What is Journaling 101? A blog for journalers, writers, and people who want to get in touch with the most fascinating person in the world – themselves!
I have been journaling for over 47 years now and since the day I began, I have been intrigued by the fact that I never run out of things to write about! I was sure that if this habit was so powerful for me, everyone else would want to journal too. So, I invited some friends into my living room and we began writing and sharing. Then I left my living room and began to share my love of journaling with larger audiences and groups. Many, many times people have shared that he/she can feel the excitement washing over them as they begin to journal and learn more about themselves and the world around them. And I love to be part of that feeling!
One of the biggest hurdles some people face as they begin journaling is that they start off like a rocket and then often forget to put journaling on their schedule. Journaling is not necessarily keeping a “diary” but it is also not writing chapter and verse either. I know some journalers who write intermittently and others who faithfully write daily. There is no “right” way. There is only your way.
One reader wrote to me after reading my book Journaling For Joy, that the best part of reading the book and her start in journaling was that “I had introduced her to herself.”
What a wonderful adventure! Learn who you are by letting yourself tell you! So grab your pen and journal and join with me to be true to who you are!
Read the suggestions, questions, or tips below and then let your thoughts flow and write to capture whatever comes into your mind! Sound fun? It is!
In joy, Joyce
To begin…Ask Yourself:
What do I think/feel, right now about keeping a journal and what would I like journaling to do for me?
Why do I want to keep a journal?
What do I want my journaling habits to be?
What kind of journal or computer program do I want to use, and why?
After you have answered the first questions you might like to continue by keeping A Daily Log
When I first started to journal one of the techniques that I practiced was to keep a daily log.
Today I know that this technique is one of the reasons I quickly realized the value of paying serious attention to my life. By recording my life in my daily log, I found that I was the person in charge of what I really wanted in my life. I was becoming much more aware of “being the main character” in my life. (Now this may sound strange to some of you but the truth is I was allowing my life to…just happen most of the time. And I was really excited to reflect at the end of each day and write in my daily log what did or didn’t happen. I could and would be more awake and aware. It was time for me to live in choice!)
Keeping a daily log is very much like the “Dear Diary” journaling that most of us have done in our journals and diaries throughout our lives. Are you saying, “I know I already do this, or I do write every day about my day, or…Well, I’m suggesting…let’s all do this for several weeks and notice if anything shifts or changes because of committing to the “daily-ness” of practicing a habit.
So…every day during this month of January sit down daily, open your journal, write the date, a record your day. Remember this is your log so you can write one word, one line, or pages and pages. Then as always, I suggest to, reread and give yourself some “feedback” or a new journaling assignment you want to do.
If this is a new practice for you here are a few tips: Close your eyes and visualize the day. Ask yourself some questions to spark your memory. Questions like: If I titled my day, today, how would I title it? What did I do first this morning? Was I looking forward to my day? Who were the people in my life today? How did I feel in the late afternoon? What was my evening like? What was the best part of my day, why? What would I have liked to change? Is today a day I’d like to repeat? Why, or why not? What do I want to remember from living my life today?
During the month of February let’s talk about keeping other logs to keep. Here’s a section* from Chapter 2 in Journaling For Joy that will get you started :
*KEEPING A LOG FOR EVERY OCCASION
” How can I know myself?” people often ask when they begin on their self-discovery process. They may be acute observers of others, but they do not direct their attention onto observing themselves. When I taught young children, I would tell them jokingly, questions like, “Your ticket to come in tomorrow will be to know what color your mom’s eyes are. All who know their telephone numbers will get their names added to the I Know list.” I would encourage them to become aware of the world around them. And, of course, they would laugh and come to school knowing more than they knew the day before-also more lively and more interested and involved in their lives.
