8 Tips on How to Express Yourself in a Journal
Bridgette Jones thought she did it when she wrote in her Dear Diary, but all she was really doing was invalidating herself with a list of her daily failures. Whilst those movies were hilariously funny, I was always panged with sadness as I watched her wallow in her stuff. There is so much positive power to be gained from the art of journaling.
When we utilise our journal properly, we are purging the crap literally out of our subconscious and onto paper. This purging allows us to consciously connect to the emotions of the challenge we are currently facing.
Once the krud emotions are out in the open we can then examine them and the patterns we run associated with it. This exploration can be a revelation into your subsequent reactive behaviours and provide you with clues to make changes and heal from previous painful experiences.
The hidden benefit of journaling is this, it is like going to an appointment with your talking therapist. You get to bring up all the stuff at your pace. You get to tell the story on those pages without judgement. Best of all you aren’t burdening any of your friends and family with your crap. You are in control.
Let me begin with a caveat with journalling — if after writing about the issue (person, event or issue) that you don’t feel lighter, this is the time to take quick action. Reach out for help to decipher where you are stuck or seek a different viewpoint on the mountain you probably feel like you are climbing.
This reaching out might be with a mate, a workplace counsellor, your trusted GP, a counsellor, a psychologist or someone like myself who is a kinesiology practitioner. Everyone tends to have their preferred ‘go-to’ person, and that would be the time to reach out after you’ve had the first crack at solving the problem.
Remember this, if you are just starting the reach out process there is generally only two rules:
- You must connect with the other person with implicit trust
- You should feel some relief or process at the completion of a session.
Journalling is a form of self-expression that you may not be able to voice out aloud. The art of journaling enables you to explore the deeper levels associated with various perspectives of your life.
For me personally, it’s like walking into a dark room (ie the challenge I am experiencing), and granting myself permission to turn on the switch which floods the space with light, illuminating the hidden treasure.
The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be.” ~Shakti Gawai
Journalling can be a raw and beautiful in its process, and there are no rules for it to work. It’s all on your terms. Some people find that they require rules to abide by to get started. So let me gift you eight ideas of how best to get started, or expand your creative expression.
Tip #1 Gratitude Journaling
Sometimes when we’ve had our Negative Nancy pants on for a while, it’s very challenging to shine a light on any positive. Additionally, sometimes the experiences in our life are just so traumatic or overwhelming that it’s not quite safe enough for us to explore that yet.
Gratitude journaling is a safe place to challenge you to cultivate a new attitude of positive in your life. You get to document things you appreciate. For some who are stuck, this can be very challenging so I always suggest start simple.
“I am grateful for waking up today. I am grateful for there being food in my fridge, for the car to transport my family safely from A to B. I’m grateful for the job that I have which enables me to pay my bills. I’m grateful that my current job teaches me lessons of where I’m valued (or not) and inspires me to make changes”.
One of my mentors, Caitlin Grace, keeps her gratitude journal separately to that of her regular journal. This is her sacred space to record and give thanks for all of the abundance in her life. For me personally, I like to start with gratitude entries and then explore what has been challenging me.
Tip #2 Affirmation Cards
Your journal may incorporate utilising motivational or inspirational cards. This is where you pull a card from your preferred deck of cards (and there is no limit to what floats your boat here), and write down the uplifting quote and what that means to you. You get to explore how you could modify a thought or behavioural process to adopt that intention in your life.
I utilise a myriad of card decks by Kyle Gray, Gabriella Bernstein, Angels and Masters etc. I allow my intuition to guide me on where I require insight or wisdom or a prompt from the universe.
The other joyous gift of keeping a separate gratitude journal is that any time you are feeling down and need a boost of positive, you get to read through your happiness entries and lift yourself up.
