What the Journal!

Ashley Baughman, Master of Arts Counseling on Nov 07, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

When I ask the question "Have you tried journaling?" I will inevitably hear one of the following responses: I'm not good at it, I don't know how, I used to but I am not consistent, what if someone sees it, I don't enjoy writing, and I should journal more often. These are a few of the many excuses I have heard regarding putting thoughts on paper. Journaling has the potential to be a useful resource. However, I find most of my clients feel intimidated or inadequate when it comes to putting pen to paper. It is easy to get caught up in the pressure that any sort of self-help can bring. Journaling need not be treated as a daily entry. This is not a "dear diary" situation. This is a "I am feeling overwhelmed and need to externalize my thoughts" situation. Here are seven ways to help journaling serve you instead of you serving your journal.

1. "I'm not good at it." There is no right or wrong way to journal. This is not an activity one needs to be good at.

2. "I don't know how." Try bullet points, thought bubbles, paragraph style, or Post-it Notes. The sky is the limit! Use crayons, colored pencils, or markers. Use a different color for each emotion you are experiencing.

3. "I used to but I am not consistent." Commitment-free zone here. You are not signing a contract for a gym membership. You are engaging in a self-care activity that can bring tremendous relief to your brain. This does not need to become an obligatory daily activity. It will then feel like a burden or a chore instead of an enjoyable self-care activity.

4. "What if someone sees it?" Maybe it is time to invest in a shredder, light it on fire (please be careful), black sharpie, lock it in a safe, or have people in your life that respect your privacy.

4. "I don't enjoy writing." I hear you, but how is this relevant? We don't always enjoy things that are helpful or good for us... (Hello, who actually enjoys working out?)

6. "I should journal more often." No perfectionistic tendencies allowed. Journaling isn't about should or shouldn't. It is about you and how it can alleviate stress and aid in problem solving.

7. Here lies the deeper issue: As humans, we are naturally resistant to healthy coping skills and what has proven to bring relief. This is totally normal. Notice and name the resistance and then grab your favorite pen and your sacred safe space to write and let it all out! You deserve to express your heart.

Ashley Baughman is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Jacksonville, FL.

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