Written by: Sydney Waldner
Journaling; you either love it or you hate it! Or perhaps you haven’t tried a journaling style that works for you. There are countless approaches one can take when taking a pen to paper. One nice thing about journaling is there are no rules! For some reason, there seems to be pressure on those wanting to get into journaling. Fears or doubts that they will be ‘good’ at it are common. This is a total myth! Journaling is pure expression and should be treated as such.
I think that routine can be a good thing and that there is power within self-help methods/rituals! I am a firm believer in the potential that journaling holds for many individuals around the globe and can see the promising prospects of one type of journaling, specifically; positive journaling. In this article, we will go over what is journaling, how to journal, and the unique benefits that come from positive journaling. Essentially, I have seen and experienced what positive journaling has done for me and I would like to share with you exactly what this practice has taught me over the years.
What is journaling?
Journaling is the act of writing down thoughts, emotions, and/or events into an often private notebook. There are many different journaling styles/methods that hold their own benefits. One of the most traditional ways to journal is done by writing down unfortunate events and the negative emotions that came from said events. The overall motive of style of journaling is to hopefully make yourself feel better. While this can be a very effective outlet, positive journaling takes a different route and can leave you feeling better by using a different method. Positive journaling is, well, journaling in a positive way! This term perfectly sums up the practice!
How to journal
There are many ways to journal and it is important to know there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do so. Let’s go over how to positive journal and the structure I have stuck with over the past 3 years. Please note this is the structure that works for me and I am simply sharing it with you as a reference! Do whatever you feel works best for you and your needs.
Firstly, you will need to get yourself a notebook and a pen… Duh! When you have materials to write with, you can work on figuring out a structure to work with as this may help you, especially if you are not used to journaling. For the purpose of reference, this is what my positive journal structure currently looks like:
-Date, time, place.
Here I write down a short summary of what went wrong that day. I know what you are thinking-not very positive is it? Bear with me on this! After writing a summary of what went wrong, I then follow it up by writing down a positive perspective I can create by analysing my frustrations of the day. This is a great way to sit down, go over the day’s complications, and actively think about a positive way to look at them. This exercises critical thinking while allowing you to use logical thinking instead of emotional thinking. This will make you feel a lot better about the things that went wrong that day.
I then make a list of all the things that happened that day that were positive. This could be something as big as getting a promotion at work or as small as falling in love with a new flavour of tea you bought at the store that day! No matter how big or how small, write it down! Sit there and do not get up until you’ve written everything down that you can possibly think of. Keep doing this until you have nothing else to write. You will be surprised at how many lovely things happened that day. You will also see that this list will likely be a lot longer than your negativity entry above.
-A message to myself:
I end with a message from me to me. I write some encouraging words I feel like I need to hear. Sometimes our loved ones are there to tell us what we need to hear. Other times, you need to be your own loved one and have a word with yourself. This will also train your brain to speak to yourself with more care. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a little pep-talk and some extra loving words when needed! Be your own motivator!
Benefits of positive journaling
Although I could talk about the many benefits of this practice for hours, I have narrowed it down to 5 simple, yet important, benefits of positive journaling.
1. It rewires your brain in a positive way
Let’s face it, things go wrong every day. We cannot stop inconveniences from occurring, however, we can change the way we let them affect us. Positive journaling allows us to shift our perspective and helps us change what we thought was a bad day into a good one. This practice truly makes you confront what actually happened that day and allows you to see that perhaps it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Maybe you will see that you had a bad 15 minutes, not a bad 24 hour day. In return, this will rewire your brain, allowing you to process events more mindfully in real-time. Eventually, you will be able to control your emotions whilst a situation is happening rather than letting your day be ruined by one minor inconvenience.
2. It makes you count your blessings more consistently/effortlessly
As cliché as it sounds, there is so much power in counting your blessings. So many ‘blessing’ occur each day. Thanks to the nature of the human brain, we often allow these blessings (big or small) to pass us by as regular occurrences. Many of us have been conditioned to count our hardships rather than our blessings. This would explain a lot of unnecessary suffering. Sitting down with yourself and writing down every single blessing that you can think of will leave you overflowing with gratitude-and what is more healing than an abundance of gratitude running through you?
3. It allows you to see the significance in everyday life
Many of us have experienced periods of time that feel like every day is the same. This seems to be a commonly reported effect of quarantine, specifically. It can feel like time is passing you by and the lines separating each day are completely blurred. This can cause a lot of anxiety and sometimes even depression. This was a reoccurring experience I had for many years. Once I took up positive journaling I very quickly realised that every day was indeed utterly unique and held great significance! When you go through your day and write it down on paper, it shows you that every day is a gift and offers a new set of opportunities. Positive journaling is a fantastic way to change a mundane day into a special one. This will allow you to see the significance whilst your day is happening as well, allowing you to live in the moment more frequently.
4. It is good for your mental health
Journaling for mental health is a great tool. We all know that speaking to someone is an effective outlet for those suffering from poor mental health. However, it is also rather helpful to sit down with yourself and be alone with your thoughts/feelings. Learning to transform your feelings and thoughts independently is vital for those with mental health complications. Journaling for mental health is much more effective than distracting yourself with social media or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. Positive journaling forces you to be positive! It allows you time to go over the negative parts of your day and process them mindfully. When you struggle with mental health and something goes wrong, it can be very challenging to process something productively. Not to mention, routine has been proven to improve mental health. That being said, taking time at the end of each day to sort through the days complications and end things on a positive note will inevitably improve your mental health.
5. It is grounding and reduces stress
Stress is something that can eat you alive if you don’t keep a lid on it. Positive journaling is one of the many ways you can manage your stress. A lot of stress comes from our daily inconveniences. As I said above, we cannot stop these inconveniences, but we can learn to process them correctly. There have been countless times where I have been feeling overwhelmingly stressed out and felt like nothing could possibly reduce my worries-until I sat down with my journal, that is. When you feel anxious, having the time and space to sit down and process things can be extremely grounding. Sometimes all you need to do is to slow down, breathe, and write it out. Self-help can often be the best help. You are smarter than you may think and you have much more control over your thoughts/emotions than you have been taught to believe. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, try writing about it. You will be surprised with the perspective you will gain along the way.
I truly believe that we have the power to rewire our brains and live life with minimal suffering, which can be achieved via various methods. It is important to slow down and spend time alone with your thoughts and drift away from the many distractions of the world. I urge you to seek out what works for you. In my case, positive journaling has been a key self-help ritual that has helped me take back my power and apply it in everyday life.
This practice displays a simple truth: the positive things that happen each day outweigh the negative things. Positive journaling will revile what is truly important and create a positive space in your mind that you will love to spend time in.
It helps you decrease suffering by looking at the positives.
Yes, it has been proven to be good for mental health.
It can change offer fresh perspectives.
It is a useful outlet and an effective tool for healing.