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My 9 Stages Of Journaling Through The Years

I’ve been journaling for a bunch of years now. And I really do credit it as the unsung hero between my therapy sessions with my own therapist.

And if you don’t journal, I totally get it. I used to hate it. And in 2020, I even dedicated a blog to my transition from hating journaling, to integrating it into my life.

Over time, I’ve noticed how my journaling has changed. As I’ve grown as a person, so has my journaling habit, to adapt to my changes.

So, without further ado, here are my 9 stages of journaling through the years.

1. Yup…I started out with NOTHING to write about. Sometimes, I legit can’t think of anything to write about. And sometimes, I’m just too intimidated/scared to write about certain topics. So I just kept avoiding journaling. Aaaah…my good ole’ days of avoidance.

2. As I started to accept that I have feelings, and that my every day life isn’t as perfect as I pretend it was, I started to use the journaling as a way to vent and ruminate. These journal entries tend to be long and angry. And it was generally unfocused, as I jumped from topic to topic, and from emotion to emotion. It felt cathartic at times. But other times, I felt like I get stuck in all the emotions.

3. I began to notice that venting and ruminating in my journal wasn’t always helpful. So I went with the approach of doing a CBT journal. CBT is an acronym for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I wrote about it in this blog. In this approach, I would identify moments when I felt out of sorts, and note what was happening at that time. From that, I would identify the emotions and the thoughts that came up from it. And then I would identify my response/behaviour that resulted from all this. This gave me a good system to analyze and understand what was going on for me, during moments where I felt emotions. These journal entries were generally shorter than my venting journal entries, and more focused on helping me understand my patterns.

4. As I did more and more CBT journal entries, I found that I started digging deeper. I began seeing patterns in my triggers. I was slowly uncovering my deeper seeded issues on why I was triggered. At the time, a lot of it was related to issues around self-worth, and a cycle of feeling helpless. In effect, digging deeper was helping me understand my deeper-rooted traumas and issues.

5. Along with the deep reflection using CBT, I began to add positive things into my journals. Notably, I would write a couple things that I felt grateful for, and also my WINS throughout the week. This helped me recognize the good things happening in my life, which added balanced to all the challenging emotions that I would journal about.

6. Over time, I stopped journaling daily. Sometimes, just for a day or two. And other times, for weeks at a time, and even months.

7. And at other times, I would start journaling again. Sometimes regularly, and other times, more sporadically.

8. Repeat steps 6 – 7 a few times.

9. Currently, I have become quite intentional with my journaling. I don’t journal every day. But with my years of journaling (amongst other things), I have learned to recognize how I am feeling, from moment to moment. This self-awareness allows me to recognize when I’m in a funk. So once I know I’m in a funk, I will crack open the journal, and get to it. I’m not perfect though. I would often put off journaling for some time, before I would make time to sit down and reflect on my current funk. I essentially see journaling as a tool to help me reflect, understand myself better, and create necessary changes and adjustments in my life.

So those are my 9-stages of journaling through the years. I went from absolutely hating journaling, to doing it religiously every day, to now recognizing it as a tool to help me process and reflect. As I always say, we are building tools in our lives. And when certain tools are useful, we want to be able to pull it out. And when it isn’t useful in other moments, we want to be able to put it away.

Journaling as a tool, is the same. While journaling every day was useful at one point in my life, I no longer need to use this tool every single day. I’ve grown and changed as a person, and have also adjusted my approach to journaling to make it fit my changing needs.

And I’m sure for you, you’ll have your own process of journaling that works best for you. And it’s ok if that process changes over time. Embrace the process. Embrace the change. The way you journal is part of your own growth and healing.

If you’re considering journaling or just started it, know that there isn’t “the right way” to journal. Go with the flow, and do it in a way that is most helpful for you. And give yourself a little praise after you finish an entry, even if it is just one word or sentence.

If you’re a prolific journaler, it might be a fun exercise to reflect on how your journaling habit has changed over time. That might give you some insights on your growth and healing. Don’t forget to celebrate those WINS!

As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, get my free Asian Survival Guide.

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Harry Au

Therapy for Asians

MSW, RSW | he/him

I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.

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