In many of my appearances and my books I talk about the power of journaling. From the release of emotions to getting clear about what we want and don’t want, journaling can be a fabulous tool for self-discovery.
However, I sometimes hear people tell me they struggle with journaling because they believe it just captures the negative things that happen in their lives. I had one woman even tell me she stopped journaling after 20 years because one day she looked at the large box of used journals in her closet and saw it as a “treasure chest of gloom and doom” – her words not mine!
I can certainly understand that perspective, but only if you limit your journaling to releasing and not learning from your experiences. Here’s what I mean.
As you sort through your emotions and write out your struggles you generate a lot of trash—those thoughts and feelings that don’t serve your well-being but, instead, keep alive your negative beliefs and painful emotions from the past. It’s human nature to want to get out all of our anger, sadness, and fear and speak our truth, however ugly it may be.
It’s important to let go of the harsh feelings and judgments and focus on what you have learned and how you’ve grown. Set an easy schedule for yourself, such as once a week or once a month to Dump the Garbage. As you read your journal entries, use a colored highlighter to mark any passages that are “gems”: insights that have value and can serve you in the future.
If you keep a separate gratitude journal, or what I recommend in my Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much program, a Solutions and Insights journal, write about your insights and the treasure you’ve found in your lesson. You’ll be better able to track your real growth and progress, and less likely to sabotage yourself.
As you reread what you wrote when you had negative thoughts and emotions, think about how much weight you gave them in the moment and how much they have right now. Does it seem like a lot of drama about something minor? Did you invest emotional energy in a situation or a thought or emotion that you now see really wasn’t important?
Now, as you look at these passages, say aloud, I release these thoughts and feelings with love and compassion for myself and everyone. Imagine they are being taken to a garbage dump to fertilize something better. Take a moment to feel a sense of relief at having dumped the garbage.