How to Journal: 4 Productive Journaling Techniques


Sometimes journaling can be a sort of intimidating thing. Whether you enjoy journaling on your computer or (the old school way) in a paper-bound journal, the space where you can type or write your deepest thoughts is infinite. Maybe I’m not making sense to some of you because you don’t have this problem, but for those of you who find yourself getting stuck when the pen reaches the paper, I have gathered 4 specific ways that will help you gain momentum in your journaling! Orrr just to help you get started, which is totally okay too! 😉

But first….

Why is journaling in a productive way important? 

Good, I’m glad you asked! Let me start off by saying that journaling is meant to be what YOU make it out to be. If you are just starting to journal, ask yourself why you want to begin journaling. What benefit will it give to you? This does not only apply to journaling newbies, but to journaling experts, too! Usually, people journal for a reason, and it is just finding that reason that will make your journaling benefit you that much more. Dig deep!

Okay, okay – back to the actual question that you (;)) asked… When you journal productively, you are basically trying to get as much out of journaling as you possibly can. The aim here is personal growth. Each and every one of us is different, and that means that each and every one of our ways of journaling is going to be different. With that in mind, take these 4 different types of writing styles and make it your own – add or take away what you feel is necessary for your growth. I’m just here to help you along the way!

How-to-Journal

 

FREE WRITE

Alright, so this type of journaling is kinda more therapeutic related in the sense that it is totally like the Rorschach tests (the ink blot tests) but with a more modern twist. I find it interesting and hope that you may find it helpful in exploring your unconscious self! Here’s what you do:

  1. Find a random object in the room
  2. Fixate on that object for about 2-3 minutes (if absolutely no thoughts enter your head, then find another object)
  3. First thing that comes to mind – write that puppy down!
  4. Follow that word, phrase, or sentence with other things that come to mind without stopping or editing what you write down

If you follow these four F’s, then you are bound to find out something about yourself that you didn’t know or maybe you were reminded of something that you had forgotten about, whether good or bad. Either way, hopefully you learned something about yourself! You can do this activity as a full journal entry or you can go even further by free writing and then processing what happened during the free write.

 

RANTING

Ranting in your journal is not at all as some people make it out to be, and, yes, it can be productive. Ranting can help release tension, clear your mind, and just flat out make you feel better. It is better to get it all out than to hold it all in, which can lead up to the ultimate emotional explosion later on down the line. Anyone been there? I know I have, and let me tell you – it is not fun for anyone.

The key for ranting in a productive way is balance. If all you do is rant about the bad things that have been happening in your life, then you are going to want to balance those out with some uplifting and positive rants. We don’t want to stay stuck in negative thinking!

Here are some examples of uplifting rants:

  • Write about something you are looking forward to this week
  • List 5 things that you love about yourself
  • Write about a time when you were proud of yourself

Try this: If you notice that you rant about negative events/things a lot, I challenge you to follow that journal entry with an uplifting rant afterwards. What did you notice?

 

STORY TELLING

Speaking of positive and negative rants, this next technique is like a more thought-out, sophisticated way of ranting so to speak. This is probably no surprise considering the heading of this section, but the technique gives you the space to tell your story – either to re-live a rewarding moment you once felt or to re-tell a hurtful or embarrassing time. Make sure that you write your story so that it has a beginning, middle, and an end. To take this story telling technique to the next level and to better help your personal growth, I have created a few follow-up questions for you to get you started with digging a little deeper within, to increase your own self-understanding.

If you wrote about a story where you experienced a rewarding, proud moment, ask yourself these follow-up questions:

  • What gave me that rewarding feeling?
  • What does it say about me that I felt rewarded during this moment?
  • How did I care for myself throughout this story?
  • What were others’ reactions to my experience?

If you wrote about a story where you experienced a hurtful, not-so-proud moment, ask yourself these follow-up questions:

  • What external factors were playing against me?
  • What would I have like to happen instead?
  • How am I not to blame for what happened?
  • How could others have helped me through this time?

FUN FACT: Studies have proven that writing about a hurtful event actually improves, not only physical health, but mental health as well.* So, don’t be afraid to push yourself to confront an upsetting moment!

* This fun fact was taken from the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. (2014). I, personally, have read this book and HIGHLY recommend it for anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by any traumatic event. Let’s face it…we have all been effected by some traumatic event, whether big or small. If you are even slightly interested in this read, you can click here! Also, feel free to email me if you have any questions! 

 

SELF CHECK-IN

This last technique might as well just be called the “feelings journal” since it is a little different than the other techniques that we already talked about – it gives you the opportunity to dig even deeper within yourself. Checking in with yourself is all about exploring those internal emotions and truly understanding why they are there. It can be difficult to start these journal entries if you aren’t in touch with your body, so this is the first thing that you will want to do. Doing some breathing exercises is a great way to do so! Once you are in touch with your body, just start writing everything down that you are experiencing (emotions, memories, feelings, etc.).

You can also ask yourself these questions if you are stumped:

  • What physical sensations am I feeling in my body and where?
  • Are there any emotions attached to these sensations?
  • What purpose do I think these emotions are serving?
  • How are they protecting me?

You will benefit the most out of these journal entries if you stick to writing at least one per day. This way, you can track your emotions on a daily basis, hence the name “feelings journal.”

Try this: Before you write your journal entry, write a number on a scale of 1-10 on how distressed you feel. Then, write your journal entry using the suggestions above. After you have written your journal entry, scale your distress again on a scale of 1-10. Did journaling lower your overall distress? Heighten it? What helped? What didn’t help? What could you do to help lower that number?

I hope this helps! 🙂

What do you do to get the most out of your journaling?
Be sure to comment your answer below!

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