Journaling, from novel heroes to modern therapy

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It’s not what it seems to be

When I say journaling most of us envision a lady from the 19th century as she is detailing her moderately exciting love life through many pages. Are you ready to rethink this picture? Imagine Marie Curie, Albert Einstein or the successful businessman John D. Rockefeller. Yes, they too wrote a journal. Today many therapists use journaling as a technique to process traumas and for stress management. What is it with journals that attracts such a versatile crowd?

Why and how does writing help?

Many journaling techniques exist. I’ll be concentrating on the advantages of expressive writing. This is the technique where you simply share your feelings and thoughts on paper without too much consideration, caring about linguistics or writing methods. I’ll share some tips with you later but now let’s see with what problems and how this technique can help.

Writing down events and feelings often helps seeing through and categorizing these inner processes. From writing and re-reading your journal you can see what really wore you down in a difficult situation, what lies behind your worries or what causes you joy regularly. It’s one of the best self-knowledge exercises. 

If you are prone to anxiety writing can help. A research found that people with anxiety who regularly practiced expressive writing improved at tests in school or at work. Experts say the reason behind this is that when you write down your fears you free up mental capacity. Which then you can mobilize for more useful things like concentrating on your next challenge in front of you instead of worrying about the challenge.

You often get caught up with events from the past? With every moment you spend in the past you miss a moment from the present. Well alright, this might be a little cheesy but that is the truth. If events from the past often occupy your thoughts and distrat you from the present it instantly makes sense that with writing you can leave them behind and become more focused.

The stress-decreasing impact of journaling is connected to this. My first journal had the title of “Emotional non-recyclable waste”. Let’s hope I never write a book 🙂 It was full with difficulties, fears, worries, uncertainties. Without filtering. Full of thoughts and feeling that previously had stuck with me in the form of stress. If you write them down you’ll probably produce less stress hormones. This strengthens your immune system.

Where to start?

As I said there are many journaling techniques but now we’ll focus on expressive writing. A few tips how to start.

What to write about?

Anything! Some people write down daily events and connects to their feelings, worries or even joys through them. Some people  write down their thoughts and fears about an upcoming big challenge so they can focus better. Others use expressive journaling to process a trauma. Your deepest feelings, daily events or anything that’s important to you can be included in your journal.

Grab a pen and paper!

If you are writing about intense events or feelings then scribbling, highlighting, circling and creating a general chaos is easier on paper. Another argument supporting offline is that contrary to digital tools you will not be distracted by notifications, beeps and pop-ups while writing.

Write for at least 10 minutes

This helps dig to the bottom of things. If you stop too early then you may end up simply documenting the events but in reality this is when the interesting work starts. This is when more descriptive details arise, underlying feelings and indirectly connecting thoughts. Write for as long as you like but at least 10 minutes.

Only for you

To be able to really open up it helps if your journal is totally private. Don’t show it to anyone, this way you can be absolutely sincere.

What do you mean by correct spelling?

A key part of the technique is to write down your events, thoughts and feeling  without pre-filtering or pre-thinking. Don’t stop hesitating over commas and don’t care how your writing looks. Scribbling, highlighting, SHOUTING IN CAPS on the paper is very welcome.

Do it regularly

One journal entry often does not bring relief. If you are preparing for an important event and this causes stress then write a journal for 3-4 days before it. If you are prone to anxiety then you can write a daily journal. Take this tool and use it the way it helps you most.

Leave it on the paper

When was the last time you let everything out that’s within you without control? Expressive writing give you the opportunity for that. You’ll encounter feelings and thoughts on paper that you didn’t know existed and you’ll leave worries on paper that are too heavy to carry with you.

Pen ready, paper set, go!


Journaling, from novel heroes to modern therapy