Journaling: A Guide to Self-Expression and Exploration

Journaling is an empowering practice, helping many people navigate turbulent emotions, and trying times. Maintaining mental health can feel like an uphill battle, especially with the major changes imparted on our lives as a result of COVID-19.


Journaling is supportive, nourishing, and inspiring. Clearing your mind is sort of like doing a “brain dump,” helping to declutter your mind in order to make space for connection between behaviors, thoughts, and patterns.


Organizing your thoughts about daily events, and feelings about experiences or opinions, can help to “clean up” the clutter of the mind. There are also many other benefits to a regular journaling practice.


Improve Writing Skills


By journaling regularly there is an opportunity to improve your writing skills. Developing writing skills can benefit your personal and professional life.


Goal Setting


Writing your goals down is one of the first steps in reaching them. Journaling can help you to set and keep track of milestones, can help you to organize supportive thoughts and ideas, and help you to develop new and existing goals.


Effective journaling is a journaling practice that helps you meet your goals or improves your quality of life. This can look different for each and every person, and the outcomes can vary widely, but they are almost always very positive.

Ideas


One of the most important things to do with ideas is to write them down. Journaling creates space for you to develop ideas. It is also beneficial to review your ideas especially when you are feeling stale, or uninspired.


Stress Management


Stress can lead to inflammation, poor sleeping patterns, and many other health concerns. Stress is often related to anxieties, fears, frustrations and pains. Journaling can help relieve tension caused by stress, and can leave you feeling much happier.


Self-Reflection and Self-Expression


Self-reflection and self-expression play a vital role in growth. Reflecting on life events, gratitude, thoughts, and feelings, is a gratifying and nourishing practice. Expressing yourself by journaling unleashes creativity. Being creative can feel nourishing, and can help you move through your emotions and feelings with some ease. Reflecting on past journal entries provides insight on how you have grown and changed.


Journaling leads to positive outcomes and self-improvement. When starting and maintaining a journaling practice it is important to work from a place of compassion, kindness, and grace.


How to Start Journaling


Like all empowering habits, without consistent practice, you will miss out on the incredible benefits of journaling.


Here are a few tips for getting started and maintaining your journaling practice:


  • Choose your journal. Maybe it is just a pad of paper. Perhaps a leatherbound journal is more your style? Have you found your favorite writing utensil? Maybe you enjoy working digitally? There are innumerous apps that make journaling from your phone, tablet, or computer simple and accessible.

  • Choose a time and place where you will not experience distractions or disruptions. Take a look at your day and decide when it is easiest for you to carve out 20 uninterrupted minutes. Set a timer.

  • Make journaling a daily practice.

  • Structure your journal in a way that feels good to you.

  • Don’t spend too much time editing as you write. Let your thoughts and feelings spill, without edits. Being candid about your feelings is vital to this practice. Once your journal entry is complete you can revisit, reflect, edit and tidy up your journal entry. One way to receive the benefits of this practice is to take time for reflection outside of creating your entry. Rereading encourages reflection, and this is where necessary edits can be made.

  • Keep your journal private so you can be candid about your thoughts, feelings and emotions.


Journal Prompts


The possibilities that come with journaling are abundant and beneficial. The pages of your journal will help you define what matters, will help you unravel your feelings, and help you explore new ideas and experiment with your creativity.


These journal prompts are here as inspiration. Proceed with grace, compassion and kindness.


Feelings and Emotions


What emotions or feelings are you frequently experiencing?


Where do you typically feel them in your body? What do you notice?


Do any of these feelings remind you of an experience from the past?


Pick one emotion you have been experiencing often. What comes to mind when you spend some time exploring this emotion. Does this emotion point you towards a desire, response, or a reminder of what matters to you?


Make a list of what supports you in moving through your feelings. Create a daily self-care ritual!


Many of us have been gifted with time to slow down and reflect. Have you gained insight or understanding around any of your emotions or patterns during this time?


Creativity


What arouses joy, play or excitement in your life? How do you express these?


What activity or form of expression feels nourishing to you?


With this gift of time, is there any creative spark you can fuel, or reignite?


Write an email, send a letter, write a song, paint, or call an old friend, The 36 Questions That Lead to Love are great conversation starters.


What is one creative expression you can commit to for the next few weeks?


Connection


Connection with others is a sure way to feel supported during the COVID-19 crisis. Here are a few prompts to cultivate and create connection.


Who have you been meaning to connect with? Can you reach out to them now?


What creative ways are you staying connected?


Have you been holding off on having a conversation? Is now a good time to have the conversation?


Are there any online platforms that help you to feel connected? How are you using them?


How have your views on connection and community changed from this experience?


What are your intentions around connection over these next few weeks?



Journaling holds many gifts and strategies for coping with challenging emotions and feelings. A consistent journaling practice will help you find connection to feelings, connection to your emotions, and connection to yourself.


Continue to be on the lookout for empowering practices to help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.


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© 2020 by Markesha Miller, Ph.D.