“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.” Mina Murray, Dracula
As we head into the New Year in a few short weeks, many of us are starting to think about our New Year’s Resolutions. One of the practices that I often recommend to clients is journaling. It’s a practice I had for many years and have decided to pick up again this year. There are many reasons that journaling can be useful to begin, whether you are in regular therapy or not.
Journaling gives voice to your inner thoughts and feelings. Many people spend much of their time trying to fill the empty spaces in their lives in order to ignore the more painful feelings. Taking 15 minutes a day to write can be useful in safely containing those feelings and allowing you to begin the healing process. Journaling also provides us perspective. I often recommend journaling to clients dealing with anxiety as an exercise in self understanding. As they journal, I ask them to read back through the entries and mark their anxiety’s voice – those negative beliefs that we have just come to accept as our own voice, such as “I could never…”. Recognizing the voice of anxiety allows us to start to challenge it and take our power back. Journaling also gives us perspective on our relationships. When you are in an abusive relationship or even just a negative friendship, it’s easy to get lost in the ups and downs and start to doubt your own feelings. Journaling gives you a chronicle of your day to day experiences that can help you understand the relationship as a whole.
You can go to just about any store and find a host of notebooks and journals that will inspire your journey into self discovery. For those who are new and those who have had negative experiences journaling, I want to suggest a few books to begin with that provide daily prompts and lists.
The Happiness Planner: This one was suggested by a client and it is a bit of a daily planner and journal all smushed together. You won’t be writing long prose in this one but you’ll have directed prompts to keep your focus on goals and self care.
The Happiness Project: One Sentence Journal (a Five Year Record): This book has a quote each day, followed by 5 entry spaces to write a sentence each year. I would suggest making this a part of a daily routine preceded by a time of meditation. You could use it to write a goal or a thought for the day, or simply a reflection on something that happened that day.
It’s Gonna Be Okay: If you are in the midst of overwhelming anxiety or depression, this may be the book for you. Each day has a quote or thought, a place for today’s date, and the prompt “What I’m Hanging Hope On Today”, followed by a place to check your prevailing outlook for today (thumbs up, okay signal, thumbs down, or fingers crossed). It’s simple but offers the opportunity to create a changed perspective on life.
The Book of Me. A Do-It-Yourself Memoir: If you are looking to understand yourself more, this book has hundreds of questions and prompts such that you might ask as you are getting to know a new friend.
52 Lists: This is a series of books that includes the 52 lists project, 52 lists of togetherness, and 52 lists for happiness. You would write once a week for a year and again, rather than prose, you are writing lists that allow you to gain a perspective on yourself and your relationships.
Just Between Us: This book, as well as another titled Like Mother, Like Daughter, is an opportunit to journal with your daughter. Just Between Us would be a great way to get to know your tween or early teen daughter, and Like Mother, Like Daughter would be a great fit for your older teen or college student.
If one of these journals doesn’t seem like the right fit, I hope you are encouraged to see what other offerings are out there. Head to your local bookstore or browse Amazon to find the journal that will inspire you to begin journaling in the new year.
Hannah Lindsay, MSW, LCSW-C provides individual and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation.