Lets explore different types of writing in journals for wellbeing. There are many different ways of writing for wellbeing. These are one’s that I have used so have some good insight into their use for wellbeing.
- daily diary
- reflective journal
- gratitude journal
- daily pages
- dream journal
This type of diary is a page per day, of reflections of the day, not a planner diary for work/home/life. Since a child, I have written a diary, I still have them, right back to 1982. They are are a time capsule of my life. It is interesting to see over time, the journey I have been on. The diary has uniquely captured my thoughts, feelings and emotions, and practical events of my childhood, teenage years and adulthood. It has also captured life milestones, changes in relationships, friendships, the pregnancy and birth of my first son, and then my second son, divorce, bereavement, trauma, illness. Over the years I’ve had periods where I haven’t written in it, for various reasons, but something always pulls me back to writing. I find it so healing and cathartic. It isn’t always easy, and I find that sometimes, I just feel like I can’t write, but its then, that I remember its at these points in my life that I need to be writing. I give myself a voice through the words on the page.
Little did I know growing up, that these diary’s would become invaluable research for my Master’s degree in counselling and psychotherapy. I studied myself for my final dissertation essay and had to write 20,000 words on what I found out. What a journey that was! I had to go back to the very beginning, and for me, the diaries helped me to put memory to events. Looking back can be hard, when memory is the only tool to depend on. What I learnt from this experience is that it is important to really know yourself, and walk yourself through self discovery, to be able to offer the same to clients. For me, it’s important to know my own pain to be able to walk alongside clients in theirs.
I also found that my years of diary writing had turned me into (not explicitly) a writer. They had also trained me in reflective writing, which was a huge part of my learning when training to be a nurse, and then keeping my practice up to date when a registered nurse.
More recently I have started to write a diary again. I had a new diary for Christmas, and made a conscious decision to write in it every day. I don’t panic if I miss a day, but I do try and catch up. As the months go on, it is lovely to see the pages feeling like they are holding me.
Tips for writing a diary
- If privacy is important to you, then make sure you feel comfortable with where you are going to store your diary, if you feel hesitant your writing will be hesitant too.
- Think about what would happen to your diary if something happened to you, would you want others to read it? make your feelings known.
- Choose the right pen and paper, so many times I have written in what I would call a precious book, and found myself getting hung up on making mistakes or it not looking good.
- If you want to write daily, get a diary with a page per date, and check you have enough space for what you are planning to write.
- Have a look at different types of paper. I can’t stress how important this is, there is nothing worse than a pen that bleeds through into the next page.
- Set yourself some ground rules about how you will feel if you miss a day
- Stick with it, habit and routine takes practice.
Reflective journals are used to explore experiences of practice in many professions. For me, it was nursing, and then counselling and psychotherapy. By writing about experiences, it helps to identify common themes, thought processes, strengths and weaknesses. Being a reflective practitioner is an incredibly important aspect of many professions, and then, once reflection has taken place, it is then important for professional development, to become reflexive in practice (putting new insight into practice).
Gratitude journals are a more recent practice for me. Over the last few years there has been a lot written on positive thinking. In fact, research says that writing one thing you are grateful for over a period of 21 days can re-wire your brain to think more positively. This leads to better health, less stress and a more optimistic outlook on life.
“Be thankful for what you have and you will end up with more”Oprah Winfrey
I write one gratitude in my daily diary every day. It is just a sentence that says “today I feel grateful for….” and what I have noticed over time, is that there is a constant shift in my thinking, into more positive thoughts. I reflect on positive experiences and that leads me to thinking about positive things. It forms a link that is tangible.
Gratitude brings lots of joy and creates chemicals of wellbeing and peace into the whole body.
- find a quiet spot where you can sit and write.
- take a few minutes to write down things that you are grateful for
- read back through what you have written and give words of thanks to each point
- when giving thanks, if you can, tune into all the senses
- bring your awareness into the moment, in the ‘here and now’ what are you grateful for? how does it feel and where do you feel it?
- breath and sit with your gratitude for a little while longer.
- write three things that have happened during the day that are good
- think of someone you know that you are grateful for, if possible, let them know
- express your gratitude, research has shown that being thankful and saying thank you have positive effects on our wellbeing
- notice small pleasures, simple things, that are easy to miss, this puts things into perspective
- the more grateful we are, the more positivity we attract
Daily pages journal for creativity
Julia Cameron mentions ‘daily pages’ in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’. It is a fantastic read, and also, gives plenty of ideas for working with creative and or artistic block. Daily pages is, for me, a unique technique that just requires a rough note book, and five minutes in the morning set aside, before you do anything else, where you just write, for three pages of longhand writing. There is no right or wrong way, you just write, about anything. I started off by writing that I couldn’t think of anything to write about and then before I knew it I had written three pages. What then happens is that you don’t read it back (unless you desperately want to) for at least 8 weeks. You can do what you want with your writing, keep it or throw it away, its up to you. What is the point of that I hear you ask? well, I guess it unblocks all the negative subconscious thoughts that wiz round in your head without you really realising it. It lets the logical part of the brain have its moment of glory, before letting the creative right side of the brain in to play.
Have your journal and pen ready next to your bed, as you wake, recall as much of the dream as you can by writing any detail that you can remember, it doesn’t have to be everything (this would be hard to do) and if it is easier, draw a doodle of what you saw/dreamt. Remember to write your descriptions of what happened and how you felt. Reoccurring dreams can be over a longer period of time (mine is of flying and not being able to land), and if you connect to your everyday life, you might find that you dream the same dream when the same event is happening in your daily life. Over time, dreams can show patterns of thought, subconscious thoughts or feelings or highlight an aspect of your life that may be insightful for you. I keep a dream journal, and what I find is that when I read back, I can relate the dreams I have recorded with situations that were running parallel in my day to day life. Some people find it helpful to share their dreams in therapy, or to seek out meaning for their dreams, and what I would say to this is, dreams are very personal to us, so what a dream analysis might be for one person, may not be the same for you. Sense what you think the dream is about, not what others analyse it to be.
Writing about your spiritual journey can be so enriching. It can help you to identify your spiritual path, can act like a record of your experiences.
- Set a time each day to sit and self reflect on your spiritual journey.
- Keep your spiritual journal with you, or a small notebook that you can carry around with you, so you can jot down insight that you can then look at in more detail.
- Acknowledge your blessings and give thanks.
- Set spiritual goals.
- Write down any prayers that inspire you.
- Review your journal entries regularly.
I hope this article has been useful for you to identify a few different types of journal writing for wellbeing. Have a go, I would love to hear how you are getting on, or what does/doesn’t work for you.