Keeping a journal can help you dive into your thoughts and understand the emotions you're feeling. If you have regular therapy sessions, try using a journal as a "homework" to sort through your thoughts when you're not sitting with a therapist. Journals can also be a powerful way to focus and manage regular introspection at home.
Method 1 of 3: Managing Journals
Step 1. Choose the appropriate journal media
You can choose from a variety of journal forms, from digital to analog and aural to visual. The most important thing is to choose a journal that can inspire you to write. If none of the media hits you right away, try journaling in a variety of ways until you find something that works.
- Use an analog notebook if you prefer to write your thoughts with a pen or pencil. Write down your thoughts on an old spiral notebook, if that's to your liking, or buy a leather-bound journal so you can start over. Use small notebooks for easy portability, or large notebooks for drafting big ideas. Make sure you choose a pen that feels comfortable to use.
- Keep a journal on your computer or cell phone, if you prefer to type. Use a standard word processing program (such as Word or Notepad) or another program that you feel is appropriate. Keep all journal entries in one document, or save each entry as a separate document in a single “Journal” folder. It may be more convenient to keep a journal on a computer if you also work on a computer.
- If you like the idea of sharing your thoughts with the public, consider keeping an online journal. Create a simple page on a free site like WordPress or LiveJournal. Post journal entries regularly. You don't have to share links with anyone, or try to gather followers - this online journal posting activity can help you become responsible for writing.
- Consider keeping an audio journal. If speaking makes you more comfortable than writing, consider recording your thoughts using a voice recording app on your smartphone or computer. Sit down with a tape recorder and voice your thoughts for a few minutes – you may find that you can process emotions better by talking.
Step 2. Find a quiet, quiet place to reach your emotions
Consider writing at home, in a cafe, at the library, or at the park. Free the mind from all distractions. Try to separate your mind from everyday life, for a while, and enter into a state of deep introspection. If you can't find personal space, try to create a mental bubble: listen to soothing music or white noise through headphones; isolate yourself in a quiet, closed room; climb a tree, or find a way to climb onto the roof.
Consider meditating or sitting quietly before you start writing. This can help eliminate distractions and focus your mind. Stretch, take deep breaths, light a candle, or play some soft music – anything that makes you calm and reflective
Step 3. Make journaling a habit
Introspection requires regular practice. Set a goal to write every day, whether you're just writing a few sentences or a few pages. Set aside 10-30 minutes to journal without delaying or stalling. Apply discipline to yourself.
- If your schedule is very busy, consider setting aside a specific time for journaling each day. Keep a journal before breakfast, on the train to work, or at night before bed. Find a time when your mind is clear.
- Try to find a comfortable place to put your journal so you don't have to bother looking for it when you want to write. Take your journal with you when you leave the house, and always have a pen with you!
Step 4. Consider recording the date and time for each entry
That way, it will be easier if you want to look back on certain events and look for patterns in the things you write about. If you journal sequentially, the entries will form a sort of independent chronology on their own – but a more accurate date and time record can help you refer to concrete events.
Try to jot down any information that is relevant to what you are writing. This could be information about the weather, the season, how important the day is (birthdays, holidays, etc.), or the reason why you wrote the entry
Method 2 of 3: Start Writing
Step 1. Decide what you want to write
Ask yourself what's going on in your life; What do you feel; what do you think; and what you want. Identify the issues and emotions you want to explore. If you've been pondering something lately, it's likely that it will come to the surface as the focus of your study. Close your eyes and take a deep breath – inhale, then exhale. Assess the most pressing idea, event, or emotion.
Step 2. Calculate your time
Write for 5-20 minutes, or as long as you haven't run out of inspiration. Write the start and end times at the top of the journal page. Set an alarm on your cell phone, clock, or computer so you don't have to keep checking the time. That way, you can completely immerse yourself in the writing process.
If setting a writing time doesn't suit your style, feel free to write as long as you like. The purpose of a time-allocated writing session is to practice the continuous writing process. If you want to write something cumulative, there's nothing wrong with taking the extra time to explain your thoughts in more detail – or not allocating time at all
Step 3. Start writing
Position the pen on the paper and do not remove it until the allotted time is up. Try to channel thoughts spontaneously. Try not to be critical of yourself as you write – this can lose you the moment and block the flow of your thoughts. Start with a simple topic sentence-something that will set the tone for everything you'll write later-as if you were starting a conversation with a friend. Take a look at some of the example sentences below:
- Today is the greatest day I've had in months. Where should I start?
