Do you feel like your emotions are complicated and confusing? If you struggle to understand why you feel or react the ways you do, you might benefit from using a journal. Journaling can help you appropriately identify and express your feelings to increase self-understanding.
Journals are a valuable tool that is far from what you might remember as the “diary” of your youth. Those little books with the lock and key were places to keep our secrets, never to be revealed to anyone. Journals are meant to be reviewed and analyzed, and they can be valuable tools to help expand your self-knowledge over time.
Once you learn to identify and deal with your feelings in acceptable ways, you have truly mastered self-understanding. By simply jotting down what’s going on with you – in physical form or electronically – and how you feel about it, you can get a better handle on your emotions and find positive ways to deal with what challenges you.
Writing your feelings in a journal can help increase self-understanding in four important ways:
- Journaling gives you space and time to think about and process a particular situation or occurrence. When you write about an event, you automatically process the event through words and description. Recording the situation in writing can lead you to notice details you hadn’t noticed when the event took place, thus increasing your insight about the situation.
While journaling, work on putting aside other thoughts, minimize distractions, and just focus on the situation you’re journaling about.
- Journaling allows you time to clarify and identify feelings about the situation. Chances are you may not have time to analyze every event as it occurs throughout the day. However, if you pledge to journal consistently, you know that you’ll later take the opportunity to reflect on important occurrences and consider how you felt about them.
Labeling your feelings leads to a better understanding of how you respond in certain situations.
Use “feeling” words when describing your emotions about a situation or event. Examples of feeling words are, “pumped,” “annoyed,” “ecstatic,” and “angry.”
A helpful sentence structure to use in your journal is, “I felt __________ when ________ happened.”
- Journaling helps you see why you felt the way you did. Journaling provides an opportunity to fully explore your emotions about an event or situation and come to a conclusion about your feelings. Writing about your feelings can even assist you in changing negative feelings in the future, once you figure out why you felt the way you did.
Knowing why you responded in a certain manner increases self-understanding and also allows opportunities for change.
When completing a journal entry, consider all the reasons why you may have felt or responded in the way you did.
Theorize and decide which theory best fits to explain your feelings and behavior.
- Re-reading your journal sheds light on your progress. When you process situations through journal writing and read about them later, you’ll likely see patterns of emotions and responses that recur in similar situations.
You might want to learn to more openly express your emotions upon identifying these patterns. Or maybe you want to work to change your pattern of responding.
Re-reading your journal might reveal unhealthy reactions to certain situations. In this case, these reviews of your entries could help you make a commitment toward more positive and helpful reactions.
Take notice of your progress over time in responding to situations in positive ways.
Regardless of whether you choose to accept your feelings or make a change, you still increase your self-understanding through reviewing your journal.
You might feel confused at times and be at a loss to explain why you responded in a certain way. However, you can improve insight by reflecting further about these situations and the feelings you experienced, especially if you see patterns of similar reactions.
Sometimes your feelings are deep-rooted and go back to an incident that happened many years ago, so similar situations now trigger similar feelings. Writing and reflecting on your journal entries may help you remember the previous incidents so you can understand your feelings and decide if they benefit you now or if you wish to pursue more positive outcomes in the future.
Try starting to journal today – no matter what form the journal might take – to explore how you feel and respond to life events. When you do, you’ll increase your level of self-knowledge and self-understanding and live a healthier, more fulfilling life.