Journaling For Emotional Clarity

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” 
― Christina Baldwin

A few weeks ago, I was walking my dog, listening to a Kelsey Patel podcast. She was talking about this expectation to happy all the time, and how human beings would be a lot happier if they let go of this expectation and welcome the full spectrum of emotions as they come. This idea really interested me, because at the time, I often felt like I was chasing the feelings of happiness and fulfillment as if any other feeling was wrong. I hated feeling sad or stressed, because, well, who doesn’t? Anxiety was giving me shortness of breath and sadness made me want to quit the whole day and lay in bed and do nothing. Why would I want to welcome that? Sure, chasing happiness was often exhausting but surely it was better than experiencing anxiety and sadness, right?  I decided to experiment with the theory by documenting my emotions and writing down how I was feeling in my journal, making sure to journal when I was feeling upset or anxious.

Shortly afterward, a particular incident occurred at work that had me really upset for days. It was one of those situations that you replay over and over in your head, analyzing everything and wishing you could go back and say something else. I’m not kidding when I say that I couldn’t go ten minutes without thinking about it. So I wrote about it. Writing it all out made me feel like I was validating my feelings, instead of feeling like a confused, emotional mess. Not only did the clarity help me move on from the situation, but writing it down was extremely therapeutic and gave me a better understanding of myself. I wrote again when I was feeling unmotivated and then again when I was feeling jealous. Did it automatically make  the problem go away? No. But it did make me feel better. Journaling has been a part of my life since I was ten, but instead of just recounting what I did that day, I was getting deeper into my daily experiences and how they made me feel.

Since then, I’ve been able to notice that a lot of the time, simply acknowledging how I am feeling and really specifying the “what” and the “why” clears a lot up for me. I am angry. Why? Because my co-worker twisted my words and it felt very betraying.  Coming to that conclusive realization of “angry” and “betrayed” felt a lot more grounding to me then having a million thoughts going through my head and re-playing the events over and over. After understanding the what and the why, the next steps seemed more clear and easier to navigate. This is how I am feeling and I can choose to move on, forgive, forget or whatever I think would be best. I find that writing it out really elicits my gut intuition, and the answer almost always unfolds for me.

Writing down my thoughts and feelings is a great exercise for me and now, I’m able to take a moment to identify how I’m feeling as different situations occur. A lot of the time, I realize that any anger I had was rooted in something else. What has this situation triggered for me? Fairness? Status? It’s tough to come to certain conclusions that can make me feel a little defensive. Maybe I realize that I’m upset because I’m a little jealous, or maybe I’m angry because I’m feeling insecure about my performance.  I’ve noticed it to be a really maturing experience, but also an extremely liberating one.  I stopped feeling like my emotions were out of control when I released my expectation to be happy all the time. Journaling and allowing myself to be sad or scared  or anxious has helped me get a better hold of my emotions, making me feel more grounded,  and honestly, more human.

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