One of the simplest ways to observe yourself is by keeping a log, or simple list recording the details you’re interested in knowing more about. When you choose to be more aware, follow through with a concrete action: set the facts and figures down in black and white before you. What are you dissatisfied with? What do you feel unfulfilled about? What area would you like to assume more control over? What feeling or experience do you want to increase in your life? Make a log, and begin recording the raw data you will have to work with.
Author George F. Simons in his book Keeping Your Personal Journal, recommends asking, “If I could take a souvenir or memento from today, what would it be?” and “Is there something I would like to say to each person who entered my day in some form?” Wonderful learning can come from recording the activities and thoughts and events of one single day:
- Want to become more positive? Log your negative thoughts and words for a day. Then write what your learning is from what you have observed.
- Log your accomplishments for a week, and then write a Feedback Statement.
- Keep a log of your frustrations during a day at the office or at home. Then write what you can learn from what you have written.
- Want to learn to communicate more effectively? Keep a log of your communications for a day, and then write yourself a Feedback Statement.
- What’s bugging you? Keep a log for a day, and then write your conclusions and recommendations to yourself.
- Your body is acting up again? Keep a record of your symptoms for a day or a week, noting alongside each what else was going on in your life at that time. At the end, write what learning is available from this record. Then keep another log: of times your body feels wonderful!
- Keep a record of your loving encounters for a day or two: what message comes through your writing?
- Want to learn to be more assertive? Keep a log of your interactions for a day. Ask yourself, “Did I say what I felt, wanted, needed? Or did I say, `What’s the use?’ or ‘Who cares.” What difference does it make?‘ “
- Low self-esteem? Keep a log for a day of thoughts and interactions that raised and lowered your self-esteem. What is the learning there?
- Is self-awareness an issue for you? Keep a log for a day of your state of energy, moment to moment. Write a Feedback Statement about what your observations say to you.
- Keep a log of your feelings for a day. What do you conclude? Write about your learning. If there is a feeling you want to increase in your life, keep a log of the times you experience this feeling. Is your life too bland? Keep a log of times you experience passion. Summarize your conclusions.
- Keep an ongoing log of what you love to do, be, and have.
In a brainstorming session, I once encouraged participants to list every kind of log they had ever used or would like to use. The list covered an entire wall. You could think of an infinite number of ideas for logging. If you keep a log of what you did in your garden this year and how it turned out, you could improve your garden next year. If you have a weight problem and cannot remember what you have eaten today, you might want to start a food log. If you want to increase your exercise, how about an exercise log?—give yourself gold stars! If you want to recapture the romance in your relationship, begin a romance log.
If you want to find out what’s going on in your life that causes you so much conflict, keep a conflict log. Were you criticized? Did someone take something you wanted? Were you unable to do what you wanted? Were you unappreciated? List these incidents, what the issue was, who was involved, and what you wanted. When conflicts persist, they can turn into complaining, gossip, and symptoms of physical illness. Your conflict log will lead you to root out the causes of conflict. When you keep this log, action will follow to resolve the problem.
Do you have habits you would like to change? Catch yourself substituting new behaviors, and keep a log of what you did. Keep a phone log, to find out how much time you spend on the phone, and with whom. Keep a log of addictive behaviors, and the thoughts and feelings that preceded them each time. Note and write down any judgmental and critical remarks, and the effects they produced. Log your mistakes and what you learned from them. And how about a log of “Erase Its”—what you would like to be able to erase from the day (that second brownie, those harsh words with a loved one, the job left undone). Then try logging your wins, your successes, your accomplishments.
As you look over a log, you will begin to notice patterns and see relationships between thoughts, feelings, and actions. By becoming the observer, you then become the planner, the designer, the critiquer, and the organizer. Logging captures the details that point to a powerful realization: Aha! I’m in charge of my life! I create my own mental environment. Logging is a great self-empowerment tool.
The technique tips for March are all from Chapter 3 in Journaling For Joy, “Snapshots of Your Life…An Album of Memories”
I love talking with people who say, I want to write my life story. Then the next sentence is often, Where should I start? If you are one of those who want, and are ready, to recapture your life experiences on paper, let’s begin!
