If you’ve been in a healing session with me before, you know one of the questions I frequently ask is, “Do you journal?”
Probably 8 out of 10 times people said no.
“Well then did you write in dairies before when you were young?” This is usually my next question.
Then about 7 of those 8 people would say yes.
I understand that writing in dairies may not be for everyone. But journaling is different.
Writing in a dairy is about what we have done during that day, like an entry record of events that have happened in our lives.
Journaling, on the other hand, is about writing down our deepest thoughts and feelings without judgment. Journaling is about having a completely honest conversation with ourselves and our emotions, without any rationalization of the mind. In our journals, our emotions can be expressed in their purest and rawest form.
For example, let’s say you are angry with your parents (who hasn’t been there before honestly?). When we talk to a friend about it, we sometimes start to filter what we are saying because we are wary of other people’s judgment. We may start to rationalize our emotions, saying things like “Well, I know they do this because they love me.”
But what happens when we rationalize emotions with our logical mind? Our emotions don’t get to be processed thoroughly, and they get suppressed back into our energy field.
The more we suppress our emotions, the easier it is for the negative emotions to be manifested into physical illness and pain. The emotions have to come out one way or another. Either we explode later like a volcano, or the emotions seep out as pain, break out from the skin as rash, or worse – slowly kill ourselves as cancer, or other forms of illnesses.
There are of course many ways and tools that can help us express our emotions in a healthy way.
The thing I love about journaling is that it’s basically free. The maximum investment you will ever need is a pen and paper or a notebook.
I started journaling when I was a teenager. Funny enough, I learned about journaling when I was taking an English writing course one summer in the US. When the English writing teacher asked us to journal, the main purpose was to practice writing in English.
I can’t remember what clicked, but I remember I really enjoyed writing in my journal during that summer. Even after the writing course finished, I would find myself continue writing away, just pen and paper, even without a proper notebook.
Then came high school and college, and my journaling was on and off. I still kept a journaling notebook with me, but I didn’t do it everyday. I only took it out when I wanted to write down my deepest feelings and thoughts that I couldn’t share with others.
I’ve never been someone really good with expressing myself verbally. My sister told me that whenever I get nervous, I speak very quickly and mumble so no one understands what I’m saying. Naturally I feel shy to speak to others. Plus I’m an introvert. In classes I have always been the kid who sits in the back of the classroom, and hardly ever raise my hand to speak.
When we write in journal, there’s no need to care about grammar or spelling. This freedom allows me to connect with my inner voice, my true voice. And this practice of writing in my true voice has now enabled me to write freely in my blogs.
Born as the youngest child, I also have a tendency to avoid conflict and confrontation as much as possible. Whenever I feel angry, frustrated, or stressed, I tend to keep these feelings inside. No wonder my digestive system is weak and my stomach is sensitive.
When I first learned about meditation, I also thought that I could just breathe and let go of the anger. But I learned that this is not enough. It’s important to inquire and find out the root cause of the anger, the trigger within me, so I can truly heal myself. And how to do that? Through journaling!
In my journal, I write down my anger, my frustration, my worries and stress. Then as I shift to self-reflection mode, I write down my questions too. Sometimes I don’t know the answer yet, but I trust that when I start asking the questions, the Universe will answer.
And when I do receive the answer, I write it down. I write down all my insights and realizations, as I find that helps me deepen my learning and integrate the whole experience.
My journaling practice becomes a time to help me reflect on myself and where I am in my life, right now, holding my hand side-by-side as I’m walking along this spiritual journey with awareness and mindfulness.
I can’t thank journaling enough. It is when I write and have a honest conversation with myself, that I allow all parts of myself to speak and voice out their needs, wants, desires and worries. The inner critic. The fear. The little girl who feels lost. The mother who feels she’s not good enough. The business owner who is scared or frustrated. The Priestess who has lifetimes of wisdom. The writer who is asked to write. The teacher who is asked to share. The soul’s voice who speaks calmly and clearly. The whispers of Mother Earth, teaching me to live in harmony with all. The Divine presence who lovingly guides.
There are many benefits to journaling, yet just reading about benefits are no use if you don’t apply this tool in your life. I’m no expert in journaling. It’s really just a spiritual practice, and when you show up consistently, you will reap the most benefits and rewards from it.
