We all had a secret diary when we were younger, our dearest confident where we poured our dreams, thoughts and irrational fears. We kept those scribbles as the most precious jewel because they were ours, we confided in the secrecy of anonymity to write about that platonic love that would never be, the hate we felt when we asked to go out at night and our wise mother said no.
Our teenage diary was a place to confess our struggles and fears without judgment. It certainly felt good to get all of those thoughts and feelings out of our heads. We doodled, wrote and glued all kinds of photographs, magazine cut-outs and lots of stickers, at least I did.
Now that we are older, keeping a secret diary may seem childish or futile, but it is not. Having a tool to deal with overwhelming emotions and having a safe healthy way to express ourselves is important, is crucial.
Keeping a diary, although fun, is not a therapeutic process or a tool for growth and self-care. A journal is.
The main function of a journal is to record events and experiences from a narrative point of view, and it helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos.
I started learning Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to support my daughter’s path to recovery after her incident with bullies. CBT helps to shift negative thoughts into positive ones, creating a space to allow self-love and self-care to settle in.
The importance of a journal
Journaling is the primary tool for CBT, it is one of the techniques that work the best to change our thought patterns, our attitudes, and, ultimately, our behavior.
Journaling, helps to reduce stress, keep your mind sharp by recalling events, prioritizing feelings and matching them with words, improves your mood by expressing gratitude and focusing on the positive aspects of your life, and most importantly journaling strengthens emotional functions by evoking awareness and keeping perspective of the events at hand, journaling gives closure and is an opportunity for catharsis.
There are many types of journaling, you don’t need to be a writer to express what’s inside your head, you can use help from other arts to help you discover the words you need to write down.
- Photographs: Use photographs and spend time thinking “What do you feel when you look at these photos?” or “What do you want to say to the people in the photos? What compelled you to choose these photos?”
- Drawings: Start trying to draw what’s in your mind, what are you feeling at the moment and then write a letter to someone about what the drawing. What are the issues the artist is experiencing? You can choose to write to anyone you know or a friend you don’t see anymore, but you had a connection with it.
- Poetry/quotes/songs: This is a good technique to use if you don’t have more than 10 minutes a day. Find a poetry/quote/song that resonates with your feelings at the moment, copy it to your journal and then write about what do you feel when you read/listen to it?
In the end, journaling is about honoring your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Creating a safe space for you to allow self-love and self-care to settle in.