This first week start off by making a list or use what I call making a cluster design, of memories you can easily recall. You may find yourself thinking of a time in your childhood… that was a joyful memory, or something that you would rather not remember, or meeting a person that has impacted you, and so much more! This first writing is going to help you write that Life Story you say you want to write.
This second week ask yourself, did you remember lots of memories from last week? This week take time to add to those lists! Dig out some of your old photos and start going through them, When one really “speaks” to you, think of a title for that life experience and add to this growing collection…of memories you want to put into words!
My guess is that ideas, past experiences and events are… wanting to be written down. If this is true, then another easy way to expand these memories is to make a list of the characters in your stories. Then, next week we’ll build on this step!
What did you discover last week by making your list about the different people in your life? This week review your list and ask yourself: Do I want to include some of these people in my life stories? Then set aside time to begin capturing these memories!
You have really just begun even if you followed all this month’s suggestions. So, my invitation to you is to continue to write your stories! As you write please remember “Life is an adventure. By opening up the album of stored memories, you allow yourself to re-create, rethink, and recapture the valuable thoughts and precious feelings you may have missed along the way.”
The technique tips for April are all from Chapter 4, Listing Your Life, in my Journaling For Joy book.
Making lists is so much a part of most people’s lives that you may be thinking, is making a list really a method, to be used as a journaling technique?
I love talking about all the possible lists to write in my journal. (In fact, I have a section in Chapter 4 titled, Listing Your Life in my Journaling For Joy book. )
So… let’s all begin this first week in April, by writing a list of lists…that you know you want to make.
After you’ve written some lists you know you want to write, take some time to review and when you are ready to write, answer this question: What have I discovered so far by making a list of lists? Then, get started by choosing one or more of the lists to begin using this technique to explore and understand how list-making can lead you to your next journaling step or assignment.
I am passionate about living true to what I say I want, so one list I’d like to recommend …if you haven’t already written it is: Make a list of what you want. Reread that list and circle what you are willing to commit to bringing into reality. These lists will very likely lead to lots of other lists. (If you want some that I often recommend, please email me to send you a list!)
Another list to discover, and sometimes rediscover who you are, is a very valuable habit. A great place to start is to examine what your beliefs are…for the basic areas of your life. Ask yourself, “What do I believe about realizing my dreams…my: future, family, health, relationships, money; and so much more. (This is not a one-time journaling experience…it is going to be a life-time adventure into yourself!)
Make a list of questions you want to ask yourself that will help you review this year so far. When you feel you have a list that will give you insights into what you learned and experienced…start writing your answers!
The next ideas for May and June are from my book Journaling For Joy, titled Creative Conversations Chapter 5.
I love having conversations in my journal! This technique invites me to get in touch with information that I didn’t even know I had. So, let’s all explore using this technique to take us beyond speculating about people, events, and issues into actually being the person or event—playing out the part, and speaking the lines. In writing conversations, we can discover that we may really know another point of view. Quite simply, this is often a magical experience—even though we haven’t experienced it, we can access another perspective or even discover a new reality!
Let’s begin with: Conversing With Yourself
Who knows more about you than you do? Somewhere inside of you is the answer to any question you could ever ask. One great way to tap into your answers is to hold a conversation with yourself. An easy way is to set up a dialogue between you the interviewer and you the interviewee. The advantage to using another person (the interviewer) is that it eliminates any self-judgment. Instead of beating yourself up, you are bringing yourself up to become the person you want to be. I often tell people it is like writing a play. You would stage a conversation between you and another character in the same way you would write dialogue for a play.
