Cheap therapy: The Power of Journaling and 2 easy ways to get you started!

 “Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” Natalie Goldberg

Do you journal?

People keep journals for different reasons. Some do it to unlock their creativity, while others may want to document their personal growth and development. No matter what your goal is, the bottom line is that there are many benefits to be gained by journaling.

I started my first journal over 10 years ago on April 2nd 2010. I have an entry for just about every day since that day. Some entries are super short, while others are long and intense trying to make sense of the world around me.

I wanted to use journaling to better understand the connections between my thoughts, feelings, and emotions that influenced my behaviours.

For me journaling has become an effective form of cheap therapy.

It’s become a very important part of my day. Just taking 10 minutes each day to write about what’s on my mind has helped give me clarity and perspective.

The overall outcomes include:

  • Mood boost;
  • Increased sense of well-being;
  • Reduced symptoms of emotional stress.

Is this something you are striving for in life?

There are so many benefits to be gained by engaging in the simple act of journaling.  

Journaling for Stress Management

I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found.” Tim Ferriss

Journaling is an excellent method for anyone who simply wants to manage their stress.

Keeping a journal can help you fully explore your emotional issues to better understand the problem. By expressing yourself on paper, you transfer most of the burden from within you to an entity outside of you. It has the same therapeutic effect as talking to a therapist.

Journaling frees you from the tension within.   It empowers you to see those areas that are within your control. Once you better understand this you can start making changes and take the necessary steps toward stress management.

Journaling helps you manage your stress by:

  • Decreasing symptoms of various health conditions;
  • Improving your cognitive functioning;
  • Examining your thoughts and shifting your perspective;
  • Reducing rumination and promoting action;

How does journaling work?

How journaling works

Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” Mina Murray

It’s suggested that the simple act of writing works to improve our mental health by guiding us towards confronting previously repressed emotions. It helps process difficult events by creating a rational narrative about our experiences.

It makes us become more aware of our unhealthy patterns of thoughts and behaviours. It allows us to take control over our lives and puts things into perspective. It allows us to shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one, especially about ourselves.

For journaling to be a constructive use of your time:

  • Write in a private space that is free from distractions;
  • Aim for writing at least once each day;
  • Give yourself time to reflect after writing;
  • journal about what feels right in the moment;
  • Structure the writing however it feels right to you.

9 Benefits of Journaling Every Day

 Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distill what’s important and what’s not.” Martina Navratilova

Journaling every day is a great habit to get into. Of course, any time you can carve out for effective journaling is time well spent, but the best practice is a regular, daily journaling session.

What is so great about journaling every day?

There are many benefits to keeping a regular journaling practice:

  • It promotes and enhances your creativity;
  • It propels you toward your goals, helping you bring your vision to life;
  • It offers a daily opportunity to overcome from the daily stressors;
  • It helps you identify things that would otherwise go unnoticed, such as patterns in your thinking, the influences behind your feelings and behaviour;
  • It gives you an opportunity to release all of your emotions out on paper, reducing your stress and tension;
  • It helps you learn from experiences in your life by creating a record for future reference;
  • It boosts your sense of gratitude and your sensitivity to all that you have to be grateful for;
  • It makes you a better writer.

If you’re considering starting to keep a journal you might be asking yourself: “What shall I write about?”

6 Ideas about what to write about

In the journal I am at ease.” Anais Nin

Here are 6 ideas you can use when you simply have no idea what you want to write about:

Experiences – Sometimes, all you need to get going with writing is to describe what you did today, or what you thought about; you might find that you have a lot more to say on the topic than you thought!

Affirmations – Positive affirmations are a powerful way to raise your energy, increase your happiness, and create lasting, positive change in your daily life. They are intended at priming your journal session in a positive way. Use affirmation prompts to clear your mind before writing or to start a journal entry with a specific positive intent.

Gratitude – Writing with gratitude is a great practice. It can also help you start your journal entry when you feel stuck. Here are 3 great prompts to get you moving:

#1 Describe your favourite moment of the day. What was it and why is it your favourite moment? When we focus on small moments, we recognize the importance of each day.  Think about the day.  What was special to you? Simply write about the people and aspects of your life that you are grateful for.

#2 List 3 things you are grateful for today. It doesn’t matter if these are small things. List them. 

#3 Write about something you accomplished today. Do you have a lot of things on your to-do list? Well, how do feel when you cross those items off?  Write about that and be thankful for anyone or anything that helped you.

Critical self-Reflection – If you’re feeling stuck this could be really helpful in figuring out your next steps. Ask yourself questions like “Who am I?” and “What did I do right/wrong?” Consider what you could do better or what is holding you back, and write about it.

