One of the best ways to gain clarity about your life is by journaling your thoughts and feelings. Especially if you’re feeling conflicted or confused about certain situations, writing your thoughts out can be incredibly enlightening!
You don’t have to be a “writer” to journal effectively. In fact, your writing skills don’t have to be good at all. Just the act of putting your thoughts into logical order and translating them to written form can help you to understand what you’re feeling, and why.
Here are some tips to help you use journaling for personal growth:
1) Keep it simple. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a fancy journal. In fact, unless you’re an experienced journaler, I recommend using an inexpensive, lined notebook. Then you won’t feel so much pressure to be “perfect” in what you write. You won’t be afraid to scribble and scrawl whatever happens to flow onto the paper.
2) Don’t hold back. When you journal for the purposes of personal growth, don’t try to edit yourself, or make your writing understandable to anyone else. The most freeing technique is to put your pen to paper and just write whatever comes to mind. No one else will see it unless you want them to, so let ‘er rip!
3) Focus on the feelings. If you find yourself stumped about what to write in your journal, begin with the phrase, “I feel…”. This will usually get your thoughts and feelings flowing, and you will be better able to express them in writing.
4) Guided journaling. Another helpful technique is guided journaling, which means providing a prompt for yourself. Especially if you’re struggling with something specific, you can more easily get the words flowing with a nudge in the right direction. Some example prompts would be, “Describe your perfect career and the reasons it would fulfill you.” Or, “Think about the most painful experience in your past and write about the ways it has affected who you are today.”
5) Review your entries periodically. Going back to look at your journal entries can be very illuminating and provide amazing clarity about yourself. With time and practice, you will likely begin to see patterns in your thinking, behaviors, and beliefs. The most important thing is to keep an objective mindset while you look at your entries. Don’t judge or belittle yourself. Keep the focus on personal growth and development. Instead of beating yourself up or cringing over your latest rant, ask yourself, “How can I use this knowledge to improve my circumstances now?”
If you’re not a natural writer, journaling may seem like a lot of effort at first. But it is so worth it! Because I am a writer, journaling is something I’ve always done. As a child, I kept written diaries that focused more on my day to day experiences. “Dear Diary, today a cute boy smiled at me and I melted!” In my twenties, I decided I wanted to understand myself better, so I began keeping written journals with a focus on self-discovery. That practice has paid off in amazing ways over the past decade or so.
You can also keep journals for other reasons besides personal growth. For example, you can begin a gratitude journal to jot down a few things you are thankful for each day, which will help you to feel more positive about your life. You can keep a spiritual growth journal to record prayers and meditations that were effective for you. You can keep a dream journal to learn more about the messages your dreams hold. The possibilities are endless!
If you really don’t like writing with pen and paper, you can also keep an online journal in the form of a blog. There are many providers that offer free membership accounts, with easy-to-use interfaces. Two popular choices are Blogger.com and LiveJournal.com. However, if you keep an online journal, you might want to make it private so no one else can view it. It’s amazing what search engines can find nowadays, and you don’t want your neighbor or employer coming across your private thoughts. Most blog hosts allow an option to keep your blog non-viewable to the public. Or you can simply stay anonymous with your blog, but allow others to read it. Use a pseudonym and don’t give any identifiable information about yourself.
Finally, don’t feel that you have to follow any set rules with your journaling. Do what works best for you, and enjoy the journey! 🙂