Keeping a diary, or journaling as it’s often called, brings up some interesting images for many of us. Some of us think of “Dear Diary” and the thoughtful introvert that makes an entry every day. This works for some people. For many, including me, the thought of doing this is about as much fun as doing the dishes.
Let's consider journaling from a self-empowerment viewpoint. Done in this way, as little or often as it seems useful, keeping a diary can be a wonderful method of tracking one’s thoughts and actions. Just as important, the act of writing things down and then going back and looking at what we’ve written often gives us a perspective that is not possible when thoughts are kept in our minds. I’ve seen this time and time again in my work with clients.
In addition, keeping a journal/diary can help us to discover and/or clarify short-term and long-term goals. More on goals here.
When journaling with the intent of having more self-awareness, it is important to consider a few things:
As you journal, and reflect on past entries, you may reach a point where you realize that a certain course of action is needed. This is great; it means you have reached some clarity through your diary.
At this point, you may want to either 1) talk with a trusted friend or family member about your thoughts/plans, or 2) keep journaling to make your plan more specific. Many people get to a point where they feel they should take action, but we often stop there.
It can help greatly to decide
If you get to a point where you aren’t sure what to do, even AFTER you’ve thought a lot about it, it can also help to talk with a professional at this point. Feel free to come see me for a consultation. I have a lot of experience in helping people examine their values and gain clarity on important decisions.
In addition, gaining some clarity on your values can be hugely important when trying to make a clear decision. Using the Motivational Interviewing Values Card Sort can be most helpful. This is found by clicking on this link.
The instructions for this card sort exercise are found here.
In addition, journaling can empower us to have a voice. Many people feel anger, resentment, or other strong feelings toward another, but for one reason or another we aren’t able to express that directly to the individual (for example, the person at whom you are angry may have passed away).
This is another instance where writing about your feelings can be very helpful. The act of writing out your thoughts and feelings, or even composing a letter (though you may decide not to send it to the person) can allow for the expression of previously bottled-up emotions. More tools for coping with anger on this page.
As one of my clients recently said, “It wasn’t until I wrote it out that I was able to make up my mind….by doing so, I was able to see the next step, and then the next”. He’s not alone. There’s something about writing things out that gives us a fresh view on things, and helps us think things through at a level of detail that we may not be able to in our minds.
As always, if your thoughts and feelings feel so powerful that the thought of doing a journal seems overwhelming, consider seeking professional help.
I call these side effects because they aren’t necessarily the reason we keep a record of our thoughts and feelings.
More benefits can be found by going to this page on the Huffington Post.