Emotional Journaling

An everyday practice that calms your soul.

Putting your family first and dealing with life’s hiccups can leave you on edge. Maybe you constantly feel disconnected, or maybe you feel like you’re losing control. But today is different. Why? Because you woke up early to write in your journal, granting 15 minutes of precious “you” time before the day kicks into gear. You use this time to center yourself, reflect on what’s important and greet the day positively.

Journal writing is a powerful process. In many ways, it offers the same benefits of meditation, which focuses your energy inward and helps you approach life from a place of productivity.

When you put the pen to paper, thoughts flow across the page, giving emotions a safe place to be stored. It creates an experience that quiets the spirit, focuses attention and allows you to choose effective coping techniques throughout the day.

Once writing in a journal or diary becomes a habit, it becomes easy to tap into our feelings. Having a clear mind prevents us from being easily rattled. Just like a weight-lifting workout helps burn calories for the next 24 hours, time alone with a journal sets up a day of mental clarity, making a shift from chaos to comfort.

So, how do you get started? It seems obvious, but the first place to begin is with a journal, preferably one you absolutely love. Connect with the cover, the pages, the lines (or blank spaces), the binding and the feel of your pen moving across the sheets. Then write. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam), suggests that we free-write three full pages first thing in the morning. Don’t censor. Don’t plan. Simply write. Share your thoughts about anything and everything that comes to mind. The process can provide healing for past hurts and dilemmas as well as closure for moving ahead.

If your thoughts aren’t flowing, try using journal prompts. Many people find a blank page intimidating. Maybe you’re uneasy about what might show up after free-association writing, and as a consequence, simply never begin. If you are having trouble figuring out what to write or don’t feel 100-percent safe that your diary is private, prompts are the way to go. Over time, you will naturally rely less on the prompts and write what comes to mind.

To maintain this practice, consider your schedule. When do you have 15 minutes to sit and write? For those with young children, finding a minute to yourself can be difficult. Try feeding kids breakfast as they watch an educational TV program. You may be in the same room as them, but at least they are occupied for a solid 15 minutes. I tried this method. Did the kids distract me? At first, yes, but then they backed off. After I was done, I would fix breakfast and my children would transition into their meal peacefully. Am I thrilled about starting the day with a television program? Not really. However, I came to realize the cost of my sanity, and in many ways theirs, is fully worth it.

As you continue to write in your journal regularly, you’ll quickly experience the benefits and start to see some for your kids, too. When you are tranquil, so are your kids. If they see you writing, it might pique an interest in writing for them, as well. Explaining to your kids the importance of taking a few quiet minutes for personal reflection in the morning. They might grow to establish a similar habit. When we take care of ourselves, we take care of the people we love, as well.