I didn’t realise that the first blog on journaling would be so long and so I have had to break it up into two separate blogs. After looking over the content for this blog, I will also do a third blog titled “Advanced journaling techniques” that will delve into how to take journaling to the next stage to help facilitate change. If you haven’t read my first blog on journaling then if you want, I would advise you to have a quick look over that before this one and you can check it out here: https://www.evolvementalhealth.ie/post/cbt-techniques-journaling
Now to jump straight in and to continue on from where we left off, I feel the next questions that would be asked after showing someone the benefits of journaling and how to journal would be the following:
1. What is the best way to journal?
2. How do I maintain journaling?
3 How do I get the most out of journaling?
For this blog, I will try and answer these questions from a CBT perspective and hopefully give more insight into journaling.
What is the best way to journal?
I would say that 80% of my clients would be journaling and all of them differ in how they journal. I don’t believe there is a standard one best way, the very same as I don’t believe there is one best way to recovery (Otherwise there would be one book/way and everyone would be doing it). The first step would be to set out what form of journaling works for you.
The standard method for journaling would be having a journal/copy book with a pen/pencil and using this to record your entries. If this is the preferred method then I would recommend getting yourself a journal in a shop or finding one online and having that solely as your journal. The reason for this is that we want to start building behaviours of journaling and the best way to do that is to have your own journal/copy book.
Along with the standard I have had clients use the following methods:
- Voice recording their entry’s on their phone which makes it super easy to do as most people have their phones on them but the cons would be it is harder to listen back to everything that has been recorded and it takes a lot longer.
- Having an online journal or word document that is saved on a google drive/one drive or online, this can then be accessed by your phone/computer/laptop or tablet. This method is popular for the ease of use and ease of access for reading back. The only con I would see is that it can become too easy to be distracted. Call me old fashioned but I like the idea of dedicating some time to getting out your pencil and journal and putting the phone/social media away and just focusing on that.
- The last alternative method is by email. Open your email, put in a date and time and then record what you want to put down. This helps as you can email it to yourself and have all the entries logged with times and dates along with the possibility of emailing your therapist before the session with everything.
To answer the original question, what is the best way to journal? I would say to try out various methods and see which one works for you the best. The most important thing is to be comfortable with the method that works for you.
How do I maintain journaling?
The hardest thing I find with people after starting to journal is to keep up and maintain the journaling. It might seem like an interesting new thing to try out but the new novelty soon wears off. Unless you really enjoy journaling which luckily a lot of people do, we have to have a look at other ways to maintain the journaling. The first I would say is to understand the process, this is not a short term thing and not something you might see short term results from. This is a process that will pay off in the long term and can be a goal to better understanding yourself and learning about how you interact with the world and other people. Remember the three outcomes from my previous blog: Awareness of how we act in the world, starting to view the world in the CBT way (Situation/Thoughts/Emotions/Behaviors) and lastly change.
When we struggle to maintain something, it can help to remind ourselves and focus on why we are doing it and what we will get out of it. Remember the long term benefits. Another thing I would definitely recommend is having a set time that you do your journaling. If you do it once a week or once a day then pick a time that works for you like early in the morning after waking up or in the evening before bed. Picking a set time and doing your best to stick with it will help maintain the behavior of journaling.
How to get the most out of journaling?
Once we have the basics - which would be a good routine started and an understanding of how and why we journal, we now start looking at how do we get the most out of journaling. Like the last blog, this has definitely run over on what I would have considered a good word count for a blog and will have an even more in depth one next time looking at advanced techniques for journaling in a CBT manner.
I would say the best way to get the most out of journaling is both in the past and the present. When I say the past I mean reading over your previous entries and looking for patterns of how you are reacting to situations that might have caused some level of stress and notice how you reacted. Another thing that should start showing is patterns to how you are interacting or perceiving the world with regard to how your anxious/depressive etc thoughts that are showing up. One important note here would be to delve into the theory of how our thoughts play out. It is widely accepted within CBT to believe that the thought will always come before the emotion. The thinking here is that something has to tell your body what to feel. The thought will come from the situation and then tell the body how to feel with emotions. This is why a huge emphasis is put on understanding the thoughts and how they are playing out in our patterns. Again I will go into more detail of this in the next blog. But the goal is that with better understanding and awareness, we are better able to control or challenge the thought before the emotions take over.
The final way to get more out of journaling is when I mentioned the future above. When I say the future, I mean looking at your patterns in the past journal entries and planning change. An example: “I notice that I get angry in certain situations”; “I will watch out for this next time and try to better challenge or control the thoughts so I don’t get as angry.“
I like to think of journaling as a tool to help facilitate change and something that you can use for the rest of your life if you need it. I hope this has given some insight into journaling and stay tuned for my next blog around more advanced CBT techniques for journaling.
Again any questions, I would be more than happy to answer at: Patrick@evolvementalhealth.ie or contact our team at email@example.com