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How to Journal to Create Emotional Agility

Learn to master your emotions through writing

While I was growing up, I believed that living an ordinary life included having a good education that would eventually lead to an established well-paying career.  However, the death of my entire family was a curve ball that took my life out of ordinary and created the darkest moments in my life.  From 2015 to 2016, I fell into depression and had thoughts of attempted suicide. I exercised bad judgment. I socialized with the wrong crowd and was heading in a downward spiral. My life was out of control. I eventually began writing my emotions down in a journal to cope.

Studies by psychologists James Pennebaker, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., of Syracuse University suggest that “writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients with such illnesses.” Other research by Pennebaker indicates that “suppressing negative, trauma-related thoughts compromises immune functioning, and that those who write visit the doctor less often.”

Journaling helped me become conscious of my emotions and their patterns, so I could heal instead of stay stuck.It had a mental, emotional, and even physical impact on my life. My health had suffered because of was eating poorly to cope with my emotions and was also not taking good care of myself. Journaling gave me a quiet, safe place to express how I was feeling. It allowed me to see the positive in my life. Every day I felt a calming effect as I wrote down my true emotions on paper. I started to see a pattern and get clarity on my life.

Now more than ever, we need to be active in responding to and creating change as well as deal with the emotions that arise. An award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist and author Dr. Susan David defines “emotional agility as the ability to come to your inner world—your thoughts, emotions, experiences, and self-stories—with courage, compassion, and curiosity.” Instead of these inner experiences holding you hostage, shrinking your life, or clouding your interactions, you’re able to learn from them. You can evaluate the situations you face, be clear about your options and move forward with values and purpose. Emotional agility is a critical skill set that helps you make real changes in your life, both at work and at home. It is key to thriving.

Emotional agility is a practical way to looking inward and living willfully.  According to Dr. David, a critical aspect of emotional agility is showing up. Dr. David states “showing up is being able to face your difficult emotions and stories and experiences.”  Struggling with our feelings can take up vast amounts of mental energy or negatively impact our relationships. A willingness to admit is essential to change and being self-compassionate. Instead of ignoring complicated thoughts and emotions, turn your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors willingly, with curiosity and kindness. I let go self-criticism and expectations of perfections. I also learned to be more emotionally aware. What emotions and thoughts you push aside or ignore, or you are allowing the call the shots?

Emotions don’t exist in a void.  Once you’ve assessed what you’re feeling, you can be a strategic detective and solve the forces driving them. Walking your “why” is the process both of understanding what is important to you, and of incorporating these values into your day-to-day actions. For example, if you often feel unhappy or bitter when plans fall through, or friends ignore you, then a sense of community or loyalty could be vital to you. What are the values deep within you? Bring those values more consistently with your everyday interactions. Strive for a goal that’s motivated by your values. Forget about the “have-to” (wagging the finger) and focus on “want-to” (willing heart). This will determine whether a change will be successful.

Our thoughts, our emotions, and our stories help us to flourish in a progressively complex and stuffed world. The key to a joyful life is acknowledging ourselves.  Be more adaptable and more resilient so that you may not only succeed but truly shine. We are continually evolving, and we must use our emotional agility to promote a healthy transformation and increase our emotional intelligence.

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