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One of the most important functions of a journal is as a place to release, record, and save your inner thoughts and emotions, your most private feelings. A journal works as a tool for coping--a place to vent or daydream, to plan, to sort out, to question and understand. You can create a private landscape to paint as you wish. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Dear Diary

"But I don't know what to write!" is the most common complaint I hear from clients when I suggest journaling. My response? If you really don't know what to write, then just write "I don't know what to write" over and over again. Eventually you'll come up with something. Being able to commit your thoughts and feelings to paper can take time and practice. Don't give up. You'll find it's worth the effort.

Here are some more suggestions to help you get started:

Write about your activities during the day. Did you feel anxious, stressed or perhaps, bored about any of them? Were you overwhelmed by all you had to do? Did you feel guilty about not doing more?Click here for a Pearl of Wisdom Did you enjoy your activities? If you didn't enjoy something, why not?
Write about the dreams. Describe what you remember. What significance do they have for you? Did you wake up feeling ok or terrified? Do the feelings you in your dreams correspond to feelings you hold inside, even if you haven't been aware of them? Did you dream about events in your past that may be affecting you now? Is there a pattern to your dreams?
Write about your hopes or plans for the future. Maybe you want your own home and a satisfying career. Describe your ambitions in detail. What excites you about them? What do they mean to you? Independence or safety? A way finally to be happy? How would achieving you goals bring you those things?
If you had an argument or disagreement with someone, write about it, especially if the argument, the disagreement, or the someone is significant to you. Strive to understand any anger, irritation, or defensiveness you felt. Did you feel attacked or belittled? Did you feel stupid? Did you feel misunderstood or ignored? You can safely vent your anger in writing. You may want to write a letter to the person you argued with and tell   him or her off. Go ahead. Do it in your journal (but beware of the temptation to send it).
Write about difficult personal issues. What are your feelings about these issues? How can you redefine your struggles and do something different in the present? Writing about past traumas in a private journal can be freeing and may help guide you on your path to healing.
Try drawing if words don't come to you. Drawings can express both conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings. Remember, no one has to see them. You don't have to draw well. Scribbling in a bright red or black may help you get out anger or pain and despair.
Describe a place that feels safe. What about this place creates feelings of security? What could you change in your life to maintain this feeling of safety? Finding and describing a safe place, even if it's imaginary, can be helpful to trauma survivors.
Try stream of consciousness writing--set a time limit, perhaps 5 minutes, and write everything that comes to mind during that time. Don't worry if it doesn't make sense or isn't grammatically correct--it doesn't matter. Just write your thoughts as they come. When you finish, you'll feel a positive release of emotions you had locked inside.
If you're anxious about something you must do, you can write down what it would be like to accomplish the task successfully, and how it would feel. Keep this image and the feelings of successful achievement in mind. Your stress level may diminish, and you may feel better prepared to face the situation and thrive.

Comments, questions, or suggestions?  Please, email me.

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Jonathan P. Levine, CSW
2300 West Ridge Rd.
Rochester, NY  14626
(585) 225-0330
jonathan@aquietvoice.com
Updated on 07/03/2002
2002, Jonathan P. Levine, CSW