We’ve all been there: something bad happens or you have an important choice to make and you have mixed emotions about it. It’s hard to help yourself feel better when you’re not even sure how you feel!
For me, journaling is really helpful in sorting through those complicated feelings. It’s almost like untangling a ball of yarn- it’s frustrating, but when I’m done, I feel a lot better.
My top four techniques:
1. Intuition Journaling
I turn to this when I’m trying to make a decision.
When I’m anxious or worried about something, I tend to overthink - aren’t we all guilty of this! But often, the best solution is the simplest one: whatever feels right in your gut. Intuition journaling helps reconnect with that gut feeling. It’s all about, as the name suggests, your intuition.
- First, write down a question you’ve been thinking about or want to know the answer to.
- Then, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Imagine there’s another smaller person inside you that’s separate from the outside world - this is the real you, or your intuition.
- When you start writing, answer the question as though that person is responding. Let yourself write without reservation, without thinking of all the external factors that are likely making you feel stuck. Really try to focus on what that voice is telling you.
After you’re done, you can go back and read what your gut has to say. Try circling or underlining important words or sections. How does it seem like they’re feeling? This is an important opinion!
Get this Intuition Journal here.
2. Dialoguing or Perspective Journaling
I use this when I have conflicting emotions or am deep in a thought spiral about something. Trust me, I’ve had some experience with this!
Dialoguing is a way to separate different lines of thought you might have into different voices: an optimistic and a pessimistic voice about taking a risk, an emotional and a rational voice about a doubt, whatever you might need.
- Write down one aspect of how you feel. This could be the voice that’s scared about making a bold decision, the part of you that’s dejected after a rejection, or the voice that’s doubting your ability to do something.
- Try using a different color and respond to this dialogue with another voice.
- This is the part of you that might be hopeful about that same decision, that’s determined to keep trying after a failure, or that’s hyping you up when your confidence is low.
- Let yourself go back and forth. Maybe you’ll rationalize a fear or realize something you didn’t think of before.
Often, the support or push we need can come from ourselves. We just need to make sense of it all in our own heads first. Mulling over your thoughts is part of the process.
3. Stream-of-consciousness Journaling
This works for me when I’m trying to navigate my feelings.
This is the most well known kind of journaling. Also known as a free write, stream of consciousness journaling is especially helpful if you’re a perfectionist (like me) or if you tend to be critical of yourself (like me again). This is a place where you can write without editing or censoring yourself, free of judgement. You’re not trying to stop or change your feelings, but rather notice them.
- Set a timer for ten, fifteen, even thirty minutes.
- When you begin writing, let your mind go wherever it wants to. You don’t even have to stay on one topic - that’s the beauty of free writing.
- I know it’s hard for some of us to let our thoughts stray, but a helpful technique that I’ve learned is to imagine that your thoughts are cars driving by on a street. You’re just watching them drive. You’re not here to control them or direct them, but only to observe.
When your timer goes off or when you feel like you’ve said all you have to say, put your pen or pencil down and just reflect. Read what you’ve just vented about as though someone else wrote it. What advice would you give to this person?
4. Unsent Letter Journaling
I recently used this journaling technique, and found that it really did help me process my feelings and felt calmer as a result.
Do you have something you want to say to a specific person but can’t? You’re probably carrying these tough emotions and thoughts around in your head. Unsent letters are great for getting your thoughts down on paper and out of your head.
- Your letter can be to anyone you want: a friend, an ex, a family member, a coworker.
- Write down all the things you wish you could say to that person. You can let it all out without having to restrain yourself- they’re never going to see this letter anyway.
- Tell them your perspective, your emotions, your questions or thoughts. Tell them how much you appreciate them or how upset they made you. It can be really cathartic to just release all those emotions.
- You can also try making a bulleted or numbered list of points you want to bring up. It doesn’t have to be perfectly organized or cohesive.
If you do end up talking to this person, like I did, writing this letter might be helpful for you to get a clearer idea of what you want to say. I definitely felt more in control of my feelings and when I actually approached them. And otherwise, it’s still a great way to get closure and move on from the situation with a little more peace of mind.
Are you’re looking to change your perspective? Try this inspirational journal 'Living Beautifully' by Pema Chodron.
Get it here.
If you want to get out of your head for a minute and remember the bigger picture, check out my blog about gratitude journaling here: