By: Kelly Trautner, JD, CAE, RMT ~
(Originally published October 26, 2016 on www.camapproaches.com)
I’ve never been particularly skilled at sharing my story with others. Even when I want to share the most exuberant of experiences, what comes out of my mouth often sounds as rousing as the hum of a dryer full of jeans. Thus, the life of an introvert.
In fact, if I had a dollar for every time someone complained about how flatly I emote or about one’s perception that I lack enthusiasm for their most gracious efforts, I’d be… Let’s just say I could probably pay for a few trips to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, or some other colorful and exciting place. And I’d be so thrilled to there for the action- but you might not know it by looking at me.
Self-expression isn’t only for the social butterflies.
Many people rely heavily on self-expression through verbal interactions with others for their healing and development activities. Afterall, connection is a survival mechanism we humans generally require. Even for an introvert, interaction with others is very important for avoiding isolation.
But rather than judging myself or even attempting to fit into the mold of the mainstream extroverted way of expression around the clock, I have found that carving out time for journaling is a rather useful way for me to process life and to express creative ideas. As a bonus, the time alone allows me to re-energize from the stimulation of interaction.
Journaling can be good for health and well-being.
While journaling is especially helpful for those of us with the penchant for good, quality alone time with self; the practice can have a healing effect for anyone. There are dozens of powerful ways journaling can improve one’s life. Here are a few reasons why journaling might be for you.
Stress Reduction. Whether a written expression of strong emotions in the moment or a day-by-day acknowledgement of chronic pain, journaling has been found to provide emotional and physical benefits. This includes a reduction in anxiety and worry.
Self-expression and discovery. Getting in the habit of writing allows us to take inventory of people, things and situations that we like or don’t like. What conjures feelings of happiness, disappointment or confidence? Who are you? What do you really want to do with your life? Getting to know yourself is an important step in loving yourself.
Processing each moment, manifesting the next. Journaling provides a way to reflect on disappointments or situations in a way that makes it safe to see the other person’s point of view. Solo analysis in journaling provides a place to contemplate scenarios for next steps in a way that is sometimes more effective than immediate action.
Healing Past Wounds. Interactive journaling is technique that is useful for those who wish to explore previous experiences that have yet to be processed and released. Not only might this process help to alleviate emotional suffering, but can also have a marked impact on physical health and overall well-being.
Get that pen going.
Regardless of the reason you journal, you’ll most certainly decide that your journal is a dependable, all-accepting, nonjudgmental friend. But getting started isn’t always so easy. Here are a few ways I have found helpful when writers block is keeping the paper blank.
Stream of consciousness writing. You can start with anything from why you selected a certain dish for dinner to your most important goals in life. No matter how mundane at the start, commit to writing. And stick with it.
Use journal prompts. There are journals that come with prompts printed on each page, giving you a different topic for each time you write. You can also do a simple search on the internet to find a list like the one on the Daring to Live Fully website. (I’m going to try some of these!)
Gratitude journaling. Some recommend starting with a list, like the three things you’re most grateful for this week. During a particularly trying time in life last year, I made a gratitude list until I felt satisfied every day upon waking. Then I chose one or two things to write about in detail.
Theme-based journaling. Theme-based journaling guides your writing by topic for a set time frame, allowing for deep exploration and development around a particular subject area. For example, I recently spent a month journaling daily about what I envision to be the “ultimate woman”.
Dream journal. My favorite journal entries to re-read are about past dreams. There are many reasons one would want to record dreams. A consistent recommendation about dream journals is that writing should be done upon waking to ensure you fill in as few gaps as possible when remembering your dream, even in in the middle of the night.
There are no hard and fast rules for journaling. And journaling certainly doesn’t replace working with a counselor or other mental health professional for someone in need of medical attention, though it can be a strong complement to therapy. And maybe it isn’t introverts who most benefit from the cathartic effects of chronicling life in written form.
Regardless, Anne Sexton’s words come to mind as an inspiration for all who commit to pouring out our hearts onto paper, “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” Happy journaling!
McCoy, Krisha. “Journal Your Way to Stress Relief.” EverydayHealth.com. Everyday Health, 14 July 2010. Web. 24 October 2016.
Hardy, Benjamin. “Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life.” Observer. Observer Media, 02 Aug. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.
“Processing Emotions.” Journal to Wellness. Journal to Wellness, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
Purcell, Maud, LCSW, CEAP. “The Health Benefits of Journaling.” Psych Central. N.p., 17 July 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.
Fabrega, Marelisa. “119 Journal Prompts for Your Journal Jar.” Daring to Live Fully. N.p., 05 May 2017. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.