A lot of my friends journal as a way to process their internal stress. However, even though we all use the same word “journal”, the actual methods could not be more different. One person is very formal in her approach. She records a specific event in detail, and saves it on her computer. Another friend hand writes in her notebook, and lists the rational arguments about her decision making. While these methods have their own merits, they are vastly different from the way I journal.
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For me, the process of writing out my thoughts is a way to untangle and unravel the myriad of thoughts and emotions that seem to jumble together when I feel stressed or “stuck.” I’ve tried various techniques and found a mix that worked for me. Since I refer to this method often in my posts, I want to share and explain how I process through journal writing.
Usually, when I journal, I start writing with the “stream of consciousness” or “free write” method. This means that I pick one stress point or feeling, and start writing anything that comes to mind about it. I don’t really go into recording the details of the event. Rather, I focus on writing about how it made me feel, especially any concerns or fears that were stirred up.
During this time, I try not to judge nor resolve any feelings that surface, rather, I just allow the heart to express anything it wants to through writing. Even though I am writing down whatever comes to mind, I do stay on one train of thought at a time, and keep following it until it is finished. This is important as there will be many discoveries along the way, but staying with one thread will often unpack the root issue and help bring resolution on it’s own.
I noticed that when I start writing out my feelings, I can sense an inner guidance that shows me which thought I should follow. And when that thought/feeling has fully expressed itself, the feelings or intensity will dissipate. And that’s when I know that thread is done. At that point, I can pick another pressure point and start the process again or reflect on what I just discovered.
Each session takes about 20-30 min, and maybe 3-4 pages. Afterwards, I usually feel a lot less burdened, and have more clarity and peace. At the least, I would have discovered the root issues that need to be addressed. Most of the time, the process helps me gain a good understanding of my concerns and how to move forward.
Here are a few things to remember…
- Hand-writing works better than typing on a keyboard. There is a definite difference in actually hand-writing your thoughts versus typing them on the computer. For me, the motion of writing with a pen puts me in a perfect rhythm where my next thought appears just when I’ve finished jotting down the previous one. Don’t worry about it if you think your hand-writing is messy. It’s more about the process rather than the words themselves. Sometimes my writings are sloppy because I’m trying to write fast enough to catch my fleeting thoughts. The great news is it’s not about good penmanship, but capturing your thoughts on paper.
- Don’t censor or judge your thoughts. During this process, the focus is to explore what you are thinking or feeling. There are no “should” or “shouldn’t” at this stage. What you feel is what you feel. This is not the time for value judgement, but just unpacking and understanding what’s really going on in our hearts.
- Focus on your feelings. So often when we face a problem, we react by going into “crisis mode”, and try to come up with an “action plan”. This is where most of our frustrations come from because we have pushed our feelings aside in the name of being “practical.” When you journal, don’t try to solve any problems. Journal for the purpose of discovery, and allow your heart to express itself.
With these in mind, I wish you some insightful journaling time! And if you do decide to give this a try, will you comment below and let me know how/if this process worked out for you?
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