How to Use Journaling for Insight
One of the most intimate relationships you will ever keep is with yourself. Through the years, you’ve cried only to yourself. You know all your inner demons, personal scandals, and the guilt associated with them. You’re the only one who knows exactly how that special person makes you feel or how you are struggling just to make it through the day. But while you know yourself better than anyone else, you may still lack perspective and insight into the full spectrum of emotions you feel. You may be trapped in your own mind, screaming for relief and a chance to emerge in control and at peace with your life’s path.
The best ways to gain clarity and liberate yourself from mental and emotional blocks is through journaling. Writing can reveal hidden emotions and motives, allowing you to finally move on, let go, and grow into the person you want to be. Intrapersonal communication is the dialogue that exists in your mind, whether through pep talks, chastising, or personal mantras. Howard Gardner, renowned developmental psychologist, suggests that intelligence is comprised of many aspects, not just academic knowledge, and that each person has particular intellectual strengths. One of the eight intelligences he recognizes is intrapersonal—being in tune with your inner needs and consciously making adjustments for optimal personal growth.
The Benefits of Journaling
Keeping a written log of personal insights and inquiries has many advantages. Regular journaling can…
Limit the physical effects of stress, which can strengthen your immune system, and decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Release mental blocks and encourage creativity. While the left hemisphere of your brain works to write and use logic, the right hemisphere of your brain is uninhibited, which may allow you to tap into your emotions.
Organize your thoughts and provide insight. Not only is writing a cathartic release, but it is a great way to get to the root of an issue by understanding your feelings. Through this process, you may strengthen your intrapersonal relationship by identifying what makes you happy, angry, or afraid.
Help you resolve issues. Whether you are concerned about certain emotions you feel, have a difficult decision to make, or need to discern how to approach a particular situation, journaling may help you sort through all of the complications. Writing may help you come to terms with other people’s perspectives, which can provide personal healing and a path toward mending relationships.
Tips on How to Journal Effectively
Sometimes it is difficult to start this process. You may not think you have a lot of time, or you may feel self-conscious about keeping a diary (who are you afraid of?). There is no right or wrong way to journal, but some people struggle with the writing process, so it is important to use prompts or other techniques if you don’t know how to approach journaling. Above all, try it. To “know thyself” is one of the most sought after and positive aspects of human psychology. It is through this intimate knowledge that you will be able to foster an internal environment of personal growth and acceptance.
Ground rules: There are no rules. Don’t worry spelling or grammatical mistakes. Certainly, do not criticize your own handwriting. In fact, if you feel that typing is best for you, so be it. But do remember that you may not always have access to technology and writing by hand is in itself a cathartic process, which benefits cognition.
· Choose someplace private. You do not want to censor your thoughts, so it is important to maintain privacy.
· Choose various subjects if you don’t know where to start. You can create personal writing prompts with topics for certain days, weeks, or months.
· Start with quick-writes. Write anything that comes to mind for about 10 to 20 minutes. This is a free-flow, stream-of-consciousness activity.
· Write through questioning. Sometimes asking questions can get you answers. Ask questions of yourself or someone with whom you are experiencing conflict.
· Write your story. You can keep a record of your experiences, either past or present. Simple descriptions of your life can serve as a record for future use.
· Switch hands. Sometimes writing from the opposite hand helps to tap into your creative side. You can also try to write to your present self from your perspective as a child.
· Be grateful. Gratitude activities are great tools to help you see the positive aspects of your life. Every day, write down three things that you are grateful for, or describe the positive side of a negative situation that happened that day.
· Get artistic. Get to know your hidden talents (or known) by taking chances. Draw, take up photography, or write song lyrics and poetry. Put these in your journal. You can also collect other artists’ work, especially if it is a reflection of your personality or moods.
· Try being an outsider. Writing in the third-person, about a difficult situation in which you need insight, may lead to breakthrough. This perspective may also allow you to be more honest or see another person’s point-of-view.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Ainslie, N. (n.d.). Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved March 10, 2015, from http://www.cse.emory.edu/sciencenet/mismeasure/genius/research02.html
Hills, L. (2012, January 4). 10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow and Thrive. Retrieved March 10, 2015, from http://tinybuddha.com/blog/10-journaling-tips-to-help-you-heal-grow-and-thrive/
Purcell, M. (2006). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721
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