Tip #3 Self Enquiry & Reflective Journaling
The style of self-enquiry and reflection journalling enables you to safely explore facets of daily life and its issues. When we are in the thick of the moment, you may not be in a position to explore all of your feelings at once. Additionally, you may not be able to reflect on your behaviour at first glance because you’ve been busy reacting.
Journaling about your living situation, your work, and your relationships is a lovely safe place to explore topical emotions and feelings. Are you right where you want to be in terms of living your dream life? Do you have all the right feels?
Tip #4 Grant Permission to Your Inner Child to Express
So what is our inner child? Popular psychology defines our inner child as an individual’s childlike aspect. This includes what we have learned when we were a child, before puberty. The inner child is often conceived as a semi-independent subpersonality subordinate to the waking conscious mind.
And so now you’re probably wondering how to connect with your inner child? I was taught the following techniques in a Louise Hay “Heal Your Life” workshop:
1. Write in your dominant hand, expressing out all the feels or asking a question. Then swap to non-dominant hand to allow the inner child a voice to respond. Often there are no words, but scribble or demonstration of the emotion(s).
2. Write a letter to him or her. The more connected you are with your inner child, the stronger your intuition becomes.
3. Say nurturing things (I love you, I hear you, thank you, I’m sorry). Document how easy or difficult it is to speak positively to yourself as a child. Explore whether you feel deserving and worthy (or not).
4. Look at yourself as a child. Document the emotions associated with those memories.
5. Think and write about what you loved doing when you were young. Alternatively, capture what wasn’t great about your childhood and how you have now made changes as an adult.
6. Engage in meditation and creative visualisation. I often guide clients into their heart space to have connective conversations with their inner child to gain clarity and insight to the source of current day patterns. This type of connection is very powerful and quickly enhances self-confidence and intuition if regular dedication is maintained.
Commencing a dialogue with your inner child by writing in your subdominant hand, and answering with your dominant hand is a very powerful tool which enables you to capture any issues that emerge.
Tip #5 Be Compassionate to Yourself
We are all deserving of more self-compassion. Modern society has definitely instilled comparisonitis within our fast-paced lives. This type of journalling enables you to shine compassion on your past.
When reflecting on a specific memory, incident, trigger or person can you ask yourself for forgiveness? Did you do the very best you could at that time? Have you been able to make changes so it doesn’t happen again or are you stuck? Does shedding light on that previous situation now provide you with more clarity of where you have matured or need growth in your life?
Remind yourself it’s all ok. You are doing the very best you can with the circumstances you had previously. Acknowledge that the only thing you can change is right now. Your past is the gift of experience(s) and where you’ve potentially learnt lessons.
Tip #6 Own the Purge
This type of journalling is cleansing. Start with five to ten minutes to commence a “stream of consciousness”. By this, I am suggesting simply purge out what’s on your mind. Be sure to include all the uncensored thoughts and feelings. It may not be pretty and that’s perfectly ok. Be sure to not correct your grammar. Don’t censor your thoughts. Just let it all out.
Once you can pause and take a breath, you can then choose to examine what’s been going on or simply be grateful that you’ve expressed it all out.
Tip #7 Embrace Nature
I find this is a useful style of journaling to get people out of their heads and connect with nature. There are times our internal defence mechanisms shut down our thoughts and feelings because we’re stuck in flight or fight and have simply become numb.
A walk outside, or simply lying in the grass and looking at the clouds and then writing about the experience can be a gentle method to bring you back to connection with your senses.
Tip #8 Capture Your Successes
This is a fantastic tool for those who have been beaten with the victim stick and feel stuck in their stuff. This tool is great if you’ve been focussed too heavily on poor me or nothing ever works out for me. We have all experienced this at one stage or another.
To kick start this style of journaling, begin by writing down anything that could be construed as a win. For some, this may begin with simply getting out of bed and showering. For others, it could be consuming less sugar in a day, smoking or drinking less.
The more you focus on your success, the more you will seek the positive aspects of your life. As you pay attention, your list will grow and inspire you.