Journaling for Emotional Health

Have you ever had someone ask you how you’re doing or “what’s wrong” and you couldn’t for the life of you find the right words to answer? Despite being a lover of words, and equal parts capital-F Feeler and a chronic over-thinker, I find myself in this scenario often to frequently.

Emotions are complex, thoughts are unpredictable, and words are hard. It’s no wonder that articulating how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking can feel overwhelming.

However, part of being an adult (by “adult” I mean ever-so-slightly more competent than a toddler) means using our words to articulate how we are feeling and what we are thinking rather than leave our loved ones to read our minds or figure it out on through some other form of sorcery. That’s not fair, or mature, or cool at all.

Apparently saying “nothing’s wrong, yet everything’s wrong” is counter-productive, so I’ve sought some help and come up with a practical writing guide to help me process the rats’ nest of my thoughts and emotions.

Flannery O’Connor says, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say”

     These words hit way too close to home. For me, writing has become an essential component to my mental and emotional health as well as the health of my relationships. When I feel upset, overwhelmed, confused, or just “off” in general, I try to pull away and jot down whatever is on my mind to make sense of what’s going on. I’ve worked with a friend who is also a counselor and she has helped me comprise this guided journal for my own benefit, but also to share with others. This method has worked wonders for communication in my marriage and friendships, but also with myself. It’s one thing to learn how to be honest with others, but if you’re anything like me, I still need to learn to be honest with myself (i.e. acknowledging when I feel disappointed or when I’ve convinced myself that my thoughts are reality, rather than talking myself into thinking everything’s okay).

I want everyone to experience the enlightening, therapeutic, and  restorative effects writing can offer when done intentionally. This  journaling method is designed to help us process all the thoughts and feels and ultimately call us back to truth in the midst of the madness.

 I believe humanity was designed by God, that God both created and  entrusted humans with emotions, and that to feel is an essential part of the  human experience. I also believe that sometimes, some of us (both of my hands are raised) give these feelings a little too much power and can find ourselves living at the mercy of our emotions or stuck in our thoughts. But the truth of the matter is that neither our feelings nor our thoughts dictate our reality. We are not slaves to our emotions. Just because we think something is true does not necessarily make it so. These do not have any power over us that we do not give them. Like everything else  in life, it’s simply a matter of how we steward them. This journaling method is intended to be a practical step forward in  stewarding thoughts and emotions well. 

The first step is to pray and invite God into the process, asking for help and clarity as we interact with our emotions. Steps 2-4 are designed to help us process how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking through guided questions. Steps 5-6 are geared toward helping us create practical actions steps for moving forward in light of truth.

In and of itself, this journaling method cannot and will not fix anything.  Hopefully it will equip us to interact with and articulate our emotions a  little better than before will enable us to encourage and comfort others as they process through their thoughts and emotions as well.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Grab the guide here:

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