Published on December 7th, 2013 | by Amy Jane Helmericks


(Blog) Keep Two Journals

Jennifer Marshall has written for Wyn about the power of journaling to aid in mental illness recovery.

I am also a journaler, but in my experience I have had a very difficult time following a prescription very well.  I would urge anyone who’s considered journaling to dive in and “just do,” even if you do not follow any of the good advice you’ve gathered over the years.

I have journaled since I was 13, and (horror at my handwriting aside) one of the biggest things I’ve learned is the value of multiple books.

Related to my Life & Fiction column, When a Mirror Is a Window, journaling your own thoughts can give you the rare opportunity to be your own mirror, and even to untangle the strands of your own thoughts from the ideas that were planted by people without a positive investment in the outcome.

By having multiple journals, you might have a journal that fits your feelings at one moment better than another.  It could make you more willing to write or more genuine in what you disclose or discover for yourself.

One of the newest pieces of advice I just picked up emphasizes a specific application of this.

Colett Baron-Reid, author of Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much, recommends in that book to keep two journals: one for negative thoughts, one for positive.

why you should keep two journals emotional health

The advantages of this approach jumped out at me even before I read her justification: Especially for those of us with “negativity shame” (my term for the taboo about saying anything without a positive slant), having a designated collection spot will contribute to deeper honesty and a fuller recording of your process.

Many people report finding a thread of hope even in their dreary journals, and the beginning of redemption. Others want to give the writing to a safe person to read, in order to feel fully heard. Still others may want to burn it in effigy.

The point is that both negative and positive feelings and words are equally real, and the mirror you hold up to yourself will be more meaningful when you know it is more complete.

The positive journal is one that you’ll have to pay more attention to fill, if you’re like me. This is the place I want you to write down every nice thing anybody ever says about you: even the grocery checker who affirms, “Good parenting skills!” when you’ve said “no” 64 times in the check-out line. Therese Borchard, author of Beyond Blue, calls this her “Self esteem file” and affirms the value of this resource when she’s in the darker times of her depression.

Therese’s therapist urged her to compile such a file and encouraged her to go to the circle of her closest friends and actually solicit a list of ten positives from each of them. Therese did so, and while the asking was mortifying, the results were worth it.

I think it could be useful to even offer to exchange lists with your closest friends: offer them a list of ten affirmations or encouragements as well.

This is the book you pull out on the inevitable “dip” days that gang up and lie to you about your value and how you look in the wrong mirrors.

This is where you go when you’re weak, and by separating these words out from your negative unloading, you have a balm waiting to remind you that you have value that is recognized, even outside yourself—because that is important, too.

Spending time in your “positives” book can also be growing and stretching. You are a very rare person if you automatically think of yourself in those terms, but if you do, I’m so thankful. You’re healthier than most, and I hope you are learning to turn that toward others and be a world-champion encourager.

If you’re still looking for “your” way of journaling, consider these starting places:

  1. Everything you need to write through to empty your heavy heart. Just start with, “Yesterday, I…”

  2. Every compliment you receive. Every happy thought you want to remember. Such as:

  • “You are a tremendous resource. We’re so glad you’re in our life.”
  • “Your candor has always been so useful.”
  • “I’m so glad you picked me.”

When we deeply value others, learning (or confirming) they have similar regard for us is both humbling and energizing.  We know the depth of our own regard, and seeing the window-mirror of that regard from someone else is an image that is good to have.

Picture by Lynsey O’Donnell via Stock.Xchng

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About the Author

Amy Jane Helmericks

is the Associate Editor of Wyn Magazine. She is a wife, mother, and word artist in Alaska encouraging others to confidence, freedom and self-respect through writing.

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