Now try having…Conversing With An Idea
There are many other ways to connect with an idea you want to have a conversation with. One of my favorite methods is to choose a quote that has some ideas about something I know I want to examine. Take this, for example, “You forgive what you can, when you can. That’s all you can do. To forgive does not mean overlooking the offense and pretending it never happened. Forgiveness means releasing our rage and our need to retaliate, no longer dwelling on the offense, the offender, and the suffering, and rising to a higher love. It is an act of letting go so that we can go on.” Sue Monk Kidd
We all experience wanting to know more about an idea we have or want to figure out a crossroad we are at. If you are ready to learn and discover more about an idea, that is currently affecting your life…then try conversing with that idea. For example, you might launch into an argument with your guilt. Once a client, of mine was able to help heal sixteen years of pain and torment over an abortion by writing a conversation between shame and guilt. Another journaler used a three-way conversation with “Want, Need, and Desire” to clarify what he/she most wanted.
So try this fun journaling technique and remember… Dialoguing with an idea that comes into your mind, whether playful or serious, can be surprisingly beneficial.
Have you ever talked with your body? My guess is yes, often…and I’m encouraging you to take the next step and practice talking with your body in your journal! So, read on for some ideas to practice: Conversing With Your Body. It is important to be in constant dialogue with our bodies. Without a body, we don’t get to be here. Yet people tend to ignore the nonverbal communications the body continuously sends-until the body turns up the volume louder and louder, and we end up with a screaming pain that finally demands our full attention.
When your body claims your attention in some way, be sure to have a conversation with it, listening for the message it wants to communicate with you. As a matter of routine maintenance and to maximize the joy of being in your body, learn to keep your channels of communication open.
Talk to your body, and listen. Be a good friend to your body. Your back pain may be sending you a strong message: “Back off!” Your excess weight may be saying, “Lighten up-your life has become much too heavy!” Write a conversation with any part of your body you don’t like or are unsatisfied with. Just begin, “Hello, the (tension) in my (head, back, throat, etc.).” Once these messages come through on a conscious level, you can deal with and act on them more effectively.
Now, try this one -Conversing With Another Person
Another important and enlightening form of dialogue and communication with oneself is creating a conversation with another person. These dialogues can lead to resolving an inner conflict or sense of unease over a recent or longstanding difficulty. They can help you get a better grasp of your own position while gaining insights into someone else’s point of view. Conversations can be especially useful when you need advice or guidance from an expert or mentor, and when you need someone to serve as a model for the type of achievement or success to which you aspire. They can aid you in appreciating the value of a past or present relationship. A conversation can also help prepare you for an upcoming encounter in which you want to be your best.
Another way to have fun having conversations is to practice, Conversing To Discover The Joy.
A good way to start is to start off with these questions: What is joy, for you? When is the last time you can remember experiencing pure, undiluted joy? Your journal is a wonderful place to capture the joy you experience, and your writing will unfold in magical ways when you begin an imaginary conversation with “joy“ itself.
Now let’s talk about…Conversing To Achieve Clarity
Having a conversation to achieve clarity when indecision or living in limbo becomes too uncomfortable when you’re spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere when you feel pulled in different directions by conflicting intentions, or it’s time to get clear on what you really want. So many people stay stuck in the frustration of letting other people or whatever event happens to come up determine what direction they will go in next. If you find yourself in such a predicament, you don’t have to remain there.
One way to start is by choosing a destination. Decide where you’re going, and make a mental map. Then draw a road map on paper. In bold ink, picture a major freeway flowing straight to your chosen destination. Picture all the side diversions and detours, with their different destinations, in a fainter color. As you focus on the outcome you intend to reach, this mental picture will help you eliminate the scatter. Do you want to wander down every side road you come to, or stay on the main road to your chosen destination? Now, just for the fun of it have a conversation with the guide that will be assisting you with this adventure to achieve clarity and focus!
