant discoveries. You will learn through experience that journaling both informs and forms us. The greatest discovery of all is self-discovery. Journaling will introduce you to your best friend, your strongest ally, and your greatest accomplishment: YOURSELF. That’s enough of an introduction, now let’s move on to the descriptions of five methods you can experiment with. Even if none of them is for you, they’ll help you to find your own method.
1. Conventional journaling. This is the method that usually comes to mind when we discuss diaries or journals. It’s simply a record of the events in our lives. There is no need to go into the minute details of our daily activities. Instead, merely record vignettes and snippets of your actions and feelings. Why do so? Because they will become a source of pleasure and learning. Don’t photo albums provide pleasure and jog the memory? Yet, all they do is record our physical environment. Our journal, however, records our interior life. Since it is a record that is more significant than mere physical change, it will provide even greater pleasure than a photo album. You are not a being of this instant; you are a process. You are a river because your life unfolds over many years. Your journal can become a panoramic ‘photograph’ of the stream of events and emotions that flow through your life. It provides the big picture and paints a portrait of the complete you.
Besides pleasure, our journal is also a source of learning. It’s pages remind us that what we once thought was unbearable, was in fact manageable. It’s a reminder that any pain or suffering that we experience will pass. It’s a record of how we coped. We can refer to our past to learn from our successes and failures.
2. Lists. Some people find it helpful to keep a list of their accomplishments. If you stop and think about it, you will realize that you do things you are proud of every day. The problem is many of us don’t stop and think about it. Instead of filling our hearts with joy, we fill our minds with negativity by focusing on what went ‘wrong.’ Keeping a list of our achievements and adding to it every day puts our attention where it belongs, on the positive. Focusing on our many attainments builds confidence and motivates us to do even more. And when we do this regularly, we will grow to realize that nothing goes ‘wrong,’ it just goes differently. And that provides us with the opportunity to develop our coping skills.
Another way of focusing on the positive is to keep a gratitude list. Each day you record what you are grateful for. This is a good practice because a grateful heart is a happy heart. Rather than complain about what we don’t have, we can choose to be grateful for our blessings and for the suffering we have avoided.
3. Cathartic writing. When we are in pain, we wish to speak to others about it. Having a shoulder to cry on provides some relief. Yet, there are times when we don’t want to burden others with our problems. Or perhaps we are not ready to confide in them because of shame or guilt. At such times, one may receive relief by writing about it. It is best to do so in great detail, exploring every emotion. Doing so helps to separate oneself from the pain. It is almost like writing about someone else. Cathartic writing, then, is psychotherapeutic. It helps to purge the soul of pain and can be of help when suffering from grief or depression. This type of journaling, however, works best with professional counseling. Keeping a journal while attending a support group is more powerful than just keeping a journal or just attending a support group.
4. Dialogue. Wouldn’t it help to have a wise person always at your side, so you could turn to him or her for advice whenever something was troubling you? Sadly, many are unaware of the help that is available. Perhaps it is because if they look around they won’t see anyone at their side. That’s because the words of wisdom they seek are not by their side, but INSIDE. It’s called by many names, including Inner Wisdom, Inner Self, or Higher Self. We can harness its power by entering into a dialogue with it. So, if you feel the need for guidance, describe your problem and write your questions. Then be still and allow your Inner Voice to speak to you. Write the answer you get. The answer may lead to another question, which in turn leads to another answer. Just continue the dialogue, back and forth, until everything becomes clear to you. This is a powerful technique that is worth exploring.
5. Intuitive journaling. When it comes to communicating with our Inner Wisdom, some of us are more gifted than others. If you are new to jo