Journaling is something that comes up a lot in my therapy practice. So many people often walk into my office distraught because they feel like they can’t practice good self care. They report having tried various things like journaling and it didn’t work out for them for one reason or another. This leads them to believe that they ultimately suck at self care. And thus a vicious destructive thought cycle is born. What I have found is that, in most of these cases, it just wasn’t their thing. (FYI/PSA: It is okay if journaling is not your thing!) Other times, it just wasn’t the right type of journal for their self care needs.
There Are A Bazillion Types of Journals for Self Care
When someone says “journal” what comes to your mind? Most of us have a specific idea of what journaling is supposed to look like. When I was young, I was taught to keep a diary and write down all of the things that happened in my day. This was a very good practice, but it also made me think that reflecting on my day was the only way to journal. Sometimes going back to this practice is helpful, but other times it doesn’t really serve my need. Sometimes I just need to vent, or make a list, or draw something. I usually just need to do whatever type of journaling my mind is telling me is good for my self care.
Reflection Journals For Self Care
This is one of the more common forms of journaling. Reflection journals can help you recount things that have happened. They can help form a narrative and shape our perspectives. Journaling for reflection also helps people process things on a deeper level and make stronger connections. It is also a good way to record a nice time in your life or a fun memory.
Reflection journals are not all alike. You can use these types of journals to write about each day, like I did as a child. You can also use them to reflect on certain specific ideas of goals. Most of us think of that reflection journals require a certain level of commitment and consistency. Sometimes this is true, but reflection journals can also be used as needed to vent, rant, or reflect in the present moment. Any way you use it, reflection journals are a great form of self care.
Gratitude journals are a popular way to train your brain to look for the positive and focus on the good things in life. As a Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) Therapist, I highly recommend gratitude journaling to a lot of my clients. Recounting what you are grateful for helps bring awareness to your thoughts and allows you to shift and reframe your thinking patterns. This can do wonders to help shape your perspective and correct any cognitive distortions.
This type of journal can also be used in specific scenarios, such as journaling prompts related to holidays, events, or specific people in your life. Just like reflection journals, gratitude journals don’t always have to be something that you commit to doing on a consistent basis. Sure, there are gratitude journals that suggest daily writing. But sometimes you may just want to pause and take random mindful moments to write down things you are grateful for. And that is okay! Once again, there is no right or wrong way to journal for self care.
Creative Journals For Self Care
Okay, time for a self care confession. My self care personality type is almost always predominately creative. A majority of the self care activities that I choose to do involve some sort of arts and crafts. So it makes sense that I love a good creative journal. I have learned so many things as a therapist, the biggest one being that we tend to recommend things that are personally drawn to. I used to tell every single client I met that all they needed to do was paint, color, and draw. That works for me, so it should work for them? right? Well, sure if you are creative like me, but if you’re not into all of the artsy fartsy stuff, guess what? That is okay! What works for me doesn’t have to work for you.
But if you are into creative journaling for self care, the sky is the limit on different ways that you can journal. Did you know that journaling doesn’t always have to involve writing? Who came up with this idea anyway? You can do whatever your fancy little heart desires on that piece of paper. Draw on it, paint on it, or rip it all to shreds. You can even burn it if that makes your heart happy.
Putting It All Together
My point is that we need to get away from the idea that you have to write a well constructed, edited, and proofed paragraph every day for it to be considered journaling. (But hey if that floats your boat, that’s okay too!) Journaling is about releasing your thoughts and feelings in whatever way you feel is helpful and beneficial to your self care practice. That’s it. It’s that simple.