Journaling has changed a lot of things for me. I’ve often liked the idea of journaling but saw it as a reaaally unnecessary time sap. I thought the idea of being able to look back on a record of your time was really great but the idea of actually sitting down with a diary and talking about my feelings seemed a little 13 year old angsty.
My mind was changed by one of my best friends, Matt. I had been living with him for a couple of years and had the absolute pleasure of watching him truly blossom. Like seriously. When I first met him he was an amazing person but I saw in him someone who similarly suffered from low moods and self doubt at times. Now, he is just this beacon of self acceptance and confidence. Last year, in one of my low moods we were talking about this and I was asking his advice. Honestly, I was expecting the same old empty words of “There’s no need to feel sad”, “you just need to be more positive” but he didn’t do that at all. He told me to start a diary, that it had worked for him and it could work for me too. I was doubtful but I tried.
At first it was really rough. I was in a bad place and so the entries were just miserable. The first twenty or so pages are moaning, negative, depressive rants about everything. And so I stopped for a week or so. ‘There’s no point in this’ I thought ‘It’s already depressing to have a head filled with negativity, I don’t need a stupid book filled with it too.’. For months and months I wrote nothing. My moods fluctuated and took their normal course but I wasn’t actively improving in any way.
Then at the end of last year, I was clearing out my room when I found that diary and read it back for the first time. I then realized why keeping a diary is useful.
When you externalise your thoughts and put them slap bang on a page you can distance yourself enough from them to properly judge them.
So here are the two main reasons I think keeping a diary helps negative thoughts.
It makes you acknowledge that bad moods do not last forever.
The minute I picked up that diary and read it back it put things in perspective. On one page it said “I honestly can’t see myself with anyone.” I literally started dating a couple of weeks later. On another page it said “I am dreading my birthday, it’s going to feel so lonely.” That birthday was the best. “I’m beginning to doubt that anyone truly loves their job.” Spoiler they do. I do. Ha!
Journals force you to reflect and take yourself out of the present. Had I not kept a journal, I would have had that negative thought about my birthday and it would have just done it’s horrible little poisonous work on my thought process and then even when my birthday was brilliant, the negativity would have already done it’s damage and I wouldn’t be prompted to go back and re-examine it in any way. Having a record of those thoughts allows you to go back and go “Ha! You were wrong negativity!” and the sooner you start reassessing past negative thoughts in that way you can assess present thoughts in that way too.
It helps you be kinder to yourself.
I’m going to write more on this when I do my post on self-love… but to me, self love is all about being as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.
When I read back previous entries written in dark times I just want to reach back through the pages and hug that person. When I read back things I used to write about how I wasn’t good enough I just want to say no “Nooooo! You are, you are!”. Time and space is an amazing leveler, and it is amazing how protective you can become over yourself.
This, my friends, is my first piece of advice. Buy yourself a diary and write. Just 10 minutes a day on how you felt, why you felt that way. What happened which made you feel good. What happened which made you feel bad.
Write your way out.