Apologies to Billy Ocean for tainting his song, but it just seems so appropriate!
I don't know if this will resonate with you, but growing up, I was taught that the best way to solve a problem was to "think it through" and "plan things out". My ability to analyze and my rational thought could, supposedly, get me out of anything. To a great extent, that has proven true. The downside comes if I'm not able to turn the brain off.
Being stuck in your head is like being captive in another reality -- one that can become a very bleak and hopeless place.
There's plenty of research that's shown that overthinking can lead to depression and anxiety and creates barriers to discovering solutions. And, a concern of some researchers and therapists is that journaling can get people stuck in their heads and become passive observers of life. As journalers, we need to make sure that we access our hearts and souls.
This was expressed perfectly to me earlier today by a friend who keeps several journals.
She said, "I'm an introvert. Introverts tend to overthink. So, when I journal, I get rid of the thinking part of me and let my words come through. I feel more connected with ME, my true self. I don't journal to write out negative thoughts, I journal to write through them."
When I asked her to tell me more about writing through, she added, "I journal to remind myself that I am not my thoughts. I feel more grounded when I journal. And before, I usually am frazzled, feeling harried."
So there. That's probably one of the best testaments to the value of journaling I've heard in awhile.
So, Enjoy Billy Ocean and sing along ... Get outta my head, get into my heart ...
With journaling being an activity that's typically motionless -- I've tried journaling while working out on my recumbent exercise bicycle and it makes for handwriting that's impossible to read -- it may seem odd that I'm saying it's something that'll keep you active. But, it is!
If you look at my 1,2,3s of Journaling (Coming Soon!), one of my top suggestions is to look at journaling as an essential supplement to life. In other words, it should enhance and elevate your life; it should NOT be your life. It's an activity to try to do regularly, but I don't recommend it every day. Try to eke out some space once a week at first and see how that feels. I also recommend spending maybe 10 - 20 minutes journaling. Remember, we're journaling, we're not writing War and Peace.
Most of the time, journaling is an uplifting, energizing activity for me. By writing my thoughts or feelings down, I might be relieved of certain burdens (sometimes it's unpleasant things that I can leave on a page, or it's an idea that I don't want to forget, and I need to write through it). Other times, it might be an expression of a wonderful evening that I don't want to forget. Either way, it inspires me and energizes me to go out and engage in life -- to stay active.
But, yes, sometimes, journaling can be tough. If I'm angry or hurt about an event or a conversation, I can write and spiral downward and around and around to a point of obsession. And, if I don't pay attention, I can play that Blame Game really well. Thankfully, most of the time (these days) I catch myself and stop, take a deep breath, and write, "OK, so what am I going to do differently next time?" and "If there's nothing I can do to prevent this, how do I extract myself so I'm not put in that situation again?" Then I close my journal and, with those thoughts in my head, go play with the dogs, go for a walk or go for a drive. I'll usually return to that entry eventually, and more often than not, recognize that the situation wasn't as disastrous as I perceived it at the time, or I'll "force" myself to take some action.
Journaling needs to be kept 1) FUN! (at least most of the time), and 2) have positive life effect. To make that happen, we have to live. And that means being out there in the world, interacting with and experiencing people, nature, and things.
Certainly, journaling is about expression of our thoughts, emotions, and impressions. But effective journaling isn't about living in our heads; we need to be participants in life, exploring different perspectives and solutions. Besides, I don't believe that human dilemmas can be solved without human interaction, and human joys are best shared with others -- and that means: