How to start journaling for anxiety and transformation
Imagine yourself as hollow. When you suppress emotion, it fills a little part of the hollow - like filling an empty rucksack. As you go through life, the hollow starts to fill and, eventually, fills up. The next time you try to get on with it and suppress the emotion of an experience, there is nowhere to stuff the emotion. Every nook and cranny is full. The emotion starts to splurge, the pan boils over. For some people, this manifests physically, for others there is an emotional reaction.
Only, you are not hollow and there is not that much space to fill. When you seek the support of someone else, such as a hypnotherapist, you will clear out your backpack in a supportive environment to prevent the release from causing trauma. Alongside this, journaling can help you to release emotion in the future to prevent you from restarting the suppression pattern. For some people, journaling is transformational and enables growth and healing when used in addition to therapy.
What is journaling?
Journaling is a form of writing as a self-care and wellness tool. Whilst you can add structure to your journal, it is also beneficial to pick up a pen, go to the paper and write. Write about your thoughts, feelings, questions, and experiences. When you finish, notice what you see. This is where your insight and inspiration begin. Your writing is reflection, so reflect upon your own reflecting. Notice how you feel, has anything changed? If you have a difficult decision to make, is it easier?
Notice if there are impediments to your journaling, for example, do you get stuck trying to pick a journal? Do you find yourself procrastinating when you want to write? If so, speak with your hypnotherapist about this.
When should I journal?
Ideally, we would all journal daily, however, time is sometimes a barrier and at other times there are simply no words. Journal when you feel drawn to do so, journal after a difficult day, journal when you feel stuck. Journal when you need to process emotions or organise your thoughts.
If you have a decision to make, write a quick list. This is exactly what it says on the tin - a list written quickly. Do not edit the list as you go but do hypothesise, for example, you might also use a quick list to help you with future problems. For example, a quick list of things you might like to do if you found yourself with a completely free day.
Why should I journal?
Journaling helps to process emotion in a safe place. As humans, when we continually suppress emotion, it takes energy. Eventually, we burn out. Journaling helps some people feel balanced and calm. Journaling is a wonderful tool and all you need is a pen, some paper and time. If you have traumatic memories, they might feel muddled in your mind. When you write, you order these memories so fragments that appear separate come together to make a whole.
Journaling is not only beneficial at times of high stress. If you feel calm and balanced already, it will give you time to self-reflect and empower you to tap into your inner desires, enabling future growth.
The therapeutic value of journaling is in the writing itself; reflect on your reflections, however, you do not need to share this with anybody else.
When you journal to heal and grow, it is therapeutic journaling. Journaling becomes transformational when your writing increases your awareness of yourself, others, and the world we live in, and you can act on this awareness.
In their book, Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients, Lynda Monk and Eric Maisel give some tips to help you journal with structure.
A journaling list; your lists might be specific to a problem, for example, if you seek a romantic partner you might like to write an 'I want' list. All too often we speak about what we don’t want but rarely do we focus on what we do want. When you reflect on what you do want it is much easier to find it and to communicate it to others (on your online dating profile, for example). You can use ‘I want’ lists for many different scenarios.
Monk and Maisel suggest a ‘what’s bugging me’ list. If you feel depressed, the feelings may reduce by giving depression a voice. When you lose somebody, a letter with things ‘I wish I could tell you’ might help you to let go without forgetting. If you feel down on yourself, write an introduction about yourself via your strengths in the form of a story. Start with writing three strengths and go from there.
I regularly recommend a gratitude diary in which you write three things you feel thankful for each day. Monk and Maisel suggest something similar but call it 'Three Good Things', in which you write three good things that happened during the day.
Walk and write; if you find your motivation to write wanes, try switching things up. For example, take a writing walk. Preferably somewhere more natural like the forest or a green space. Go for a walk and settle yourself in a spot that feels safe and comfortable, under a tree in the shade or on a bench in the sun – whatever feels right for you. Use your surroundings and senses as inspiration, write about what you see, feel, taste, smell, touch and how you feel.
Journaling is powerful, therapeutic, and transformational but it really comes into its own when used as an adjunct to therapy. Ask your therapist for guidance on journaling if you feel stuck.