I saw a theme. While some things had changed, it was clear to me that the things I most didn’t like about myself were still the things I was writing about and “planning to change.” Ugh.
I had fantasies of my grandchildren discovering these journals in an attic someday, and thinking, “What was her problem – why couldn’t she just move on?” Clearly, writing about my struggles and unhappiness wasn’t helping.
So I threw all my journals in the trash, and stopped journaling. I actually felt a huge sense of relief.
If you have tried journaling and feel like you continue to write about the same struggles, or the same failures, and it gets you nowhere (or even depresses you), I feel your pain.
And I want you to know that I am a big, giant, fan of journaling once again.
Journaling centers me. It helps me untangle difficult situations, it helps me see my way out of dark places, and it helps me plot my success. I use journaling to shift my mood and to turn failures into valuable data that will allow me to create an eventual success.
Journaling helps me figure out what I need. Have you ever had the experience of sharing a thought with a friend, and hearing yourself saying it out loud, you realized the unreasonableness of it or the problem with your logic? Journaling helps me see that too.
Journaling helps me work through anxiety and sadness and all sorts of tough emotions.
Journaling helps me be the person I want to be.
What’s different? How did I go from frustrated to enthusiastic about journaling?
Since I threw out my journals, I’ve made some changes to how I journal.
I stopped using my journal to rehash the past.
I stopped writing about things that had already happened – a fight I had, how frustrated I was with how something had gone at work or with a family member, or how mad I was at myself about something I had or hadn’t done. I stopped blaming in my journal.
I started using my journal to figure out two things – the present, and who I want to be in the future. If I am upset about an argument, I’m not going to ruminate about the “I said/he said.” I’m going to be writing to understand how I feel now, what I want to take, or learn from what happened, and how I want to handle my feelings and my actions moving forward.
I write about who I want to be today, how I want to show up, and what my priorities are. If yesterday didn’t go well, I might write to understand why that was – so that I can make adjustments today and in the future.
My journal isn’t full of complaints, it’s full of desires. My journal is so much less judgemental (toward myself mostly, but also toward others), and it’s full of curiosity and questions that I don’t (yet) know the answers to).
I made my journal all about me.
I write to understand myself. Even in difficult situations with others, the value I find isn’t in venting about the other person (unless I just need to clear out my mind in a safe, confidential space so that I can move forward). The real benefit of journaling is understanding how I work – or the thoughts and stories I tell myself that don’t work well for me and for my relationships. If I’m struggling with a situation, I might write about how I got hooked by that interaction or why I reacted the way I did, focusing on my role, my feelings, and my choices.
There are a lot more sentences that start with I and a lot fewer that begin with he, she, or they, and this has helped me use journaling to grow and change.
I try to write from the belief that everything is “figureoutable” (to quote Marie Forleo), even if I don’t yet know the answer. If I keep expanding what I do know, my path forward, will grow clearer.
Journaling became a lot more positive
When I started keeping a journal, I was in high school. Maybe it was the angsty time of life, but I think I thought of journaling as a private place to voice all the negatives – my complaints, my worries, my dissatisfaction with my hips, my hair, or any aspect of my life.
I’ve learned that daily journaling can be an incredibly powerful habit for growing good things in my life.
When’s the last time you wrote for ten minutes or more about what you want? I’m talking about writing about completely positive desire – not a to-do list version of what you want to stop doing.
Writing about what I want – who I want to be, what I want to feel, what I want to try, and have, and accomplish, and learn, and enjoy – on a daily basis, is one of the most brain-stretching, mood shifting, growth-producing habits I’ve found.
If you haven’t written to stretch yourself in this way, I strongly recommend you give it a try. Write about what you want, and how you want to feel today. You might find the gears are rusty at first, but moving your thinking in this way is a great step toward getting unstuck or shifting your motivation or your energy.
Do you have old journals filled with pages of negativity or unhappy memories? Maybe it’s time to start afresh.