- I do not know what to do. I can not take it anymore.
- I began to suspect that Dani was having an affair.
Step 4. Reread what you have written
When you finish writing, reread the new entry in your journal. Write a reflection sentence or two: “As I read this, I noticed that-” or “I realized about-” or “I feel-”. Consider whether you need to take certain actions based on what you wrote. If so, think about what you need to do to make it happen.
Method 3 of 3: Be Introspective
Step 1. Write down how you feel in a journal
Whenever you have a strong emotion, jot it down in a journal. Write down how you felt, what triggered those feelings, and what you would do about them. Use the journal as a means to process feelings in the moment. If you're feeling confused, you may be able to release some of the tension just by putting your thoughts on paper.
Step 2. Evaluate your actions, thoughts, and emotions
Write about what you did and how you did it. Write about what you think and how you feel. Ask what you do, and answer your own questions. Focus on the logical development of your thought processes, and try to understand yourself better.
Write about what you think you can or should do; write your feedback about the choices you make, write about who you are; and write about what you want. Try to define a goal you want to achieve in the future, whether it's personal, professional, or whatever
Step 3. Keep a journal along with your therapy sessions
Write down your thoughts on your most recent therapy session, and jot down any interesting things you learned. Experiment with journaling during the session, immediately after the session ends, and then as you reflect on what you're going through. Set personal goals with the help of a therapist, and use your journal to track them.
Some therapists are actually trained in journal therapy. If you want to dig deeper into journal therapy with the guidance of a knowledgeable and professional person, consider finding a licensed journal therapist in your area
Step 4. Don't be afraid to get creative
If you feel that the best way to express your thoughts is to draw them, feel free to do so. Use color! Paint, markers, crayons. Consider inserting photos, clippings, flowers, and other knick-knacks in your journal – whatever you find meaningful.
- Try to combine a journal with a scrapbook. If your therapist provides a worksheet or printout that contains useful information, post it in a journal. Use your journal as a scrapbook on self-help techniques. Make a list of things that make you unhappy and triggers that you should avoid.
- Consider drawing a “mind map” to connect your ideas. Draw lines, arrows, or webs between related ideas. Look for themes that emerge among your problems, and try to identify the ways in which they arise.
Step 5. Explain in detail
Later on, you may just forget why you wrote or drew something. Think more deeply, and try to explain your thoughts in as much detail as possible. The more fully you examine your concerns, the better your ability to understand them will be. The better you understand your concerns, the easier it will be for you to deal with them.
Step 6. Ask writing prompts to stimulate self-inspection
Look online for journal prompts, ask friends or therapists for ideas, or try to come up with some solid themes you'd like to explore. Having a different question or prompt for your journal to answer each day can be a great way to keep writing. When you're writing to answer a prompt, you'll feel more like you're writing for someone instead of writing for yourself, and you may feel responsible for the structure of the journal. Consider the following questions and more:
- Are you proud of yourself? How do you want to be remembered?
- What personality traits do you admire or look for in others – and why?
- Think about something you feel obligated to do, every day or on a regular basis. Why do you feel obligated?
- What's the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Step 7. Think of your journal as a friend
Journaling can stimulate feelings to share how you feel with a close, trusted friend. Try to communicate with your journal as if he were a close friend waiting for each new entry; imagine that he can't wait to see your progress through life, and that he cares about your emotional well-being. The feeling of having a one-on-one “relationship” can absorb the therapeutic effects that are usually brought about when one shares experiences.
Step 8. Read your journal regularly
Compare what you wrote recently with what you wrote six months ago. Look for patterns, and try to chart your personal development. It may be difficult to go through the negative emotions again, but you will know that you are making progress if you can remember the feelings you felt at the time without feeling carried away by them.
- Your journal is a private space. If you don't want to share something with the therapist, you don't have to.
- Unleash your creativity and try new things. Painting, collage, drawing, and photo editing can be great ways to express ideas that you can't put into words.
- Do not be too serious. Take some time to reflect and enjoy this project.
- Sometimes simply writing down/drawing your feelings will help you, tear the paper after that.