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What happened in the “olden days” before we had cell phones? How could we have lived without the immediate exchange of phone numbers with our trusty iPhone address books? You might have had to rely on your short term memory until you could find a pen and paper to jot the number down. Your conversation and thought process might have gone something like this:
“My number is 555-1234”
“Okay got it, thanks!”
*searches frantically for a pen and paper*
*found scratch paper, “Where is a pen?!”*
*found pen, write down number, checks heart rate*
That feeling might be familiar to some of us; keeping something in our short term memory and feeling the pressure to not let it slip away. There’s a magical moment when the pen hits the paper and we are relieved of the intrusiveness of the hypothetical “555-1234” replaying over and over again in our head. What would happen when you needed to call the number once you had written it down? Would you remember the entire number off the top of your head? Probably not. Maybe a general idea of the numbers, but probably not the entire thing and all of its stress-inducing repetition. I personally would go back to where I had written it down and recall the number from there. I think that is the same light we can reframe the way we see journaling.
Journaling is therapeutic
As a clinician in the counseling field, I am an advocate for journaling. In the same fashion as my analogy above, writing our thoughts and feelings down has the power to free up some of the stress and intrusiveness of the strong thoughts and feelings that are clogging up our short-term memory. Humans are such emotionally-driven beings, hence why our strongest memories are the most emotional ones (whether the emotions be positive or negative). Writing things down may help us to get in a more logical state of mind in order to effectively process through our feelings.
Journaling provides spiritual growth
As a Christian woman, journaling is something that allows for past reflection, future insight, and present surrender. As we journal, we are able to reflect as we write on the rawness of our emotions, thoughts, and circumstances. When our words have a place to be stored, we are able to provide insight to ourselves in the future when we look back on past entries. Journaling provides us with tangible evidence of the growth that God has facilitated in our lives through the previous season. Finally, journaling can provide a safe place to surrender our fears and feelings to God. We can find peace in Matthew 11:28 where Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (NIV). We may not always be able to control our situation, but when we are overwhelmed, Jesus promises peace and rest in Him.
Is journaling for you?
If you find difficulty in expressing yourself verbally, the first step might be to begin journaling in order to free your thoughts and process them. Effective communication with others first begins by being honest and vulnerable with ourselves. Vulnerability is an uncomfortable concept for most, but as we allow ourselves access to our true fears, desires, and thoughts through journaling, we can in turn form deeper connections with others. I would challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and begin to see what happens when you try to journal. Look specifically for the fruits of your journaling and the ways in which you are being changed.
How do I begin journaling?
A common misconception is that journaling must be on lined paper, sitting at a desk, in rigid, five paragraph format. That is absolutely not the case, and quite honestly would be completely ineffective for most journaling individuals. Some may need prompting, others may want to draw, and some may simply write for pages and pages. The point is, journaling is not about structure, it is about freedom. Here are some options for various journals that I have personally used in graduate school, with clients, and in my personal life.
Regardless of what method of journaling best suites you, I pray that journaling is something that you find beneficial as you begin to step out of your comfort zone and implement it into your life.
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