Take Action: A Journal How-To and Example

So, you're thinking about journaling, but not sure what to say or where to start.

Maybe you've tried off and on, but don't seem to get anywhere. Or get bored and overwhelmed by it.

I get it, but it doesn't have to feel so hard.

It's just writing, after all. We all know how to do it. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself a "good" writer or not - this writing is just for you. So let's make it easy.

I'm going to offer a few thoughts to inspire you:

  • "This is something I do just for me."

  • "I want to heal and take care of myself, and this is one way to do that."

  • "Keeping a journal is easy."

  • "I believe this will make a difference."

Seriously, when I don't feel like taking a few minutes - literally, a few minutes - to write out some thoughts, I tell myself one of these things. Mostly that this is time for me. I know that taking care of myself feels much better than not.

And of course I have the benefit of believing that writing works and that it can be easy. I definitely suggest you try on those beliefs as well.

Here's what I do: I schedule time to write out my thoughts in the morning. But if life happens and writing doesn't, no problem - I carry a small notebook with me so that if I have a few minutes during the day, I can make some notes then. Or, if that doesn't happen, I get to it before I go to bed. No need to put a lot of rules on this. We're making it easy, remember?

Then I just write whatever comes to mind. It doesn't have to be about estrangement or some big heavy problem. It doesn't have to be about the past. Usually I just write about something relatively present - trivial or monumental - and often I write about how I'm feeling.

The feeling part, for me, is huge. Most of us lean more towards our thoughts or our feelings. I'm typically more in my head. So identifying and writing down how I'm feeling - for me - is huge. If you're the opposite, then focusing on what you're thinking can be very beneficial.

The thing is to just write. Simple sentences. Single words or phrases. Whatever comes to mind.

Then, look at what you've written. Really, this is the most important step. Writing it out doesn't mean as much if you just leave it there. Read it and think through it. Question your thoughts and feelings.

Here's an example of my journal entry this morning (sloppy, I know!) - it's about something that's not a huge deal in my life, more of an annoyance, but it contains some lessons!

Now, if I wrote this and just left it there, there's a chance that I'd solidify all of my negativity in my brain. So it's important that we at least read it back. Ideally, we'll take a minute to pick it apart.

This is the process I follow:

Here are the facts, that we'd all agree on, that could be proven:

  • Have a friendship/relationship

  • Friend talks about his life

  • Friend said "I know, that's what I've been saying"

Here are my thoughts - my interpretations - of the facts:

  • He complains on and on and makes no changes to solve his problem

  • I tried to be supportive

  • He was condescending

  • Don't want awkwardness when see him

  • We used to be close and want to stay involved with his kids

My feelings:

  • Frustrated and disappointed - maybe resentful, too

I have a lot of thoughts about the facts, which cause my feelings, which will then presumably cause me to do one of some of the following:

  • Hold negativity (which likely would make me awkward around him)

  • Look for more proof of my thought that he endlessly complains and takes no action

  • Question the relationship more, perhaps pull back from it

Can you it's my thoughts, not the facts, at the root of my problem?

And can you see how typical this scenario is? We go through life blaming our feelings on the guy-complainer. Then justify our pulling back from the relationship, and feeling sad that we're no long as involved with his kids. We don't see the role we're playing in it all. It's all on him.

Putting it on paper makes my part obvious. The fact is that what he's complaining about has nothing to do with me. People complain. It doesn't have to mean anything about him, or for me. Funny thing, I'm annoyed about his complaining yet who else is complaining? -- Me! About him and his complaining! Oh, we humans, so interesting...

What I can take from this that could be applied to other situations:

  • When someone does something I find annoying, I don't have to participate

  • When someone does something I find annoying, I don't have to make it mean so much

  • I can hear words as words, and not make it personal

  • I can look at behavior as just factual behaviors, and not attach my judgement

  • I can have compassion for the fact that we humans exhibit the same type of behaviors

  • I have choices in my interpretations

In this situation, all of this is good to know so that I can maintain a relationship, if that's what I want. So that I can stop having so much negativity, if negativity is not what I want. This work shows I have options. I'm not a victim to what's going on around me; choices empower me.

I hope that was of help. Questions? Email me or sign up for a live online consult, and we'll talk it out! jenn@jennbutlercoaching.com or reserve a spot here.

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