Journaling through difficult times


There is great value in putting our thoughts down on paper. It helps us express our feelings, thoughts, state of mind. Get clarity on things, think, ponder, brainstorm, find solutions. However we usually tend to do so more when distressed, when undergoing difficult times but reduce our entries when feeling well and happy. The result is we end up with a lot of written material about our dark times and very little if any about our good times. That means that when we open that journal it is but a collection of gloom and doom and little if anything to lighten up our spirit.

During a decluttering process years ago, I went through all my journals and was horrified that there was very little, if anything, positive or nice in there! It shouldn’t have come as a surprise because I used journaling only at my worst moments and neglected to record the good moments. If someone read my journals they might have thought that I had had a life of total misery and hardship, when that wasn’t true. I didn’t have an easy life, that was for sure, yet I did have happy periods and moments too which were not recorded in there.

Why does it matter? 

It is of great importance to write down about our joys and thrills, our fun or blissful moments simply because if we don’t and only the negative is written down, we won’t have an accurate image of our lives. When we open those journals and only read about our sadness and struggles, it may remind us of our strengths, having survived it all, yet we won’t have a true and objective reflection of our lives in general. There will be nothing there of our positive connection to other people, our joyful moments, our successes, our achievements, the love, the fun, all the good stuff!

A journal can be, yet shouldn’t necessarily be, a collection of negative memories, even if our lives may have had their fair share of those. It doesn’t need to be just a recording of those experiences and our dark thoughts during those moments. It can be so much more than that, it can be a creative tool that we can use to learn to shift our focus towards what we want more of in our lives. A workbook of sorts that will teach us how to focus on the positive, see and appreciate the beauty and love, feel grateful and content.

Perception shift

For that to be the case, we need to change our perception of what a journal is. To view it as something more than a passive recipient of our blurted out pain and distress, fears and worries. To make it a constructive resource of transformation, change and growth. A tool that will help us put our thoughts down into perspective, look at them objectively, brainstorm solutions, create a positive feeling and sensation in our body and mind.

I will be the first to admit that when you are going through hell this is extremely hard to do, yet it is not impossible. The only thing you need is the concept and the intention to make it so. Of course you need to find relief from letting it all out on paper yet it does not need to end there. You can pick it up later with a more objective eye when your emotions have calmed down and make something useful and constructive out of it, an assistant for your future self. 

For example:

You can have a little section called ‘Learning’ for example. What is it that you learned out of what happened, what you experienced? If you were to look at the incident as a neutral observer, what do you notice? What draws your attention? Why? Does anything you see in your mind’s eye while reviewing the scene brings any thoughts, reflections, memories? How do these relate to the emotions you feel and how you feel about yourself?

You can create a little Mood  Board with pictures or quotes you love or even fabrics, dried plants, bits and pieces you found in nature. Things that represent literally or symbolically the kind of feelings and sensations you desire to experience or out of which you can draw inspiration from. 

You can create a ‘Balancing Emotional Budget’ two column page where you note down on the left column negative or painful experiences and on the right hand column you write down the things that you feel could balance them out or even transform them into a positive. The aim is to always come out with a ‘profit’ on the positive side.

You can have a ‘Brainstorm’ section, dedicated to a few moments of utter surrender to your most creative mind. No judgment, no censorship, no editing. You might be surprised to read this later and find some legitimate and valuable options you had not thought about before.

You can include a ‘What if’ section, one where you may jot down all that could be made possible if you were to think of your situation from a perspective of endless possibility and options instead of focusing on all the obstacles no matter how realistic these may be or seem to you at the time. Give yourself permission to brainstorm positive ‘What if’ scenarios.

You can also write down a ‘Worst case scenario’ if you like and dive in and face your worst fears. Think of all the things you might use as back up plans if things go wrong to ensure your survival and well being. Again, you may be surprised at the solutions and resources you may have available once you get passed the initial feeling of fear, desperation or gloom and doom. This exercise might also bring clarity on what matters most to you and give birth to new resolutions.

One last thing, always but always close your journal on a positive note, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem to you. Something you are thankful for, something that brought a smile to your face or made you laugh. Something that you found beautiful, something that gave you a sense of peace or relief.

Train  your mind in the direction you want to go, in the way you want to feel, in the way you want to be and live your life. Teach it to be drawn like a magnet and focus on the positive and what feels genuinely good for you. To hunt for goodness and beauty, healthiness and well being, fun and play, creativity and achievement, love and comfort, whatever makes your soul smile and feel at peace.

Use your mind, do not allow it to use you