“I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one's self and listening at the same time.”
—Mina Murray in her journal in Dracula, by Bram Stoker
We’re gonna be looking at the benefits of journaling here on the blog over the next few weeks. Today’s post is a personal reflection on how a journal can be your ultimate best friend and confidante.
I’ve had a number of different hobbies and interests over the years.
Journaling is one constant activity in life that I’ve held on to. As a young child, I never expected to keep a diary for over the next two to three decades.
While I’ve had long ranting and venting episodes with certain journaling chapters of my life, the greatest thing journaling offers me is an outlet for self-expression and self-knowledge.
Here’s a quick rundown on what my journaling experience was like at different life stages, followed by some tips on how you can create a safe space for expressing your thoughts and feelings through journaling.
Grab our journaling worksheet featuring templates from Optimal Living Daily episodes!
As A Child
The pure joy of discovering my own thoughts and experiences during this time was unmatched!
I realized that the humble pen and paper offered me an outlet to confide ANYTHING to, from the most mundane observations (“I bought two notebooks from a stationery store today”) to something more thought-provoking (“Why did so-and-so break off our friendship? What did I do wrong?“).
As A Teen
This was an intense time when things started to get more emotionally violent. What I appreciated the most about a journal was how it could act as a judgement-free zone.
The action of writing a journal brought some much needed stability. No matter how rough the day was, I knew I could always open up my journal to try and make the most of a situation.
It was cool to see my personality develop on paper. I relished having free rein to define my identity. Even if other people talked over me or tried to downplay what I was going through, I knew I could explore within the pages of my journal to experience my own reality.
This was the time I first discovered my MBTI type and embraced self-discovery almost to the point of obsession. Being different was no longer something to fear, but something to dive into. I was learning firsthand of how reflective journaling acted as a paper mirror that reflected my heart and mind.
As An Adult
My twenties were haphazard in terms of career and relationships. I had friends and partners come and go, but my journal stayed constant as a confidante and companion.
Journaling helped me cultivate more maturity over time and appreciate what I had in my life, after taking stock of mistakes I didn’t want to repeat.
Here’s when I started to try out different techniques, like the daily goals list mentioned by Brian Tracy in our journaling tips and techniques post.
It's how I learned about the effectiveness of journaling about stressful events. This echoes the following study which found that writing about emotions and one's mental process helps to develop awareness of the positive benefits of a stressful event.
5 Ways to Create a Safe Place via Journaling
So, what are some simple ways to make a best friend through your journal?
1. Keep it as a judgment-free zone. We live in an online era where many people are more reactionary than rational on social media. You might also have to navigate your way through online trolls and those who are easily offended. Your journal isn’t a space to be liked by everyone and be Mr. or Ms. Perfect. It’s a space where all of you is welcome for you to honestly examine your mind and inner life.
2. Keep different journals if you’re getting overwhelmed. I have a handwritten recipe book, a notebook for work related meetings, a storyboard and brainstorming journal, etc. I have a big journal with a peacock on the cover that’s just for my own personal rants and celebrations. Separating your journals out this way will help you stay organized. It’s also a lot easier to find something that you might need to refer to several weeks (or years!) down the road. You never know where you’ll find inspiration.
3. Read about different journaling techniques. This helps your journal writing stay fresh and constructive. You can write as much or as little as you need to, but try to be consistent so that journaling becomes one of your habits. Showing up this way will help you to get the most out of it. Expand your knowledge — you can make time for gratitude and appreciation, but did you know that an ingratitude journal is more beneficial to some folks? Research shows that you need a space to acknowledge painful and difficult feelings in order to process them, and an ingratitude journal gives you the space to honor the unpleasant experiences you’ve been through instead of trying to turn them into something they weren't.
4. Use journaling to explore your highs and lows. When it comes to personal development, it’s definitely more of a journey than a destination. Being conscious of your growth means that you'll see yourself at your worst and at your best. For instance, a journal may capture your dreams AND your feelings of crushing defeat if your dreams aren’t realized in the way you had originally envisioned. It can also record the things you do right moving forward and lead you to discover new parts of yourself — your strengths, your aptitudes, your tenacity — that you didn’t even know existed.
5. Keep it private. People shouldn’t be snooping if there are things in your journal that you’d rather not reveal to others. According to PsychCentral, “boundaries are a measure of self-esteem.” Boundaries allow you to determine what is acceptable behavior from others, which includes how they treat you and what you consider to be rude or inconsiderate. Therefore, be sure to clearly communicate to the people around you that what goes on between you and your journal is private, so that they respect your boundaries.
These are some ways to experience the beauty of journaling and how it can be your best friend through all the ups and downs of your life.