I was asked a question by a friend, "Do I use a journal". "No I don't" was my reply, but I do encourage people to write down one good thing that happens to them each day to reinforce the positives in their life.
The most helpful article that I found on this topic was written by Doctor Steven Stosny who states; Sometimes keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences helps, but often it makes things worse. In general it is likely to hurt if it tries to help you “know yourself” in isolation and helps if it leads to greater understanding and behavior change in your interactions with others.
So, what does that mean in reality? According to Stosny, journaling can have positive benefits on your well-being if it;
- Makes you step back and evaluate your thoughts, emotions, and behaviour.
- Brings your emotions and motivations into alignment with your deepest values.
- Converts negative energy into positive creativity and growth.
- Increases tolerance of ambiguity, ambivalence, and unpredictability, which are part of normal living.
- Helps you see other people’s perspectives alongside your own.
- Makes you feel more humane.
- Helps you take a definite course of action.
Journaling can negatively effect your well-being if it:
- Makes you live too much inside your head.
- Makes you a passive observer of your life (thinking about how you’ll record it instead of experiencing what is happening).
- Makes you self-obsessed.
- Becomes a vehicle of blame instead of solutions.
- Wallows in negative things that have happened to you.
We know that when we write something down it helps to rationalise the situation because we write from the left side of our brain, the logic side. We also know that when we write something down we lodge it into our subconscious thought.
We are all different, what works for one person may not work for another. If journaling what you want to change or to avoid works for you when bad situations occur then go for it.
For me, I prefer only to record the good things. As another friend described "The glass half full approach". For me, writing something bad down to change or to avoid it next time does not work. No two situations are ever the same so why would you want to reinforce the negative things that you are unlikely to change or avoid?
I also keep lists, lots of lists. Writing lists also helps to control my negative thoughts because I can see what must be done, I don't exaggerate the list of tasks. Lists also reassures me that I won't forget what I must do.
For me. I focus as much as I can on the positives and let the negatives wash over me. Easy to say, often much harder to do but I am learning.