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The Truth About Journaling

Your hands know what your mind doesn't yet

By Charlotte StetsonPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
The Truth About Journaling
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Ever been so angry that you can't do anything but kind of scream and growl? And then a few seconds later the tears come. Or maybe a family member did something that hurt you and all you could think to do was slam the door and yell ugly things on your way out.

Even happy feelings can sometimes cause a period where you don't know what to do with yourself. Maybe you had the perfect day with friends and at the end of the night when it was time for everyone to part for their separate homes, you still felt like moving around and didn't want to let go of the day but you didn't know how to keep the feeling with you?

Emotions can be quite powerful. They course through our bodies in very specific physical ways, causing feelings that don't necessarily originate in our conscious mind.

Journaling is the act of writing about your life. It is different than keeping a diary. A diary is more of an account, a record, of what happens in your life. Journaling, on the other hand, is a process. It is the use of writing to examine the things that you feel and the way you behave as you go about your daily life. It is a process intended to give you insight and analysis about yourself and your behavior.

Journaling is a frequent suggestion for people having difficulty processing tough emotions, or who find themselves in critical and difficult situations outside normal, ordinary life. Some people use journaling as part of a quest to change their life, in ways ranging from weight loss to career changes to general self-improvement. Still others incorporate journaling in their life on a regular basis as part of a general wellness program.

The idea behind journaling is to sit down with a pen and paper, or in front of a keyboard, and write out your thoughts on whatever topic or emotion is giving you trouble. It is very important to remember that this act is not to create an article, memoir, or any other necessarily coherent writing for others to read. The act of journaling is solely for the benefit of the person writing. It is meditation on paper. It is thinking through problems and issues with your hands. When you begin journaling it is likely - and usual - that you will have no idea what you will put down on paper. The key, though, is to put every thought on paper, even the ones about "I don't know what to say about this" until something begins to emerge from the fog.

The reason that journaling can and does work is that it forces feelings and emotions to become words. The act of writing requires words, which requires the brain to examine the feelings and emotions in your body through a different lens. Instead of merely a physical reaction, an intellectual reaction is discovered to complement and add more depth to the emotion. It is one thing to feel adrenaline careening through your body causing you to say and do things, and quite another to figure out what is causing that adrenaline and being able to articulate that cause so that you can begin to find responses that actually address the cause.

Journaling doesn't always lead to revelation, and even when it does it can take some time to get there, but when it works, it provides a whole new set of information that can be used to work on the effects of the emotions in your life. The words that you have produced on the page don't even have to make sense to anyone but you. Sometimes they won't even make sense to you the next day. But the words have been formed and they are now stored in your brain along with the feeling that you were journaling about, and that added understanding of your feeling moves you toward greater understanding of yourself.

Right about now you may be thinking "why not just meditate" or "how about if I talk it through with myself while I'm driving to work in my car?"

Those things may help, too, but the physicality involved in writing, and the need for full thoughts to be formed into a sentence that can go on the page, uses different parts of your brain than solely thinking or speaking. The movement of your hands, your arms, uses different and additional nerves and brain matter, which may let you tap into more varied perspectives on the feelings you are considering. There is even value in experimenting with using your non-dominant writing hand, as that, too, activates more and different parts of your brain.

Humans are complicated machines. Our actions and reactions to things that happen in our lives are made up of myriad parts and experiences and innate traits and learned expectations. Unraveling why we feel what we feel can be tough, but it is well worth the effort so that we know what we are dealing with and have a better shot at getting to the outcome we want. Journaling lets our hands express what our minds may not yet know.


About the Creator

Charlotte Stetson

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