The journaling techniques that got me out of depression

I struggled with depression the most of my adult life. The weird thing about that is that, while I was depressed, I was doing the journaling, I was writing most of the days, I used to sit down and write three pages per day about how miserable I was! But it wasn’t helping… until I discovered that there were many different ways to journal for mental well being. It took me five years to get to a place where journaling has really become a healing tool for me so I want to share some techniques that have really changed the way that I journal and that could help you be yourself again.

I’ve divided the journaling techniques in two categories. The first category is all about expressing your emotions. And the second category is about self growth, reflection and bettering yourself. 

Journaling to express your emotions

  • Letter writing

One of the first tools that I use when I’m feeling upset, angry or when I’m holding onto resentment is letter writing. When you feel like you need to get something off your chest, but you’re not able to do it because the person that you’re holding grudges against is not there or you’re not comfortable actually saying what you think to that person straight to their face, writing them a letter is a great way to let those things out so they’re not stuck within you and making you sick. 

Letter writing can also be done to connect with Allah. You can write letters to communicate with Him, to tell him everything about how you are feeling, to ask Him for things, to make dua… It can be a great way to rekindle a bond with him that might have been lost. 

You can also write letters to yourself or to people that are not amongst us anymore. It’s a beautiful way to process grief, to go through sad moments, to let go of the past, to forgive yourself for things that you’ve done that haven’t served you. 

  • Free hand writing

The concept of free hand writing is pretty simple. You just have to sit in front of a piece of paper or your journal and write everything that’s been on your mind without overthinking about the process at all. So there’s no prompts here. Do not censor yourself when trying this technique, let it flow without any judgments and with a lot of compassion. It’s basically a brain dump of all the things that have been in your mind. It helps declutter your head and make space for what’s really important for you. Often this practice is called the morning pages because people do it right at the beginning of the day so that they’re fresh and ready to approach anything that comes their way. 

  • Powerful questions

The third technique when it comes to processing your emotion is about using powerful questions to handle fear and anxiety. Some of those questions are 

What am I worried about right now

If this thing really happened, what is the worst case scenario?

What can I do to avoid the worst case scenario? 

How can I prepare for this worst case? 

What is the best case scenario and what can I do to make that happen? 

Those prompts have been a life changer in my life because I used to be a big time over thinker. I would worry about things months before they would happen and would make small inconveniences into really big deals. Journaling on those questions really helped me put things back into perspective and realise that nothing was that big of a deal. 

It also helped me realise that fear is not necessarily a bad emotion. It’s just a feeling that’s telling you that you’re not prepared for a situation and that maybe you could work on something to improve things.

Journaling for growth

  • Knowing yourself

The first section is about understanding who you are, here you can use any prompts related to you:

What are your favourite things in life? 

What are your favourite movies, colours…

All the weird questions that we would ask each other when we were kids, bring them back! Especially when you feel stuck and confused about who you are.

What do I like the most about myself? 

What do I dislike the most about myself? 

And how can I work on improving that? 

How would I describe myself in three words? 

The answer to that question will tell you a lot about your inner dialogue. If you come up with a majority of negative words, you know that there’s some work to do here in terms of self esteem and self love. 

These prompts will also help you identify any limiting beliefs that you have about yourself and knowing yourself is a foundation of building confidence. That’s why it’s so important to reflect on those problems. 

  • Situation assessment 

The second section in the reflection and growth parts of journaling is all about assessing situations. This is something that companies use a lot and is basically about assessing a situation after going through an experience, whether it’s a positive one or a negative one.

I started doing that with pretty much everything in my life. After launching a new program, I will ask myself:

What went well

What could be improved

What went wrong?

What can I improve for next time?

I got these prompts from my business coaches. They have really helped me improve in all fields of my life. You can use them in your personal life as well in your relationships with people, in your marriage, with your kids… When you have an argument and you find yourself losing your temper, you can ask yourself those things. 

We do not learn from experience we learn from reflecting on experience

John Dewey

You can go through many things in your life and still make the same mistakes. But if you sit down and ask yourself questions like this, chances are you are going to better yourself after that experience and you’re going to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. 

  • Decision making

All of us are faced with decisions, baby. It’s actually something that we do every second of our life, we make choices. And journaling can be really practical when we are struggling to decide what to do on a specific topic. 

This tool is simple: you just have to sit down and ask yourself what are the pros and cons of this situation?

Assess it as if you were a professional approaching a business venture:

What do I have to lose? 

What is there to win?

There’s one particular prompt that I like using because I’m a very emotional person, it is about separating your emotions from the facts, by asking yourself:

What are my emotions when it comes to this issue and what are the facts?

Sometimes I want to buy something because I think I need it for example. The reality is that my emotions are trying to convince me that I need something when the fact is I don’t really need it. If I sit down and I reflect on this purchase that I want to make and I look at it from a rational perspective, many times it will help me make a better decision. 

Another example is when you meet someone that you like and your emotions are all over the place because there’s a certain attraction towards that person. But when you look at the facts and the rational side of things, is that person compatible with you? Is their way of life compatible with yours? Are your values similar… 

When you answer the rational questions you might notice that without emotions, there’s no way that this relationship could work long term. A

  • Gaining and retaining knowledge

I don’t know about you, but my memory is pretty useless when it comes to retaining important and beneficial information. But if you ask me about something hurtful that someone told me five years ago, I will definitely remember that though. 

To help with this issue, I have started writing down all the things that I come across that I think will benefit me on an intellectual level. The act of writing things down really helps remembering them. 

And if I forget something that I’ve learned, I can always come back to my knowledge notebook. 

This technique has proven itself to be efficient when trying to memorise new du’as. By writing them down and reading them at the end of the day, you’ll be able to remember them in no time!

I would definitely recommend you get a small notebook where you can easily write down things that you want to remember, especially spiritual knowledge and that you start storing those gems. 

That way you can also share some of the knowledge that you’ve been accumulating with the people that you love or the people that you meet.

Let me know in the comment section below which technique you’re going to use first!

Make sure to grab your free journaling resources here and subscribe to my Youtube channel to watch my videos about journaling. 

 

 

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