January is National Journal Writing Month—a great time to start something new. Plus, we’re all about to turn the page into a new year. Many of us are enthusiastic about welcoming in 2021, hoping that it will bring new miracles and opportunities.
We are still in the midst of the pandemic, but the hope is that life will return to some semblance of normal. However, it may be more likely that we’ll all need to get used to “a new normal.” Whether this involves continued stay-at-home orders, new remote job prospects, or simply more of the same, it’s vital that we maintain a sense of perspective and recognize that this is a temporary situation. It’s also important to try to tap into our inner child and focus on wonder and awe, and journaling can definitely help.
Following are 7 reasons why journaling is something to consider in 2021:
- A journal acts as a container for sentiments, hopes, and dreams.
- Journaling provides an emotional release and gives a voice to feelings that may have been suppressed.
- Writing in a journal builds self-awareness and helps to create a narrative.
- As you put your thoughts down on paper, you may find that you feel more grateful for your life as a whole.
- The act of writing in a journal fosters exploration and self-discovery.
- You can begin to see the light through the darkness as you write.
- Journal writing provides you with inspiration for change.
Journaling as inspiration for change could help you consider a new way of doing and thinking about things. Perhaps it will show you what the pandemic has taught you about yourself, your loved ones, or the universe. Or, you may begin to view the people in your life in an entirely different way.
The silver lining of the pandemic is that even though many lives have been lost, and there are increasing numbers of COVID-19 diagnoses, we’re living in a time when we’re able to access the most up-to-date statistics and medical updates. Sometimes we become overloaded by this type of information, though, so that’s the time to pause and do something else. And that’s when journaling can really come to the rescue.
Journaling as a Practice
Journaling can be used as a contemplative practice because it serves as a sort of release. Your journal is a friend who “listens” and doesn’t talk back. When confronted with trauma, life transitions, or epiphanies, many people turn to writing to help them because it empowers and facilitates the healing process. A former mentor of mine said, “When it hurts, write harder.”
All forms of journaling can have therapeutic value. Therapeutic journaling may be used in conjunction with talk therapy, but it can also be done by itself. Living through a pandemic can be a catalyst for writing, as journaling provides us with an opportunity to vent.
Writing about what’s on your mind and in your heart helps you make sense of your situation and results in a feeling of release and an increased sense of awareness.
Writing from the heart means that instead of just recording the events of the pandemic, for example, the way a journalist would report on it, you write about how the experience affected you personally. In other words, when writing about your pandemic experience, write about your emotional response to it. That’s how you tap into your heart center.
How to Begin
The best way to begin this process is to find a journal and a writing utensil that inspires you. Studies have shown that it’s more effective to use a pen and paper than to journal on a computer, but if the latter is your preferred option, that’s okay too. It’s just easier to tap into your subconscious mind when physically writing in a journal.
Try to begin with stream-of-consciousness, or automatic, writing, where you write in your journal continuously for 15 minutes without stopping. Write down whatever pops into your mind. You can begin with, “I’ve now been self-quarantined for nine months,” and just go on from there.
Some Journaling Prompts
Some people prefer to have specific prompts rather than doing automatic writing, but you can do both. Here are some specific ones to help you get started:
- What issues have emerged for you during the pandemic?
- What have you realized that you’re most grateful for?
- What has brought joy into your life, and how can you tap into it on a more regular basis in 2021?
- What would you tell future generations about the pandemic?
- What was the scariest part of 2020?
The Pandemic as a Once-in-a-Lifetime Event
Living through a pandemic will hopefully be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and an opportunity to examine our lives. Years ago I was blessed to find my grandmother’s journal, where she wrote about living through the cholera pandemic of the early 20th century, and it helped me cope with my current experiences and bring me perspective.
Even though the pandemic is still raging, we can try to think of the New Year as a new chapter that has glimpses of the Age of Aquarius, which refers to bringing about social, political, personal, and ideological change. This was all similar to the revolutions of the 1960s, where so many people came together as a community. Try to create this sense of unity in your journal. What would it look like for you and your loved ones?
Research has shown that moving past negative emotions like fear and accessing more positive feelings of optimism and empathy can help us feel more connected to others—and to ourselves. Thus, journaling is a tool for self-exploration during these challenging times that can inspire you and help you move forward.
As a result of the pandemic, we’ve all had to make many shifts in our personal and professional lives. The Age of Aquarius is also a time of expanded consciousness and collaboration. And, it’s associated with more emphasis on freedom and independence.
Journaling offers you a creative outlet for learning who you are, who you might become, and a pathway to better understanding your life’s journey. It will help you identify your priorities, answer life’s essential questions, and, if practiced intentionally, determine your reason for being. Writing offers you the magic of self-discovery.
Obstacles like pandemics present golden opportunities for transformation and change, and it’s best if we all work through them together. This, in and of itself, is a transformative and empowering experience and can be a great escape from everything else going on in your life.
Previously Published in Psychology Today, December 30, 2020