Difficult emotions? Try this!

Uncategorized Oct 18, 2022

The first time I came across the idea of journaling was on a meditation retreat. 

My friend Andre, the host, said it was something he did to manage the effects of stress release. 

Most people think a meditation retreat sounds peaceful and soothing, and it can be, but it can also be tough at times.  

When we calm the mind and rest the body deeply, suppressed emotions rise to the surface to be felt, processed and released. 

Sometimes it happens quietly in the background and sometimes it’s a heavy and difficult experience. 

This is what I mean when l say “stress release,” and sometimes the stress being released will have the same flavour on the way out that it had on the way in.   

It’s not unusual to shed some tears while on retreat, but it’s OK. Letting go of old emotional baggage makes us feel lighter, happier, and more free in life. 

Journalling can facilitate this process too. It’s a great way to move uncomfortable thoughts out of the mind and onto paper.

And there’s some good research to back up how effective journalling is too. 

For example, this study showed writing in a journal could be as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy when it comes to reducing the risk of depression in young adults. 

But how do we fit journalling into a busy life on top of everything else?

Won’t it add more pressure and stress? 

No it won’t. Not the way I do it. And I’ll explain exactly how it works now

7 Steps to process difficult emotions

Deep meditation won’t always bring up suppressed emotions. Oftentimes, that process happens quietly in the background so the meditation experience itself feels peaceful and serene. 

However, sometimes the stress being released during meditation will have the same flavour on the way out that it had on the way in.

This is where journalling can be useful. This is how I do it: 

  1. Timing: I only do journalling when I feel the need to. It’s probably better as a daily practice but I use it more as a tool to help me work through difficult states of mind. If I was having trouble sleeping, I would reach for the journal before trying anything else.  
  2. Time limit: I give myself just 10 minutes for journalling. I can write for longer if the words keep flowing but I use 10 minutes as the minimum. 
  3. Forget spelling, punctuation and grammar: Literally, just allow the words to spill from your mind onto the page. Assume nobody (including yourself) will ever read it back. It’s just a way to process thoughts and feelings so let it flow. 
  4. Don’t try to make sense or work things out logically: There’s no structure, big insight or conclusion needed. Just let the words flow from your subconscious mind even if it sounds like nonsense. 
  5. Don’t steer the direction: If your thoughts are dark, aggressive or uncomfortable, still write them down. Remind yourself that you aren’t choosing these thoughts. They’re impersonal and arising due to causes you don’t control. They’re better out than in. 
  6. Always use a pen or pencil: Journalling on a laptop or phone won’t work as well. 
  7. Always finish with a positive thought: For example, the last line you write could always be something like: “and all of this is absolutely fine. This is life flowing through me!”

A big thank you goes to my friend Andre Berry for tuning me into this practice.


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