Have you tried journaling as a way to express your thoughts and feelings, but realized it’s unhelpful? For some people, traditional journaling or using a “Dear Diary” approach creates increased emotional reactions.
By writing out the stressful event and your feelings about it, you’re actually reliving your day, and thus reliving those negative emotions. Below I outline four alternatives to traditional journaling you can do independently or combine with therapy to enhance the therapeutic process.
4 Journal Variations
: At the end of each day, list 3 positive things from your day. Do this every day, even on difficult days. Over time, you’re training your brain to be aware of those micro moments of happiness, and teaching your brain how to choose what it gives attention to. This is a tool that helps manage intrusive, negative, fear-based, or anxious thinking. An added benefit is that on a difficult day you can go back and look through prior entries. We can’t always recall those micro moments of happiness, so having the journal to reference and relive them with a sense of gratitude and appreciation is just another coping skill to add to your coping skill toolbox!
: Explore your natural thoughts, feelings, or ideas about a situation. If you’re unsure how you feel about something, let yourself explore this as you journal what naturally comes to your mind on the topic without overthinking, worrying, or analyzing. This can also enhance therapy by exploring and discovering root causes or unresolved issues to then process in session(s)!
: This is a tool I use for grief, trauma, and inner child work to promote healing. Allow yourself to identify positive memories, happy memories, moments of joy, or positive outcomes of a challenging situation. Keep a running list in a journal dedicated to this so you can continue to add to this as memories pop up in your mind. Review this log when you’re triggered or have a negative, intrusive thought come to your mind. You’re learning how to redirect your attention to gratitude, and this is very healing for the brain. You can also bring this log with you to share and process in session.
: Take a break from the day and give your brain the space to be imaginative, creative, innovative, silly even! It’s very healing for your brain to allow yourself the space to be imaginative. Select a creative writing prompt and journal on that only. Let me emphasize the creative
piece— this is not a deep journaling prompt, but a fun creative prompt, such as, “You wake up to find yourself in an astronaut suit on a surfboard in the snow”
…. Write the story!
Creative Writing Prompts
- Write a message in a bottle. Write about the person who finds it.
- Write a story in which each sentence will begin with a different letter of the alphabet, beginning with the letter A, and moving sequentially.
- Write a scene in which two people leave believing opposite things are true.
- You are a pirate. Describe your perfect day.
- Write a scene from the POV of living in a dollhouse.
- Write a life as a series of postcards.
- Closed Doors: What’s behind the door? Why is it closed?
- Shadow: Imagine you were someone’s shadow for a day.
- Numbers: Write a poem about numbers that have special meaning to you.
- Jewelry: Write a story about a piece of jewelry. Who does it belong to? What is the mystery behind this chosen piece of jewelry.
- Carnival: Write an entry inspired by a carnival or street fair.
- Bring on the Cheese: Write a tacky love poem that is so cheesy, it belongs on top of a pizza!
Do you have a favorite creative writing topic that you’d like to share? Submit it to us and we’ll add it to the list! Let’s Journal Together!