3 Ways Journaling Can Help You Process Feelings
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The year was 1986, and Ferris Bueller had taught us all a valuable lesson: the world does not stop for us. Unfortunately, nearly four decades have passed since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off first premiered, and the world has only gotten faster since then.
If you are currently experiencing emotional overload as a result of a fast-moving life — maybe you work a high-stress job, or maybe you need time to process a relationship that is moving way too fast, don’t worry: you’re not alone.
While it’s impossible to slow life down, it is possible to engage in practices and mediums that help you slow down, allowing you to process your emotions at your own pace. You may already know some of them: meditation, reading, cooking and listening to music, to name a few.
Another great (perhaps the best) slow-down tool? Journaling! Journaling allows you to record events and emotions, reflect on them, and plan your next steps accordingly. How? To get you started, here are three quick ways journaling can help you slow down and smell the roses.
1. Journaling helps you name what you’re feeling
The header here might seem a little confusing: what does it mean to “name” what you’re feeling? The truth is, most of us experience things without recording or describing them. When you’re in an emotional funk, you might describe yourself as feeling “off,” “out of sync,” or “unbalanced.” Unfortunately, none of those descriptors are specific enough to accurately describe an emotional state, and if you can’t describe what you’re feeling, it’s hard to change the factors making you feel that way.
Maybe you’re depressed because you’re feeling unhappy about your job. Or maybe you’re feeling stunted in your marriage and can’t work on advancing your career because of it. No matter what you’re experiencing, you’ll be surprised when you sit down and journal, because a funny thing happens when you do — you start to understand what you’re actually feeling!
2. Journaling helps you appreciate what’s going well
It’s called stopping and “smelling the roses” for a reason. While all of us experience stressors and problems in life, journaling can help you really, truly appreciate all the good things, too. There are countless exercises in gratitude that can easily be translated to a journal entry, such as making a list about what you’re thankful for, describing a wonderful thing that happened to you today, or even just naming the qualities about your significant other that you admire.
The benefits of journaling about everything that’s going well are twofold. First, it helps you feel more appreciative for what is going well, instead of focusing on what isn’t. Second, it shows you what you want more of in your life. By taking stock of all the good things, you can shine a light on the things that don’t bring you that same kind of joy, and as a result you’ll be able to begin removing elements of your life that don’t fit.
3. Journaling helps you make significant, life-changing decisions
Slowing down changes people. If anything, that has been a life lesson for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic — by forcing us all to move slowly, we’ve learned much more about ourselves in the process, and many of us have made significant life changes as a result.
The weight and gravity of this “slowness” applies to journaling, too. By assessing your life and deciding what’s making you feel emotionally recharged and what’s making you feel emotionally destitute, you’ll be able to make significant life changes you should’ve made a long time ago. Those life changes can be giant, or they can be small. Maybe you decide you want to keep your house cleaner because you love the feeling of living in a clean environment. Or maybe you want to do something as bold as getting back in shape by running a marathon. Either way, life changes like these don’t happen until a disruptor — such as journaling — helps us make them.
Slow down your emotions and speed up your clarity
Getting clarity on life is easier said than done, especially when things move as fast as they do. That’s why journaling is so key — it’s one of the few mediums left to us that allows us to process things slowly. If you’re simply swamped by a life that just doesn’t stop, consider picking up a journal and letting the words flow.