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Welcome to the next edition of Journaling for healing! If you missed the first post, definitely go back and take a look at Part One before moving on because it contains some really important mindset shifts that are needed to keep your journaling a healing experience and not a pointless, or even harmful, one.
Assuming you checked that out, you are ready to dive in! This post contains some of the basic strategies I’ve used for journaling. Many of these are very effective so don’t let the “basic” label fool you into thinking they aren’t worth your time. In fact, one of these strategies contends for the title of my favorite way to journal. Read on to find out more…
Remind yourself of what you need to be healthy
As part of tolerating pain in the present moment, it can helpful to remind yourself of the things that helping you manage emotion or reduce it’s overwhelm. This has served as a way to encourage myself that I have some control even when it feels like I don’t. Knowing what I can do feels empowering, which is a nice pain reliever.
Doing this also keeps your mind in a productive space. This can be a helpful add on to validating your emotions. The point of this is NOT to avoid your emotions and it’s not to minimize them. This helps to empower you, help you find ways to exert healthy control, and keep your mind in a hopeful place.
Mine looked like this:
Journaling (ha! Doing that now)
Working out (i need to get back to that just can’t seem to get myself to want to)
Dogs are helpful
Accepting what IS without trying to change it into what I want to be
Stay away from things that really do create anxiety–the news, sometimes social media,
Use Journal Prompts
These particular prompts can be helpful, especially if you struggle to consistently use the mindset shifts: validation, self compassion, and caring curiosity listed in episode one. These are intended to help you begin learning to explore your emotion with less of a risk of getting lost in them. In the next episode of Journaling, we will explore some more “advanced” prompts that can be really helpful but they require the mindset shifts I just mentioned so make sure you get good at using those.
Try some of these prompts:
▶If my emotion were a shape, what shape would it be? What color? Where would it live in my body? Does it move? Is there a way to shrink this shape or get it to behave differently?
▶If my emotion were a work of art, what would it look like? What would I need to add to the picture to make it more balanced?
▶The hardest part of today was_________. The best part of today was___________. Both are true.
▶What does my mind or body need from me right now?
▶What are you grateful for today?
▶What would my best self do in this situation?
Journal with creative structure
Before I started liking journaling, I loved to write poetry. Creative writing became an effective outlet for me at a young age and when I analyzed why it was so helpful, one of the surprising things I discovered was the structure of poetry forced me to think very carefully about what I was feeling and problem solve a way to fit it into a structure while maintaining the creativity.
The way this makes you think about what your feeling is a very helpful shift that can reduce the intensity of the emotion. The more structure, the better in this case. So, write a haiku or a sonnet, or make it have to rhyme. The structure is helpful in verbalizing your feelings without getting lost in them.
The goal here isn’t necessarily a beautiful poem, though sometimes it is a beautiful poem. Many times, mine definitely haven’t been and that’s ok because the end result is not the point. The goal here is emotional release so don’t worry if the poem is cheezy or you feel the urge to edit or censor it.
I wrote this one about a particularly challenging relationship. It was one in which I felt like I was pouring everything I had into a person and it was never enough. I titled the poem “Frustrated” and it described the exhaustion and anger I was feeling at the time. After I finished this poem, the release I felt was unparalleled.
I keep pushing breath
But I can’t make you come Alive
I drain myself, then listen
But your heartbeat tells your lie
You yell and you scream
But your eyes are still dead
I keep pushing breath
But you’re a cold corpse in my hand
I push on your chest
But it remains unbeating
I thought I saw life
But that spark was misleading.
If you were thinking that this might be the contender for favorite strategy I alluded to in the beginning of this post, you would be correct! Poetry is still one of my all time favorite ways to journal for emotional release. You’ll find my other favorite strategy in Part 3.
Journal the set of “Rules” You want to live by
If you read my post 15 Rules Every Woman Should Live By, this might look familiar. That post came from my journal. As you can tell, I struggle with taking responsibility for other people and their emotions, being assertive and allowing myself to set boundaries, and worrying what other people think of me. I decided, after discovering a lot of limiting beliefs I was carrying around, that I needed a set of rules that I could cognitively agree with without reservation, even if living by them was still a challenge for me.
My intention was to give myself “permission” to live by this set of rules that I spelled out for myself. As I wrote the list, I made sure that each part of it aligned with my values so that as I try to live them out, there is no disconnect between how I’m trying to live and what I believe is right, healthy, and compassionate. This list has become the goal for me to get to. It is what I’m working on and striving for. It’s been really helpful and I can’t recommend it enough.
Write in Dialectics
The idea of a dialectic is to hold two things that seem to contradict to be true at the same time. Like a paradox. With that in mind…
Let’s say you are journaling about an experience that made you feel dumb. You’re called on in a meeting to present on a topic and you couldn’t think, lost your words, and felt incredibly embarrassed. The idea is to validate that this experience sucked, it was painful, embarrassing, etc… AND the same person who had that experience today, was also the one that graduated college with honors. Or spoke in front of a large crowd. Or found a solution to a really important problem at work, etc..
The idea is NOT that one cancels out the other. That would be bowing to the contradiction. The idea is that both are true at the same time. The idea is not invalidate one experience with the other but that in holding both experiences you pull yourself into a balance.
I don’t have an example from my own writing here because the only ones I could give would be incredibly long and ain’t nobody got time for that, but I will give you an example…
I accidentally caught my parent’s grill on fire and ruined it but I’m pretty creative at finding ways to chop onions without crying…I might look ridiculous but this is creative problem solving at it’s finest 😉
Alright, so that example isn’t the best but I really wanted to work this crazy picture in here and that seemed like the way to do it 😂
And there you have my basic strategies for journaling for healing. Try these out and let me know how they go! I’d love your feedback. Coming soon is the last post in this journaling series where I’ll be dropping my “advanced” techniques for journaling. Definitely make sure you check back in for that.
In fact, why not just subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it?
Part Three is now up!