I have written in a journal ever since I can remember.
I have shelves and shelves of journals in my house. Sometimes I pick one up and read a random entry, from 1994, 2002 or three weeks ago. I am always taken back to the moment, remembering a fond place, a special person or a difficult day. Whether I have written about something that was pleasant or difficult, I always have a nostalgic feeling re-reading my journal entry.
Over the years, I have turned to my journal like an old friend. It has served as a space to write down happy moments and difficult emotions. I always feel happy after writing.
In the past few years, I have started using journaling with my clients in my practice. I have also started including it as a study topic in my “working with special needs families” course for professionals.
I coach parents struggling with their child’s diagnosis or the every day challenges of autism to use a journal to put their thoughts and worries on paper, notice when they use « negative » language and learn to make their language more upbeat and positive. This tool helps them to change their view of their situation, feel relieved and empowered and find joy in the day to day. It helps them improve their relationships with their spouses and children. It helps them find gratitude in the simplest of places and the happiness that follows.
7 tips for writing a journal entry :
1.Don’t overthink it !
Write what you are experiencing, have experienced, are feeling, have felt… Don’t censor what you write. The first step to therapeutic journaling is just getting everything out on paper.
2.Re-read what you have written with a highlighter in hand.
Find the sentences where you have written something « negative » or something that makes you feel disempowered. Examples : « I can’t », « I never », « he never listens to me », « I don’t know how to connect with my child », « I’m exhausted » … The list goes on and on.
3.On a new piece of paper, make corrections !
Change each negative sentence in to an affirmative, power-inducing sentence. « If I feel unheard, I can ask to be listened to », « I always do my best », « I will take a rest and then feel recharged », « using a communication system helps me have some interaction with my autistic child » …
4.Make your journal beautiful.
The more beautiful your journal is to you, the more likely you are to feel happy writing in it. Decorate your journal with images of things that make you feel happy – loved ones, pets, favorite items, happy quotes… The sky is the limit ! Be creative !
5.Involve your child in your journaling.
Ask your child to draw on one of your journal pages. Nothing brings a smile to a parent’s face like their child’s drawing !
6.Enjoy a favorite beverage while journaling – this can be a morning coffee, an early evening glass of wine, an herbal infusion before bed, or a green smoothie !
7.Carve out time for yourself to journal every day.
You will feel so much better for it ! This can be 5 minutes or 2 hours. Whatever works for you is a good start.
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