Journaling is recognized as a powerful tool for self-reflection and is an excellent way to process emotions. It can offer you a private space where you can express thoughts and feelings without judgment or interruption.
I like to use this simple four-prompt journaling exercise to work with uncomfortable and upsetting emotions: 1) Describe the event. 2) Describe your feelings. 3) Write down what you believe + 4) Write down what is probably the truth.
This approach can effectively provide clarity and insight into your emotional experiences.
You can use this simple exercise to explore any emotions that come up in or after a situation. Although I recommend that you sit down and write (for a bigger therapeutic effect) it’s so simple that you can actually just run through the questions in your head, if you can’t get to sit down to write in the moment.
1. Describe the event.
Start your journal entry by objectively describing the event that triggered your emotions. This might be a specific incident, a conversation, or even a thought that crossed your mind. The key here is to be as factual as possible, avoiding any interpretation or judgment at this stage. This prompt helps you to externalize the event, making it something you can observe and examine rather than something that completely encompasses you.
For example: "Today at work, my boss didn’t say good morning to me like she used to."
2. Describe your feelings.
After describing the event, the next step is to identify and write down the feelings you experienced in response to it. It's important to be honest and allow yourself to acknowledge every emotion, whether it's anger, sadness, frustration, or something else. Try to name your feelings as precisely as possible. This part of the process is crucial for emotional awareness and understanding.
For example: "I felt unsure, maybe she was mad at me? Maybe she didn’t like my proposal yesterday?”
3. What I believe.
This prompt encourages you to explore the beliefs or thoughts linked to your emotions. Often, your feelings are influenced by your perceptions and your own personal interpretations of events, which are shaped by your beliefs (conscious or unconscious). By identifying your beliefs, you can begin to understand how they contribute to your emotional reactions.
For example: "I believe that she might think I’m incompetent. I feel like I always mess things up."
4. The truth.
The final prompt, "The truth," is about challenging and reframing your current beliefs that you have identified in the previous step. This involves looking at the situation from a different, more objective perspective and allowing a more balanced and realistic way of thinking about it to come to light. The goal is to be able to differentiate between what you believe and what is more likely the truth, which can help alleviate any distressing emotions.
For example: "The truth is, she has praised my work in the past, and her not saying good morning probably has nothing to do with me, she might just be stressed at the moment.”
By using these simple four journal prompts, you can gain deeper insight into your emotional world. This process not only helps in identifying and understanding what triggered your emotions but also in challenging and changing unhelpful thought patterns.
Remember, the goal of journaling isn't to eliminate emotions but to manage them in a healthy and constructive way. With practice, this technique can become a valuable part of your emotional well-being toolkit.
READ MORE: 10 ways a journaling practice can help you
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