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Wellness Refocused Education: How to journal

This is an odd post, but I think a necessary one.

For me, writing is everything. I’ve been writing since high school. After dance, writing was an outlet that I felt comfortable it. While I continued to dance in my head after the weight gain, imaging turns and stomps – writing is something that I have always actively done in some.

I offer recommend writing to my clients and to others I engage with online because it helps me, however, I think it fails someone else to just say “go write that down” and not provide any direction of what they can do after it’s been written.

A recall technique that I use – that others use with clients is paraphrasing for clarification. I hear you saying [this], what do you mean by that or what do you hear when I repeat this back to you. I will usually follow that up with I would ask you to consider writing that down so you can see it on paper and out of your head. Maybe come back to it later and reread it out loud and see what those words mean to you when you have more clarity.

I also think it fails someone to not clarify how they can write it down.

Traditionally, when we think of journaling, we see a bound notebook, a pen or pencil and someone being very deep in thought. We think of pages upon pages filled with words, perfectly written.

At least that’s what I see when I think of it sometimes. But the imagery is so different than my reality, and that’s what I offer you to consider.

  1. Use bullet points when you need to.

If you’re stressed out or you feel like your mind is racing writing full sentences may not be helpful. It may actually cause you more stress. Writing out bullet points with short words or phrases can help you get the big ideas out of your head and on paper. You can always go back to it later to flush them out and see where those thoughts came from, where they’re going, etc.

2. Try typing on your computer or on your cell phone in an app.

While I do enjoy holding a notebook, when I’m stressed, I focus more on my hand-writing than I do the words coming out of my head through my fingers. This loops me through a cycle of stress. I’m now focusing on something that would be small in good headspace, but feels so big at the moment.

By typing on computer or in an app, you can get the words out a bit faster, see them more clearly and actually have a chance to focus on them. Obviously, this also gives you the option to hit delete rather than crossing out words or trying to erase, which can also be distracting.

Another positive of using an app like Notes is that it’s with you everywhere you go – you don’t need to try to conceal a notebook in your bag or dig with the hope to find a pen.

While I would love to give you some recommendations for electronic journaling, I think too many of them are distracting and defeat the purpose. While I write a lot here, and share much of my life, there are also aspects I write in my journals that I don’t share. Journaling is personal and many apps encourage the connection to social media platforms.

The best recommendation I have – download Google Docs for free on your phone so you can write on your phone or on your computer.

3. Change up your writing tools.

I like traditional pencils, but I also have a pen that I really love using because of how it fits in my hand. I know that sounds odd, but if your headspace is a bit funky then how things physically feel can be impacted too. Again, this can help you focus on what’s important – the words, your emotions.

4. Along with bullet points, if there’s a song in your head maybe write down the title or part of the melody.

If something is on repeat, there’s a good chance there’s a reason for it. It’s possible that it’s because Top 40 has over played it, it’s also possible that some songs are connected to different thoughts and emotions for you.

5. Don’t fear having half-full notebooks, or half-empty (depending on how you see it).

I have four notebooks – one for the gym that never leaves my gym bag expect to write out new programming, one for the kitchen where I’m tracking my food, two for emotional health. My gym notebook will always get full. I’m on my 6th or 7th one in almost five years. I have every workout written down with weights and times. My meal tracking notebook may not get full because it’ll be gone after the fashion show in June.

The two emotional health notebooks may get full – they may not. Sometimes, I feel the need for a new notebook. A fresh start. New paper, new layout, new cover. Maybe it’s wasteful, but the notebooks go on a shelf just collecting some dust, not in the trash. Sometimes I go back through them if I feel I need to revisit a day or to see where my headspace was.

The flip side to this – I’ve had a number of people tell me they buy planners for them to never be used – maybe consider tip 2 and switch mediums to something that will be helpful for you.

6. Have some prompts in mind.

If writing is something that you do when you’re stressed like I said in tip 1, it may be hard to get the words out. Having some common questions to use to check in with yourself may be helpful. Here are some you may want to consider to get you started:

  • What are you noticing about how you’re physically feeling?
  • What emotions are you feeling right now?
  • If you can’t figure out the emotions, what colors would you use to describe how you feel right now?
  • What happened leading up to sitting down and feeling compelled to write?
  • What is one good thing right now?

7. Let go of judgement.

We’re our own worst enemies right? Well, cut that shit out. You’re standing in your way when you act like an asshole to yourself. Does that mean I’m never mean to myself? No, but I try to back off and catch myself when I am. I try to figure out where that voice comes from and if it’s my original thought or not.

Writing opens you up to another side of yourself. You become vulnerable. It can be scary and hard and make you want to turn around, but if you can let yourself just be and get it out, you can actually dig through your problems instead of ignoring them or masking them.

If you’re experiencing number 7 a lot, I would encourage you to find someone you trust to talk to about it. It doesn’t need to be a therapist – it can be a parent or sibling, a partner or a good friend. But this gets more into the what to do with your writing once you’ve done it, and this is just about how to get you to do it in the first place.

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