Friday, March 30, 2012
Writing It Down
About a week and a half ago, I wrote a blog about my commitments list. This week, I added journaling to each day's commitments (I gave it a qualification of "at least 10 minutes" to have something a bit more tangible to track). It's a task that I've gone back and forth on through the years, and I've decided to reinstate it, but in a slightly different manner.
I used to be an avid journaler. I didn't have a thought in my head that I didn't write down virtually every day. Then something changed. I realized that instead of journaling giving me a release, that it was bringing me down. I was having to relive every difficult thing that I had gone through the past day/week/month. I somehow felt compelled to write down every detail, great and terrible, of my day and things that I'd manage to let pass or get over were being recycled. The worst part was, I was doing this to myself. I also noticed that I was focusing way more on the negative things than the positive. I think that perhaps this is a widespread tendency when journaling - we need to "get out" those things that are bothering us. Still, I realized that despite all of the good things going on, if I looked back on my journals five years from now, my life would appear in shambles.
Despite this, I am still a proponent of journaling. I feel it allows me to provide insight to myself that I might not have otherwise. There's something about writing things down that seems to somehow offer a new perspective. Maybe this is because I generally tend to journal later in the day, and I've given the events some time to rest, allowing for a more objective view.
On this go round of journalling I decided I needed to preserve the benefits of the activity without falling into the habit of negativity. In an effort to keep to this, I've set up a few rules for myself.
1. I always start with something positive. Even something as small as "I had just a great grilled cheese for lunch". That's an exaggeration, but you get the idea. I never start out by "complaining". It helps set the tone for the entry.
2. I try as much as possible to write about my feelings and thoughts, not relive every event in full detail. I have to remember that this isn't an autobiography for others to read (or at least I hope not) - I'm not telling a story , I'm writing my thoughts. I already know the story, no need to do a play by play commentary.
3. As mentioned earlier, I gave myself a time suggestion. Sometimes it's much longer than this, but it reminds me that I don't have to write a novel, I can just write a few key thoughts.
4. I have put this on my commitments list as a daily commitment. When I don't journal on a regular basis, I tend to revert into that long-winded story telling model of writing. When I write daily, I tend to be more reflective and insightful because I don't feel the urge to "catch up" (catch who up I'm not sure, but it's an urge I get none-the-less).
If you're not usually much of a writer or are nervous about falling into the negativity trap, you may want to target your journal to a specific topic. I know people who have kept happiness journals, gratitude journals and meditation journals. You could focus it around a specific task or project. This narrows your focus and can help from falling into pessimism. If you're still not sold, try it for a few minutes. Pick a topic (something not super negative) and jot down a few things. Bullet point it if you'd like. Set a timer so you don't focus on too much but get out a few ideas. If you have any additional journaling hints or types, I'd love to hear them!