by Diana Raab, PhD
“All serious daring starts within.” ~Eudora Welty
Keeping a journal is not only for women or for those who want to get published. Journaling is for anyone wanting a safe place to record and express feelings, emotions, and secrets. For example, it is a place to transcribe what goes through your mind during the course of the day. In essence, the journal is the music and voice of your true emotion. For some, the journal is considered their best friend.
Ira Progoff, Ph.D., a psychologist and one of the first to suggest that journaling is a great tool for self-exploration and transformation, developed the “Intensive Journal Method,” as a structured way to tap into your psyche for the purpose of transformation. While this method dates back to the 1960s, and different versions are used today, many believe that journaling need not be a structured activity. Some say that it should take a more stream-of-consciousness or free-style form. Everyone is different. Some people prefer structure, others do not. The method is not as important, as the time you take to write down your sentiments.
One good thing about keeping a journal is that the journal “listens,” doesn’t talk back and makes no judgments. Some people like journaling in notebooks and others prefer fancier journals, like the ones sold in book or stationary stores. It is important that your journal resonates with you so that you are drawn to fill up its pages.
If you are a published author, or someone who wants to become published, then a journal can be a valuable tool to collect writing ideas and a good place to brainstorm about upcoming projects.
Why Keeping a Journal can be Transformative and Therapeutic
Here are some specific reasons why journal writing can be transformative and therapeutic:
1) Empowerment and Self-Reflection. It helps bring your life experiences into focus by putting a magnifying lens on your feelings and thoughts.
2) Clearing the Mind. Sometimes we keep thoughts bottled up inside of us because we are either too busy or too scared to express our deeper emotions. The journal is a forum for freeing ourselves from what we might be carrying around.
3) Builds Self-Confidence. By writing down your thoughts you get a clearer picture of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments.
4) A path to self-discovery. In writing about yourself and your lived experiences, you can make new discoveries. Journaling helps guide you through challenging times, and glancing at older journals can help you identify certain life patterns that could lead to transformation.
5) Improves mental health. Expressing yourself improves your sense of well being. When used with talk therapy, it is a powerful way to understand yourself, and make essential changes that can lead to increased happiness.
6) Encourages self-reflection. By writing your feelings, you engage in conversation with yourself leading to an inner examination and transformation.
7) Creativity. Writing is a creative endeavor and can lead to further creative endeavors, which can be transformative.
8) Memory triggers. Sometimes the nature of what is happening in your life can trigger thoughts about your past and offer solutions to current issues.
9) It is a self-inventory. If you are interested in writing a memoir, your jottings may become a source of invaluable information.
NOW is an excellent time to begin to incorporate the transformative practice of daily, weekly or monthly journal-keeping!