Ways to journal
Journaling is one of the things I have been doing pretty consistently for about thirteen years now. Looking back at those journals I can see how my way of writing changed and alongside of that - how I changed.
When I was a teenager I just wrote down whatever came into my mind. It was more a ritual or some form of self prescribed task. I wrote down how my day was, how I felt, what I am thinking about and a lot of self criticism. My first journal is like a picture of the coping mechanism that I developed during my childhood as as a teen. The helpful and self empowering mechanism and also the self destructive ones. What I can see when I look at it now is that I tried to work on myself as good as I could at that age and where I was with my life but I really had no idea what a powerful tool a journal can be and how to use it with intention.
Over the years I started to use my journal to overcome specific situations, emotions and patterns in my life and developed a few strategies.
At some point my journaling routine was to take some time every morning and write down what I am grateful for today. Then I check in with my inner child and ask it how I can be there for it today. I end my routine by checking in with my future self - what can I do today to become my future self? The goal was to fully ground myself with intention and awareness in the present moment to start my day centered and connected.
Currently I do not have a daily journaling routine, though I still write in it almost every day.
This list contains a few ways to journal which have helped me:
1. Increasing Gratitude:
Our mind is like a muscle that can be trained. It is possible to train remaining in a certain mental states. Creating the habit of feeling grateful for what I have makes me feel more positive, happy and just increases my general well being.
I write down at least ten things I am grateful for every morning.
2. Re parenting yourself and showing up for your inner child:
In childhood your subconscious mind is formed. That part of our mind often acts out in the present without us wanting to especially if we have been neglected or abused as children.
When we are triggered we can even become that part and interact with the world as a distressed child rather than the adult we are today.
Always when that happens it creates more of what we do not want. It truly is a form of self sabotage that can only stop if we know how to show up and be there for our inner child.
As part of that re parenting process I showed up for that part of me every morning, connect to it and wrote down:
Today is a different reality. I am here for you. You are safe. You are seen. You matter. You are loved. You are enough. You are not a burden, you are a blessing. I am happy that you came to this world. I am grateful for your strength to going through all you went through. Without you I would not be here today and I honor that. Thank you for surviving. You are safe now. I will always be here for you.
Your inner child might need to hear something different. That is what I need to hear and I found that out by connecting to it and asking it.
You can make that an even more healing experience by visualizing yourself now holding your inner child or taking its hand.
3. Become who you are - Breaking old patterns, holding yourself accountable and connecting to your future self:
Breaking old patterns and creating new healthy habits takes a lot of awareness, focus and discipline. If we do not pay attention and run on autopilot our brain will fall back to old patterns of behavior, especially if we are stressed. No matter what we in theory want.
So the combination of consistency, intent and awareness is so important to manifest our good intentions into actions. Consciously checking on ourselves until we become unconsciously competent - that is how we become who we are.
I work on this step by step and try not to focus on too many things at once. But I start by writing down thoughts and patterns I want to change.
I think of this process as having two main layers. One is exploring the part of you that acts out in the way that you want to change. The other is to explore new possibilites that are more in alignment with your authentic self.
To explore the part of me that acted out I write down my perspective on the situation in the moment it happend. My narrative, my story and I try to be as honest with myself and with what makes me feel uncomfortable. Then I sit with that feeling of discomfort and explore it. What else is attached to that feeling? How does it change as I sit with it? Where does it come from and where have I felt it before?
To explore new possibilities I write down something that empowers me and connects me more to my essence. For example a mantra or positive affirmation.
Then I create a plan. I ask myself how do I want to handle that type of situation. What would I do if I was centered and not acting out of trigger or old conditioning? I set that intention. When that type of situation occurs, I try to take a deep breath and act from that intention as authentic as possible.
Change takes time and practice. It does get better over time. Be gentle with yourself.
4. Writing a letter to yourself:
Sometimes I feel not appreciated in certain situations or unseen. When I think I deserve acknowledgement for something and do not get it externally then I write a letter to myself and usually that really takes the tension out of me and out of that situation.
Sometimes people can not give us what we wish for and that is ok.
I literally write a letter to myself where I write down that I appreciate what I did and why and where I consciously name the qualities I have and the difficulties I overcame. I write down that I thank myself for showing up for me, representing my values and manifesting them in my life.
Writing a letter to myself can also be used for many other wishes. Usually I do that when I keep looking for something specific outside of myself or when I criticise myself too much. For example I also write letters to me where I write down that I love myself and why or that I acknowledge some emotion that I felt in an argument when someone tried to deny my emotion.
The goal is to acknowledge yourself and then let it go. It is painful to seek something from someone who cannot give that to you for whatever reason. Self acknowledgement helps to give yourself what you need and receive what people give to you by not wanting something they cannot give.
5. Writing a letter to someone else (and not send it):
I personally struggle with unresolved conflicts or just things where I know that a person who is important to me did not really understand what I tried to communicate to them. Those unresolved thoughts keep bothering me in the back of my head. But there is not always time or space to resolve those things with another person. Some things also just cannot be resolved and that is something that is hard to accept but has to be accepted to maintain peace.
In a situation like that it helps me to just write those unresolved thoughts out. All of them no matter how uncomfortable they make me feel. It is so simple but it really keeps them out of my head. Sometimes I write them down and talk about them when there is a better moment or I consciously make the decision to let them go and basically ‘take the life out of them’ by writing them down and also explicitly write down : “I accept this. This won’t be resolved and it is ok. It is ok that someone who cares about me does not understand me all the time.”
6. Grieving (to resolve trauma and to process repressed emotions):
For me grieving is an important process of healing. It helps to process unfelt emotion, release tension, let go of the past and therefore move on with the present.
Since I am more connected to myself those unfelt and repressed past emotions keep coming up and I had to find a way to let them flow through my body and do something productive with that energy.
When I intuitively know that I need to grieve something I sit down and consciously try to figure out where that emotions is coming from and I start writing and answering questions like: How does it feel?, When did I feel like this the first time?, Why does it hurt?
And I write it all out. I let it all out every little bit of it. I let those parts of me speak and I let those emotions speak their truth. Sometimes I feel that years ago there was something I wanted to cry about but there was never the space to cry during that time. The point of grieving is to give space to and feel those things that we never allowed ourselves to feel because it wasn’t safe.
Grieving can be really intense - but it is cathartic and therefore so healing. Some of those emotions need to be felt several times so they keep coming up. Grieving is just allowing them to be until they decide that they got enough attention.
This can be so painful and uncomfortable but for me it is worth going through it each time, it really has an instant effect and a long term effect. The long term effect is that those unfelt emotions stop showing up in the present. Since we are not holding back emotions anymore we can also feel joy, intimacy and connection deeper.
Journaling is such a helpful tool for transformation. I encourage and invite you to try it out!