Have you wished that you could wave a magic wand and all the conflicts would be gone …out of your life? Well, it may take a little more time than a swoosh, and I believe that by having a conversation in your journal by: Conversing To Work Through The Conflict
As you likely know, Conflict puts a person in bondage. It ties people up emotionally, and restricts their energy, locking it into the dilemma of attack, defend, withdraw. In a dialogue, you can get in touch with what is causing a conflict. You can realize what it is that’s bothering you about a relationship. What is at the root of the pain or discomfort? Perhaps someone is being dishonest, using you, letting you down. Perhaps you are being dishonest with yourself, or letting yourself down. A conversation can help you identify the feelings and the issues—on both sides. Each time you have a conversation remember that: It’s a good idea to make a note of this learning. Make a card, write your new options and post where it will remind you that you have transcended this conflict from now on.
Now take the time to practice, Conversing To Release Anger
Whenever I know I am angry about something, anything, I grab my journal and start off by making a list of what I’m angry about. Then I begin my conversation with whom or what is causing me to experience anger. Then, once you have identified that your distress is about anger, and the anger has been pinpointed, you can write a conversation directly with your anger or its cause. Doing this can move you out of agitation and trying to figure things out, forward into action.
Now if you are ready to add another conversation, try Conversing To Release Tension And Stress to your journaling as needed.
When we talk about tension and stress, we usually think of these words in a negative sense, as something we want to eliminate completely. But beneath our level of conscious awareness, we may be harboring an opposite belief: If I didn’t have some tension, I wouldn’t be producing. If I didn’t have stress, I would lie around and not accomplish anything.
How would you function in a total absence of tension and stress? We can’t live without stimuli. As you release tension and stress, what are you going to replace them with? What will your focus be on? Can you choose a more effective and empowering motivator?
Give some attention to the end result and the way you want to live your life. Can you imagine Walt Disney complaining about his tension and stress to meet the deadlines for Bambi? My guess is that he was probably too busy and excited about doing his work.
What end result do you desire? You don’t have to know how to produce it right now. Just begin by getting clear on your intention, and the means for achieving it will follow. Would you choose to replace tension with free-flowing creative productivity? Would you prefer free choice to compulsion? Would you want peaceful cooperation, relaxed creativity, a manageable schedule, rather than the stressful conditions you currently endure? Write a conversation between stress and freedom.
What is your tension and stress about? I suggest that you begin by writing down your feelings and what is provoking them. Then go into a conversation with the individuals, issues, or events involved.
After you write your conversation to release tension and stress, take some time to notice if any tension and stress remain in your body. Most of us have experienced that appropriate physical exercise is one of the best ways to work out the tension in our muscles and relieve stress. If you are finding it hard to exercise, try writing a conversation between stress and exercise.
Now take time to practice…Conversing to Dispel Depression.
If you are depressed, step back and look at yourself now with an objective eye. Is your depression in any way life-threatening? If so, this is the time to reach out for professional help. Use the resources that are available in your community. Seek out a referral from a friend or community agency, or use the Yellow Pages in your phone directory. Have a medical and/or psychological evaluation, and obtain treatment as necessary.
The following journaling ideas are suggested ways for dealing with less severe depressions that might not require professional help. Begin by asking yourself what the depression is about. When, exactly, did it start? What else was going on at that time? What does it feel like? Where does it center in your body?
When we try to identify what depression feels like, we might identify it as inaction, inertia, hopelessness, cyclical negative thinking, sadness, dejection, chaos, disorder, apathy. One definition states that depression is “anger turned inward.” Can you identify any anger related to your depression? What issue needs to be resolved in order to lift the depression? What action must be taken? Begin by writing answers to these questions.
What is the part of you that is still inside there, alive and kicking? What does it feel like? What does it want? Try writing a dialogue between your depression and the vital part of you. Include feedback about your choices and be creative in imagining new alternatives.
Through the process of living your life, unlimited ideas for conversations will come to you. Get into the habit of jotting them down and taking them to your journal. Pay attention: trust and tap into your own inner wisdom, your own natural knowing. Tchaikovsky said, “Inspiration is a guest who only comes to those who invite her.” Instead of muddling around in the heaviness of any situation, you can dance with your creative potential!