Understanding the roots of your Anxiety – We often feel anxiety when we are unsure of the outcome. Generally anxiety is fear based of the unknown future. Writing about your anxiety allows you to challenge and understand where this feeling is coming from. It is a great cleansing experience when you are trying to rationalise your fears.

Performance Analysis – Whatever your work,  or activity of choice, write about your performance. Write about how you did, how you felt, what you could have done better, or where you avoided pitfalls that brought you down before. This can help you keep track of your progress and lead to valuable insights.

How to get the most out of journaling

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Anne Frank

There are some other tips and suggestions on keeping a journal that might help you boost the effectiveness of your practice, such as:

  • Write first thing in the morning, right after you wake up;
  • Write whenever you’re out of your regular routine (e.g., on vacation, visiting family, or just feeling “disconnected”);
  • Give yourself a “reset” and take some time off from your other responsibilities; spend some time writing in your journal—allow your mind to relax and let the insights flow in on their own time;
  • Prepare your mental state before journaling in whatever way works for you (e.g., exercise, meditation, or read something inspiring);
  • Be completely honest with yourself and about yourself when journaling;
  • Write about your vision for the future; your dreams, your goals;
  • Set a timer. 5 or 10 minutes and just write. You will be amazed how much comes out.

Tip of the Day: 2 easy ways to start journaling

Journaling is paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” Lee Wise

Option 1.

When you journal, remember the simple acronym: WRITE! This is an effective framework for journaling from ‘The Centre for Journal Therapy’.

WWhat do you want to write about? Think about what is going on in your life now: 

  • What are your current thoughts and feelings?
  • What are you striving towards or trying to avoid right now? 

Give it a name and put it all on paper.

RReview/ reflect. Take a few moments to be still. Calm your breath, and focus. A little mindfulness or meditation could help in this step. Try to start sentences with “I” statements like “I feel…”, “I want…”, and, “I think…” Also, try to keep them in the present tense, with sentence stems like “Today…”, “Right now…”, or “In this moment…”

IInvestigate. Lookinto your thoughts and feelings through your writing. Just keep going! If you feel you have run out of things to write or your mind starts to wander, take a moment to re-focus (another opportunity for mindfulness meditation!), read over what you have just written, and continue on.

TTime yourself to ensure that you write for at least 5 minutes (or whatever your current goal is). Write down your start time and the projected end time based on your goal at the top of your page. Set a timer or alarm to go off when the time period you have set is up.

E Exit strategically and with introspection. Read what you have written and take a moment to reflect on it. Sum up your takeaway in one or two sentences, starting with statements like “As I read this, I notice…”, “I’m aware of…”, or “I feel…”

Option 2.

Alain de Botton suggests regularly conducting a ritual he calls “philosophical meditation.” In the quiet of early morning or late evening, you sit down with a pen and paper, and begin the process of filtering out what is important from your unresolved thoughts.

You do this by asking yourself 3 questions:

“What am I anxious about?”

“What am I upset about, and with whom?”

“What am I currently feeling excited or ambitious about?”

These questions are broad in nature. At first, the mind won’t have clear answers; however the questions will trigger emotional responses.  You record what arises and through reflection clarity starts to emerge.

The process of philosophical meditation can take around twenty minutes, but this time is well spent. It can save you so much time and energy where there is lack of direction or purpose. 

Journaling comes with a few health warnings

Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” Christina Baldwin

Although there are tons of guides and tips out there on what to do when journaling, there are a few things to make sure you don’t do:

  • Don’t let it allow you to live in your head too much;
  • Don’t let journaling turn you into a passive observer of your life (make sure you experience your life instead of thinking about how you’ll write it up);
  • Don’t get self-obsessed by writing about yourself all the time;
  • Don’t let journaling become an exercise in self-blame instead of finding solutions;
  • Don’t allow yourself to flounder in the negative aspects of your life.

A Take-Home Message

Journaling helps you to become a better version of yourself.” Asad Meah

The benefits of journaling far outweigh the disadvantages or potential problems. I hope your takeaway is that journaling is effective cheap therapy. It’s a technique to help you get the stuff out of your head onto paper so you can better manage your life in a positive way.

I highly recommend keeping a journal. It takes only a few minutes a day and looking back on your life is something that seems deeply satisfying.

You don’t need to be an accomplished writer or a literary genius to benefit from writing down your thoughts and feelings.

Your journal is for you and you alone. Keeping this in mind can make you feel free to pour your authentic self onto the page.

Give it a try!

Are you keeping a journal?

What benefits do you get from journaling?

Please let us know in the comments section below.

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