Battle Negativity with Journaling

Psychologist Alice Boyes, Ph.D has written

5 Self-Reflection Questions to Bolster Mental Health

These prompts might be great to include in your journal; they help to turn around negative thinking. Dr. Boyes makes a note that they are careful not to incite toxic positivity.

Dr.Boyes’ 5 Prompts

  • 1. What have you done lately that worked out much better than anticipated
  • 2. Who have you thought fondly about that would probably enjoy hearing from you?
  • 3. When have you observed the best aspects of humanity lately?
  • 4. When have you observed something relaxing and calming about the natural world lately?
  • 5. When have you observed something beautiful in the human-made world lately?

Find the full explanation at 5 Self-Reflection Questions to Bolster Mental Health.



Writing in Public

There are those who only write at home. There are those who enjoy writing on the go, whether on vacation or just as a regular practice. Let’s discuss the latter.

When writing in public it has been this author’s experience that it is rare that anyone cares what you are writing or that you are writing at all. Meaning, try not to worry whether someone will be nosy. Just fall into the joy on the page.

Where to write? Anywhere.

  • Write in the waiting room while having an oil change. You might overhear a fun turn of phrase to jot down.
  • Write in the lobby of the hotel as you wait for your friends to join you. Explain why you all are there.
  • Write in the family room at the hospital. The journal can be a planning space or a place to think through next steps.
  • Write at your place of worship. Jot down notes for spiritual guidance later in the week.
  • Write at the park. Enjoy the fresh air and pay attention to how you feel writing outside. Is it enjoyable? Not so much? Jot that down.
  • Write at funerals and capture the stories you hear.
  • Write at a fueling station while on a road trip. Just a quick note or photo that you can write about later.
  • Write on a pier at the lake. Listen to the sounds of nature. What do you hear?
  • Write on your lunch break. Sometimes journaling can help you decompress.
  • Write on the plane after liftoff, if you have enough elbow room. Write about what takes you on this trip. Use the airline logo on a disposable paper napkin as decor on your journal.

Why write in public?

  • To capture the moment
  • To ease anxiety around crowds and chaos
  • To give oneself something productive to do while one waits
  • To further a writing goal
  • To continue the writing habit
  • To entertain oneself

Whatever the reason, writing in your journal in public might be a great habit to start, if you haven’t already. It is enjoyable to write in your journal in public. Wherever you are, journaling is like falling into your favorite, cozy couch.



Journaling When Your Life is “Boring”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. – Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Writing in your journal regularly is not a waste of time because you are not a waste of time. Each person has intrinsic value.

Some people might protest, ” But my life is so boring. Why should I write about it?” Is it?

If our lives are boring then let’s challenge ourselves in our journals to go broad, or go deep, or both.

Go Broad

For instance, if you are tired of writing about your feelings, go broad and include something else. Write a movie review. Draw your best friend. Describe the couple at the next table and reverse engineer how they arrived there.[This is how screenwriter Aaron Sorkin practices creating characters.]

The point is to give yourself variety to write about.

Go Deep

Or go deep. You are bored of writing that you like flowers. Go deeper. Could you include a photo of a flower you saw today and write it’s botanical name and its common name? Could you read a book on flowers and discuss it? Could you join a botanical society and get even more ideas?

The point is that there are worlds beyond the surface. Explore them.

Your thoughts, goals, dreams, observations are assets to your life. Writing them down can provide focus, appreciation, perspective, or even entertainment. Journaling is not boring and neither are you. Dig deeper or embrace more of what is right in front of you.



One Journal, Multiple Topics

Can you journal about more than one topic in a journal? Of course!

You can divide your new book into different mainstay topics. For instance, if you know you want a section on inspirational quotes, another section that plans your day, and another on how you are feeling, then you can section off a journal into three even parts and place a book mark, post-it note, tag, or other marker on the start of each section so that you can get to it easily.

You can journal about more than one topic on the same page. This is where headers will come in handy. Draw spaces for the different topics on the page and write about them in their designated spaces.

Play around with formatting to see what works for you. As always, have fun in the discovery process. Understand that even those of us who have journaled for decades change things from time to time. Do not feel obligated to stick with one format if it does not work for your needs.



What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Word “Journal?”

When you hear or read the word “journal” or “journal writer,” what comes to mind?

What about the word “diary” or “diarist?”

After reading an undergraduate describe resistance to journaling because of the image of a journal writer that they had in mind, I was intrigued.

The author’s preconceived notion was that the word “journal” or “journal writer” was associated with people who share carefully-curated pictures online of a life that seems to be without problems. A journal writer, to the author, is a kind of new hippie health enthusiast who eats granola and shares gratitude platitudes from their journal.

Although many people enjoy granola, in the U.S. referencing this food is sometimes used as a pejorative to describe someone who is out of the ordinary, but also someone who maintains their health. To this student, journaling was part of a lifestyle brand that no one can maintain.

The student found a way around her prejudice and admits that journaling has helped maintain mental health in tough times.

The article caused me to pause and ask questions.

  • What else can prevent a person from trying to journal?
  • What ideas come to mind when you think of journaling?
  • Where did this idea come from?
  • Could you journal about your notions of journaling?
  • Could one investigate the origins of why one resists journaling?
  • What preconceived notions do we have that prevent us from journaling or trying something new?

One preconceived notion that yours truly had (and I did not realize this until reading the article) was that when people think of journaling, they think as I do, that is, of famous people and their books that we are taught from a young age to revere. I was, I now realize, taught to hold in high esteem presidents (and thus, their diaries), monarchs and their personal books, and the diaries of people escaping tragedies that become best selling books. I was also taught to revere fictional characters with journals.

Journal writing examples are from generations past, I thought. Today, that might not be the case. For a younger person, a peer online is just as likely to influence a person to write in a journal as some august figure from the past. Or, in the case of that article writer, a peer online is just as likely to repulse a person and make the writing practice undesirable if it seem unattainable.

This is a new wrinkle for yours truly to contemplate as I try to discover how best to help and inspire people with their personal books.

What preconceived notions prevent you from journaling? What can you do about it?



The Journal Serves You (Not the Other Way Around)

There are those who are intimidated by a journal. Some people fear that they are not doing it “right,” that there is some prescribed method to which they should adhere because a famous person writes in that manner. Some are afraid of making mistakes in a journal.

Journals are your tools. They exist to help you reach whatever goal you have decided for your journal. You are not enslaved to the object, nor should you feel bound to a method used by a powerful or successful person if their method does not work for your goals.

It might be easier said than done for some, perhaps, but do not think of your journal as a master or slave driver. Think of your journal as a friend, a faithful assistant who stands ready and eager to enable your desires and goals for your writing.