Several years ago, one my professors in graduate school encouraged us to start with journal writing. We were asked to bring any notebook or journal where we could freely write whatever we wanted. He mentioned several styles that we could use, and in each session actually assigned a certain technique that would guide us. It has been many years since then, and I actually could not recall most of the techniques that we had used. All I could remember was that he reminded us to be very honest, comfortable and expressive every time we wrote.
I have been thinking of going back to journal writing because I really liked the idea of putting down my thoughts. Also, I have certain stressors lately. Because I need a guide or a certain pattern or technique to follow, I browsed through the Internet for some. I have arranged several guidelines or styles in a certain order that I could use on each day.
Day 1. Write down a situation, condition, feeling or anything important happening in your life at the moment. Freely express what could be the cause of your happy emotions, apprehensions, sad feelings. Then, you could make columns to distinguish your reasons for your different feelings. By doing this, you could identify the things that are making you feel contented or giving you a sense of fulfillment versus those that seem to make you feel down and sad. By itemizing them, you can pinpoint things, people or situation that lead you to your various feelings.
Day 2. By looking at what you have written on Day 1, choose which ones are of significant importance to you. If a particular habit is causing you a feeling of sadness, choose it and focus on it for this day. Then expound on it. Why is this causing you such negative energy? What are the other things involved? Or if you have written about a person who you feel is giving you undue stress., focus on that person. Write down possible reasons why you think person is causing you tension. By reading through what you have written, you can try to understand your situation.
Day 3. Write down nice things that you have been wanting to do. You are free to jot down as plenty of things that you have been dreaming of doing. Perhaps, you may write down about the trip to Hawaii that you and your husband have been planning. Or you can write down about your intention to publish a book of poetry. Others you could include could be an old wish to go bungee jumping, taking a photography class, starting a hobby, or to go out more often and start daily walks, or have a slice of your favorite cheesecake. Look into things that could be stopping you in doing these things that have been at the back of your mind. Try to see if these are really blocks, or are there other means that you could control the situation. Is what you want practical? Is it too expensive? Or is this what could really make me happy, even for a little moment?
Day 4. Try to reflect for a few minutes on something from your memory that you feel you need to reflect on. It could be the death of a loved on, the loss of an important job, failure on an important exam, the day of your marriage, giving birth to your first child. Anything that is of huge meaning in your life. Write about it and put down all the details that you want to include. Focus on the emotions that are part of this particular event or incident. Express yourself well, so you could understand yourself better. Some lingering questions can be answered when you try to look closely.
Day 5. Free-association. You can choose any subject that you feel is important to you on that particular day. In “Writing The Natural Way”, the authors taught of writing down as many words that you can and want associated with that particular subject that you want to write on. For instance, I may choose about my son. I can come up with any words that I feel are connected or have anything to do with him. I could put down “love of my life”, “source of my happiness”, “taking too much extra-curricular activities”, “involved in too much sports”, ” very smart”, “caring”, “needs more of my time”. Just let things flow from within you.
Day 6. Dialoguing. A very famous psychologist and proponent of personal journal writing, Ira Progoff, developed this style. You can choose to dialog with a person (living or not), or a past dream, or a fervent wish, or things that you consider blocks in your life. I may want to dialog with an aunt who recently passed away. She lived miles away and I was not able to say goodbye before she crossed over. I could write down my gratitude to her, on how a wonderful sister she was to my mother, and how sad I have been that I was not able to see her for the last time. By dialog, of course, you would allow your inner-self to respond as the person you are talking to. Allow your pen to be free, and do away with inhibitions. When the other person “dialogs with you”, you can discover many things about your relationship with him/her or with the other significant people around you.
Day 7. Summarizing the week. After 6 days of writing down extensively, you can write a summary to see how your experience was. You should take this opportunity to look at the other concerns that you need to address, which battles you need feel you need to choose. You could discover that some things that you worry about are not as important and urgent. With the things that you need to focus on, perhaps you can continue writing on them on the next coming days.
You may continue another cycle of the 7 days in its original sequence, but everyone can use just a few of the techniques that they want. Journal writing is very enlightening and cathartic. Be aware that this is your personal space, so you feel free to express and explore. Doing this would allow you to look into yourself and mirror many important emotions and concerns in your life. When you write down something and you read it, you could even look at things more objectively and even try to correct your own perceptions and feelings.
Journal writing is like being with a friend, and asking for time from him or her to listen to you as you pour out your very self. It would not judge you, nor set rules. It is a very healthy way of rediscovering yourself and releasing stress anytime you need to do it.