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  • Writer's pictureLarissa Velasco

Exploring Journaling: A Tool for Self-Care

Have you ever heard of journaling? For some, the term may sound familiar, while for others, it may seem completely new. Journaling is about expressing oneself through writing, following a daily routine or when an event occurs in life. But what's the difference between journaling and keeping a diary? Why is journaling beneficial for self-care? And how can it help when dealing with traumatic events in life?

Journaling vs. Keeping a Diary

Journaling is often confused with the notion of keeping a diary. Both involve writing down personal thoughts and experiences, but there are some key differences. A diary is usually a record of daily events or a personal chronicle, whereas journaling is more about exploring one's emotions, thoughts and personal growth. Journaling can be done at any time and can incorporate gratitude, affirmations, goal setting and creative explorations. There are no specific rules or requirements for what to write, how long to write, or how often to write, but it is meant to be a safe space to organize your thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Self-Expression Through Journaling

Every individual possesses a unique style and intonation when it comes to expressing their feelings and thoughts. Some may find solace in painting, others prefer music or dance, while many find writing the most effective channel for self-expression. Writing, specifically journaling, doesn't seek conformity to any predefined structure or form. You don't need to be a seasoned writer or a grammar expert to start journaling, nor do you need to fret about the content or the way you structure your thoughts. Remember, your journal is your personal sanctuary, and its prime purpose is to honour your emotions and experiences, not to win literary accolades. Whether you choose to write in bullet points, prose, or even poetry, the key is to let your feelings flow freely on paper. Essentially, journaling is an art of the heart, a testament to individuality, where the pen becomes an extension of one's inner self.

Annie Ernaux's Self-Fiction Books

French author Annie Ernaux is known for her autofiction books. These books tell a personal story but are written as fiction to allow for more freedom and creativity. Self-fiction, also known as autofiction, is a genre of literature that blurs the lines between autobiography and fiction. This novel writing style allows authors to narrate their personal experiences while exercising the creative liberty that fiction offers. A self-fiction book is characterized by its detailed introspection, emotional truth, and the author's conscious presence as a character. While it employs elements of the author's life, the narrative is not bound by factual accuracy, opening doors to thematic exploration and artistic introspection. Her most well-known work is 'The Years,' which explores her experiences and thoughts over several decades, emphasizing Annie's experience rather than exploration of the story itself.

Journaling can serve as a way of capturing and reflecting on personal experiences similarly. Each person will find the best way to translate the holistic experience of living, and it can be helpful to know other people to use as inspiration or guidance on this process of self-discovery.

Journaling as a Tool for Self-Care

Scientific research shows that journaling positively benefits mental, emotional and physical well-being. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and increase self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-compassion. Additionally, journaling can serve as a tool for setting goals, expressing gratitude, identifying strengths, and cultivating mindfulness. It can also be a safe space to explore difficult emotions and experiences, such as trauma, grief, and loss.

Morning Pages

In the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, she explores creativity and how to create opportunities for it to flourish, and one exercise we can find there is the practice of writing 'Morning Pages.' This exercise encourages individuals to write three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts each morning, serving as a form of personal journaling. This aligns with the concept of journaling as a tool for self-care, as it prompts individuals to spill out their thoughts, worries, hopes, and dreams onto paper at the start of each day, effectively clearing the mind and setting intentions.

Adhering to this routine can foster consistency, disciplining the mind to focus and begin the day with a clear headspace. If you skip a morning or simply don't have the time, don't fret. The beauty of morning pages lies in their flexibility. You can always circle back to them later in the day, ensuring to note the time for future reference. This practice encourages mindfulness, self-awareness, and intentionality, serving as a perfect complement to journaling for self-care. Remember, the aim isn't to create a perfect narrative but to simply pour out your thoughts and feelings onto the page. It can also be helpful for creativity blockages since you'll be used to expressing yourself daily. It further cements the assertion that journaling is not just a tool for self-care but also a means to foster creativity and personal growth.

Gratitude Journals

Gratitude journals are an amazing self-care tool designed to promote positivity and appreciation in your life. This form of journaling involves regularly recording things that you're thankful for. The simple act of acknowledging these aspects can bring immense happiness, improve your mental health, and invite positive feelings about your life and yourself. You can use a notebook or a digital platform, depending on what suits your preference. The process involves setting aside a few moments daily to jot down things that make you feel grateful. It could be something as simple as a warm cup of coffee on a cold day, a compliment from a friend, or a personal achievement.

The content of a gratitude journal is highly personal and subjective. It includes anything and everything that brings a sense of appreciation to your life. And you know what? The content doesn't have to be monumental. In fact, acknowledging small, everyday blessings often brings an even greater sense of gratitude. The key to maintaining a gratitude journal is consistency, and with time, you'll find that this practice can significantly enhance your overall perspective towards life, noticing when those moments to be appreciated arise. Over time, you may shift your mindset, focusing more on the positive aspects of your life and less on the negatives or challenges.

Single Words (or phrases)

For those who find it challenging to dedicate a significant amount of time to detailed journaling, there's an alternative solution – single-word journaling! This approach invites you to reflect on your day and encapsulate it in a single word or a brief phrase for more precision. Along with the word or phrase, jot down the date, creating a succinct summary of your day.

This form of journaling is not only time-efficient, but over time, it can also reveal patterns and provide insights into the importance you assign to specific people, events, or aspects of your life and routine. It's a more indirect method of introspection, and as with any form of journaling, consistency is crucial, so make it a habit to capture your day in a word and watch your personal growth unfold one word a day.

Be creative!

Photographic journals are another intriguing variant of journaling, particularly for those with a penchant for photography or visual storytelling. These journals can be as simple as daily snapshots of life around you or more intricate compositions that encapsulate your day or state of mind, and you can also find apps available to help you set reminders and guide you through the daily practice. On the other hand, drawing journals fuses the art of doodling or sketching with the introspective nature of journaling, providing a creative outlet for those who find solace in art.

Alternatively, consider a post-it journal if you're constantly on the move or enjoy micro-tasking. Jot down your thoughts, feelings, or the highlight of your day on a post-it note, and gradually, you'll have a vibrant collage encapsulating different facets of your life!

Whichever form of journaling you choose, remember that the essence of this activity lies in its purpose - to foster self-awareness, provide an avenue to articulate emotions and thoughts, and facilitate personal growth. Therefore, setting realistic expectations is crucial. The goal isn't to create a masterpiece but rather to consistently express yourself in a way that resonates with you. Don't let perfectionism deter you; your journal reflects your journey with all its ebbs and flows.

Journaling is a powerful tool that can be used for self-care, personal growth and reflection, and coping with difficult experiences. Starting a journaling practice is simple and can be done at any time. All you need is a pen, paper and a willingness to explore your inner world. Whether you're new to journaling or an experienced writer, we hope this blog has inspired you to start or continue your journaling journey.

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