Here are some frequently-asked questions on how you can get started with journaling. Again, remember to always trust your intuition. Anything that you resonate with, take it. Anything that don’t, just leave it.
Q: What should I write about?
I find that what stops people from journaling is because often they don’t know what to write or where to begin.
Think in baby steps. For me, journaling is a great way to start by noticing and observing our feelings and emotions. Or jot down any recurring thoughts in your mind, especially any worries or concerns.
Have you ever seen a washing machine churning and spinning the clothes constantly? That’s what happens when we are constantly focused on our worries. Writing them down can help to release some of the mental tension. It doesn’t mean that the problem will be resolved. But perhaps by writing it down, you can start to clarify your thinking process.
Journaling prompts can help to kickstart your journal writing if you need, but often I find myself using my mind to figure out the answer (which is useful sometimes) instead of just allowing whatever words arise in my heart to flow onto the paper.
You can also write down your dreams from the previous night. It can also be your dreams of what you’d like to create or manifest, along side with your fears and worries.
Really, there is no limit to what you can write. Even if you start with, “I don’t know what to write. I’m so bored,” that’s totally fine. Just see where that takes you. Journaling is not about reaching the final destination, like you are writing an essay to submit. It’s all about the process.
Q: How often should I write?
It’s really up to you. If you are just starting, I’ll say just write whenever you feel like. Some people have told me that they gave up because they felt like they had to write every single day and it became too much pressure.
Remember you create your own rules with journaling. I don’t write everyday either. And that’s totally okay. The most important thing is to get started somehow. Perhaps just write when you feel like it. That can be once a month and that’s okay.
Q: What do I need to write?
All you need is just a pen or pencil, and some paper. Don’t let the perfectionist get to you. You don’t need a perfect pen or notebook to get started. Of course it’s nice to have a dedicated notebook as your journal. If you are like me and write with big letters, I go through one notebook in three months’ time.
Q: Do I need to read what I wrote? I feel depressed afterwards.
Nope! Don’t read what you wrote. I hardly ever do.
Like I said, journaling is all about the process and not the end product, unless it so happens that you suddenly feel inspired and write a poem, a short story or your soul story and you want to type that up to remember it.
That’s the beauty of journaling. You don’t need to care about the grammar, spelling, or even what language you write it in. I often write in English combining with some Chinese words, and sometimes I even forget how to write the Chinese character so I just write down the English sound of that Chinese word.
Throw out all the rules. You don’t even need to able to read your handwriting. I can barely read what I wrote sometimes. Journaling is YOUR safe space to write whatever you want, and it’s no one else’s business.
Q: Do I need to lock my journal?
Yes and no. It depends on how safe you feel in where you live. If you feel scared that someone will read your journal and know your deepest thoughts, and that will cause real physical danger for you in any way, by all means, lock it and keep it hidden as much as possible. And if you do feel threatened or unsecure in your own home or where you live, then you can definitely make use of journaling as one way to feel safe.
When I was young I had those dairies that had a tiny key to lock them and I loved them. Now I don’t lock my journals anymore. I do tuck my journal under my bedside table or in a shelf so it’s not sitting on an open space to invite others to read it.
Q: What should I do with my old journals?
You know what, I’m still figuring out with this one. I have loads of old journal books that I now keep in a box. Maybe I’ll burn them when I have a chance. I don’t really fancy opening up to reread all of them. If you have any fun ideas to share with what you did with your old journals, please let me know.
Bottom line with getting started with anything is to take the first step. I often find the hardest part is to find the motivation to take action.
After you get started on the first step, the ball just starts rolling by itself. Journaling may start to become part of your life and soon you find that though you can live without it, your life is certainly better when you get to do it.
This goes the same for yoga, meditation, journaling, or whatever spiritual practices you resonate with. Spiritual practices are important to our emotional and mental health as they help us to connect to our inner soul self and the sacredness of life all around.
Journaling certainly is one of the most important spiritual practices for me. It’s truly my life-saver.
I hope that the fact you are reading this blog, smaybe you have or are considering to get started with journaling.
Just pick up a pen and paper. Write down whatever is on your mind, right now. Don’t overthink it. Listen to your heart. Listen to your thoughts. Take a deep breath and write.
I assure you, if you keep it up, journaling will be life-changing for you, as it has for me.
Got more questions or care to share your thoughts on journaling? I’m happy to hear from you. Feel free to reach out here