Self-Help Journaling – Two Methods
Generally there are two forms of self-help journaling: writing about worries and concerns OR writing about joy and happiness. In my more than 35 years of clinical experience I have not found the former to be very helpful. Most people stuck in negative mood states are not easily able to disengage themselves from negative, worrisome thoughts. For these folks journaling and placing more cognitive and emotional attention on negatives is often unhelpful. So I stopped recommending this form of journaling to clients years ago. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, trauma, addictions and/or eating problems, I would not recommend negative problem solving journaling as a practice. Our limbic brain sets us up for overdrive when dealing with negative emotions and experiences, so no need to add more cognition and attention to it all. Better to work on positives!
I have found positive journaling to be amazingly helpful for some people. The practice is quite easy. Simply find a journal you like to look at and hold. Yes, visual and kinesthetic pleasures are important as motivators. Place it near your bed, and every night a few minutes before you go to bed do some journaling – even a few minutes can be helpful. Just write freely, without censoring in any way. It is a good idea to use all your sensory experiences here. What did you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, experience that you may wish to write about? Once you get into the process, try to go a bit deeper: exactly what was it about the positive experience that impacted you, and how deeply? Do your best not to seek ideal happiness experiences (there may not be nirvana); these realities are far and few for most people. So best to begin with simply paying more attention to positives during the day. You may begin to notice that some of the experiences and things you have been conditioned to take for granted are actually positive in nature. Pick only one experience to write about. Later go back often and re-read what you wrote.
For more information refer to J. Smiechowski’s ideas in Easy Health Options Home; MedicalXpress; Journal of Psychophysiology; and University of Rochester, Journaling for Mental Health.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness