Guide for Journaling
Just about every self-help book and daytime talk show urges some form of journaling as an aid to understanding and personal growth. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to journal. Unfortunately, most of it is bad.
Outcome research on the benefits of journaling shows mixed results. Sometimes keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences helps, but often it makes things worse. In general it is likely to hurt if it tries to help you “know yourself” in isolation and helps if it leads to greater understanding and behavior change in your interactions with others.
Journaling can have a negative effect on your behavior and well being if it:
Journaling can have a positive effect on your behavior and well being if it:
Below is a guide to reap the benefits of journaling while avoiding the pitfalls.
Write a few sentences about a problem or feelings that need expression:
Try to look objectively at the thoughts, emotions, and behavior you expressed. Write a few sentences considering each of the following:
How accurate are the thoughts, emotions, and behavior you expressed?
What is the evidence for them?
Would you think the same if you felt comfortable?
Would you feel the same if you were firmly in touch with your core values?
Are you acting according to your deepest values and the kind of person you want to be? Write a few sentences about how your description above is in keeping with your deepest values:
Can you convert the negative energy of this experience into positive creativity and growth? Write a few sentences considering each of the following:
What can you learn from this matter?
How can you grow from this experience?
How can it make you a better person?
Can you be less reactive? Write a few sentences about how you can allow those you wrote about above to have negative emotions without becoming negative yourself (remember that people’s behavior reflects the current state of their core value):
Can you tolerate a certain amount of ambiguity or lack of clarity about this matter? Write a few sentences considering each of the following:
Is it okay to have mixed feelings about the matter you described above?
Can you raise your confidence to deal with the worst case scenario, should it occur?
Do you have a plan of action should the worst case scenario happen?
What are the perspectives of other people in your problem description? Write a few sentences considering each of the following:
How would they describe the events?
What core hurts might they be experiencing or avoiding (unimportant, guilty, devalued, powerless, inadequate, or unlovable)?
Are you being as humane and compassionate as you want to be? Write a few sentences considering each of the following:
Do you think the other people involved in your description are more frail than cruel or evil?
Which core hurt are they experiencing or trying to avoid?
Describe what you will do to improve the situation you described above.
If you cannot improve the situation, write how you will improve your experience of the situation, i.e., how can you make it better or more pleasant for yourself?
Journaling is designed as a self-help technique. But many people have asked how to arrange for Dr. Stosny to personally review and comment by email on their journal entries. He has agreed to offer that consultation for the same discount rate as his telephone consultations, $250 per 50-minute session.