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Five Ways to Make the Most of Your Journal

By Edel Jarboe

Over the years, my journal has become a private space that I can curl up in -- a place where I can speak honestly and not be judged, not even by myself. My journal is a place where I can speak the words I cannot bring myself to say out loud. It is a place where I can examine my wounds, and by writing about them, heal from within. Friends and family can be wonderfully supportive, but sometimes you have to turn to yourself and give yourself permission to feel whatever needs to be felt and to say everything that needs to be said.

My journal has seen me through some tough times but I treasure it for another reason: it is an ongoing relationship with myself.

Through my journal I have told myself the truth about my hopes and dreams and about my fears and insecurities. My journal allows me to gain perspective on my life. It grounds me and gives me hope. My journal allows me to see that as I change, as my life changes, I am always me.

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1. Use Your Journal To Make Sense Of A Painful Or Traumatic Experience

Write down your traumatic experience, and then write it down again. Capture not only the who, the what, the where, the when, and the why (if possible) but how it is making you feel as well. Keep writing about it until you can put the event in perspective. And once you can do this, once you understand what has happened to you, it becomes less painful. It loses its power to damage your emotional and physical well being. If you have a chronic or life-threatening illness, for example, a journal can be the perfect place for you to not only deal with your diagnosis but to discover your inner strength.

2. Use Your Journal To Take Control Of Your Life

Instead of worrying and worrying, turn to your journal. Several hours before bedtime, pick up your journal and draw a line down the center of the page. On the left side list what is distressing you and on the right side list the steps you can take to resolve the issue. For example, if you are having a hard time communicating with your spouse, you might come up with three positive things you can say or do the next time you two are headed for an argument.

3. Use Your Journal to Stay Focused and Motivated

Whether you are trying to reach a fitness goal, a weight loss goal, or are trying to save money, you can use your journal to log your progress. Simply record the relevant information on a daily basis. Not only will you be motivated to keep going but you will also have a record of your personal habits and patterns. This is useful information if you pursue a similar goal in the future. For example, if your goal is to save $100 a week, you can use your journal to keep track of your daily expenditures. You will also know that you are in the habit of splurging on new clothes when you feel down.

4. Use Your Journal to Practice Positive Thinking

Taking the time to list a few things you are grateful for every day helps you to keep your life in perspective. Being grateful for all the good things in your life helps you to ride out major life crises and to cope with stress. Finding and focusing on at least one positive thing in your life makes it hard to paint your whole world black. It makes it hard not to bask in a ray of hope.

5. Make Scribbling In Your Journal A Happy Habit

Pick a comfortable spot with minimal distractions and try to write for at least 15-20 minutes a day, depending on the subject. A log-type journal requires daily entries while major life issues are best dealt with if you write for a few days in a row. If you're really busy, you can get by with a 5-10 minute entry. I try to enjoy a cup of tea while I catch up with myself. Remember: This is your time.

Note: Please seek professional help if you are having trouble dealing with a traumatic life issue.

© Edel Jarboe


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