Starting with as little as five to ten minutes of journaling about feelings daily can be quite beneficial. Studies have shown that the simple act of putting pen to paper and journaling about our feelings helps to quiet the parts of our brain that get very active when we are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Journaling also has the benefit of helping us gain more perspective on what we are feeling.
The benefit of journaling is best realized with consistent, daily use which helps to process feelings we have been carrying with us for quite some time as well as to process new feelings and experiences as they pop up.
Sample journaling prompts
Consider journaling with the following prompts:
1) How am I feeling today?
2) What is this telling me?
3) Three things that I am grateful for today are:
With journaling about three things you are grateful for today, it is beneficial to tie these things back into traits, habits, or skills you are trying to build within yourself to form a positive feedback loop.
Here are some examples:
“I am grateful that I had the courage to communicate my needs more assertively at work today.”
Or, “I am grateful that I prioritized myself today by carving out the time to exercise this morning.”
Or, “I am grateful that I challenged myself to be more vulnerable and talk about my feelings with my partner.”
Or, “I am grateful for making an effort to practice self-compassion today.”
These are just some examples, it is always encouraged to personalize this to you so it is more meaningful and relevant.
Why journaling is helpful
When journaling, feelings may come up and it is encouraged to allow yourself to experience them and hold the time and space to feel them. It is through feeling our feelings that we are able to gradually process them, which allows their intensity to lessen over time. When we suppress our feelings or avoid them by turning to food, substances, or other behaviours (gambling, shopping, social media, porn, video games, sex, relationships, work, etc.) for temporary relief of the discomfort of our feelings, they don’t go away but rather our feelings continue to build in the background until they find other opportunities to spill over.
Common pitfalls to watch out for
The important thing is to focus on your feelings and to not get caught up in writing in your journal about other people or what they did or how they need to change, etc.
It is also important not to get caught in over-thinking/analyzing/problem solving or criticizing with journaling. That will not have a therapeutic effect, but will likely worsen things.
This is one of many ways to journal. Feel free to explore other ways through searching online. This is a great way to get started. Feel free to increase the time you spend journaling to fifteen to thirty minutes as per your interest, capacity, and what may be going on in your life at the time.