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Reframe your Perspective through Journaling

I am not certain which bleary, sleepless night it was, but at some point in the early stages of my marital separation I opened the Notes app in my phone and started pouring my heart out. Clicking away at a pace my seventh grade keyboarding teacher would have been speechless over, I typed until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. There I was drifting off, almost feeling relieved.

Diaries were reserved for middle school drama or high school heartbreak and the thought of “journaling” in my late 30’s seemed juvenile and a complete waste of time. Until that night. I’m not even sure I consciously realized that I was, in fact, journaling. But I knew the outcome – an unfamiliar feeling of relief that resulted in a few hours of sleep. Something that had eluded me for what felt like an eternity, realistically maybe decades.

The next night was the same. And the next and the next after that. Soon I was in such a routine that I found myself looking forward to “the vent,” as I internally referred to my nightly ritual. It was incredibly cathartic. A purge. It didn’t erase what I was feeling but it created the opportunity to put down the back breaking bucket of awfulness that I carried around all day. I continued this routine for the entire five months that I lived separated, yet under the same roof. I thought for sure I would receive some sort of capacity alert in my Notes app.

The day I moved out I treated myself to a beautiful, new paper journal. No more clicking away in the dark night on my phone. I had embraced journaling for what it was and I gracefully graduated to a gorgeous, obviously sparkly, hard cover blank book. It was time for “the vent” to meet good, old fashioned pen and paper.

My new normal was frightening and peaceful all at once. It was unfamiliar, sometimes overwhelming, and there was so much to navigate whether I was up for it or not. Journaling was still a constant, a life line of sorts. Every night I would purge the day. But I found myself focusing entirely too much, almost solely, on the sadness or despair of my situation. My entries were filled with heartache over missing my kids, sheer feelings of emptiness and failure. I began wondering…was this really how I viewed my life? Because for sure, this was not what I had envisioned or who I had wanted to become.

Journaling brought me a certain sense of power. It was time to leverage that power in a different way.

I decided to start small. Each night, before writing anything else in my journal I compelled myself to answer one question.

“What are 3 good things about today?”

It was an intentional pause to first focus my energy and attention on the positive. Surprisingly, it felt amazing. And it was easier than I thought. I committed to this practice every night and it became so routine I found myself noticing, and appreciating, more “little things” throughout the day. A good cup of coffee, an unexpected compliment from my boss, making dinner with the kids, hearing a certain song on the commute home, a good sweat on the treadmill…these little things were there all along…but now I was noticing them. Noticing how they made me feel and the deposits they made in my life. They were all written down. And what started out as a small step towards “just being a little more positive,” had started to monumentally shift my perspective of my entire situation. I was grateful.

On the difficult days, and there were some, I found myself flipping back through the pages upon pages of all the good in life. The small things, the big things, all the things. Flipping pages became my go-to, an instant reminder. I was surrounded by good. I created good. I had good. And I would continue to “be good.”

Journaling can be an extremely powerful tool and I often recommend it to clients and friends. If you find yourself in a journaling rut, challenge yourself to reframe the prompt. A simple reframe can help unlock healthier perspectives and truly begin to shift your mindset!