Need a confidential, non-judge mental support system? Don't have a friend to call or a shoulder to cry on? Feel like you need an emotional detox? Why not try journaling?
When I was first introduced to therapeutic journaling I was a sceptic. I had all the what ifs to back me up.
What if someone finds it and reads it? What if I'm not disciplined enough to do it daily? What if I just don't have anything to write about? What if it's only negative?
As a therapist I want to be honest with my clients. I will not suggest anything unless I see the benefit in it. Therefore, I needed to experience journaling for myself.
I must admit, I was surprised by my experience and wanted to share my findings.
1) Set the scene
Before starting, make sure your sensory and physical needs are taken care of. I would never be able to focus in front of a TV or with a full bladder. I found a quiet environment suited me best. Whether it was in my room with quite classical music or sitting alone in my garden.
2) Prioritise the time
If you don't make time to Journal something will always keep you busy, even if it's just checking your Twitter feed. You're not being selfish, but rather taking responsibility for your mental health.
3) Don't over think it
Therapeutic journaling differs from regular day to day journaling. Regular journaling documents your daily activities. I always think of the typical high school ‘Dear Diary’ with a pink little lock on it. Therapeutic journaling can take place when needed. It can be used in the ‘here and now’ to reflect. It can be retrospective, i.e. journaling from a memory or photograph. It can be a letter to your past or future self. It is a projective technique and can often be imaginative. I often find that it doesn't matter where or how you start, if you are honestly engaged in the process you will find benefit.
4) Have structure if you need it
Therapeutic Journalling doesn't need to be structured, however, sometimes, especially when starting, the structure can assist you.
Use a topic, completing a sentence, have a word or picture for inspiration. A basic framework can assist you in getting started. I created a Pinterest board with some suggestions for you.
5) Embrace the process, not necessarily the content
Sometimes it may seem that you're just rambling, venting, criticising or over analysing.
Julia Cameron suggests that you should write 3 pages every morning filled with anything on your mind. This helps detox your mind so that you can stay focused in the moment and really get to the root of reflection. I also suggest that if you don’t want to read what you have written burn it or destroy it! Trust the process don't dwell on the content.
6) Use technology or not!
Perhaps you prefer the gold standard pen and notebook. To make journaling more accessible for all think technology. You can type on your computer, or use programs such as Dragon to type for you. Online based apps can also remind you to journal or suggest a topic. Most importantly, it can be more private and locked by a password.
So I challenge you to try it out!