How to Journal

journalingI often suggest that my clients learn how to journal. Writing down thoughts can help process feelings, vent negative emotions, and reinforce positive feelings. It provides a “holding place” for your thoughts and feelings so you can temporarily get them off your mind, sort them out, and come back to them.

It’s useful for:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Grief
  • OCD
  • Insomnia
  • Substance Abuse

There really isn’t a right or wrong way to journal. I find people effectively do it in all kinds of ways.

Where will you journal? Some people like to get a nice journal to write in. They want to save their writing and be able to re-read and revisit it. Others prefer to do it on the computer or their smart phone (yes, there are apps for journaling). Others will write on whatever piece of paper they happen to find. Your writing doesn’t have to be saved. Feel free to shred or delete it if that makes you more comfortable.

When will you journal? I recommend trying to write at the same time daily. This creates a habit. I like to write in the evening to process my day, but you can choose whenever works for you.

What will you write about? You can write a particular issue or memory that you are struggling with. You can also choose to write stream of consciousness – whatever pops into your head without filtering. If you aren’t sure what to write about or have trouble starting, here are some ideas.

Journaling prompts:

  • The best thing about today was…..
  • Today I did my best at…..
  • Today I’m grateful for…..
  • I’m worried about…..
  • My stress level is…..
  • I’m afraid of……
  • Today i was challenged by……
  • My goal for tomorrow (this week) is…..
  • I’d like to do better at…..
  • I’m struggling with….
  • I’m happy that/about….

I hope you will give journaling a try!

© 2014 Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.