• Katie Hannon

Journaling: A tool for understanding our own minds

I was never one to keep a diary or journal of any kind. I had always enjoyed creative writing in school but never took the time to do it on my own. It wasn't until attending my first Concussed. retreat in 2021 I discovered how monumental journaling and writing can be in healing. Beginning with simple check-ins -- “how am I showing up today?” or “where is my mental space right now?” -- as an open forum to jot down any and everything that happens to pop up. Sometimes it is necessary to just take a moment to breathe and notice where you are in mind, body, and spirit.

From there we began introducing different prompts. Sometimes it was a question, an excerpt, or a piece of poetry, each with the intention of getting thoughts in motion. And boy, did it work! I think I wrote more that weekend than I had in my entire college career. With beautifully thought-provoking guidance by facilitators, I was able to dive deep into my own experiences and really process a lot of grief, confusion, and insecurity. Journaling has truly turned into a form of therapy for me; blank pages open up and hold space for me to pour out whatever I don't want to carry anymore, similar to a therapist. Although my journal pages cannot respond or provide feedback on my words, it is an unbiased, non-judgmental, free, and safe space to put my thoughts. And more often than not, those pages end somewhere I did not know they were headed.
I find that when I'm writing, I am able to sort through thoughts, emotions, and experiences that are swirling around in my head to find clarity in my words. When I put them down on paper, I don't have to worry about remembering every detail or attempting to keep everything straight, I can just let the sentences guide me. I struggle a lot with memory and when I have a busy mind, my anxiety kicks in that if I don't think and rethink every thought, I'll forget. So being able to relieve myself of the responsibility of remembering is a critical form of stress reduction. I’m left with a feeling of weightlessness after putting pen to paper, knowing that I don’t have to carry everything in my own head, and now have my writing to look back and reflect on.
A journal can be a place that offers much more than writing. I prefer entirely blank pages-- no lines, no graphs, no anything-- to accommodate drawings, doodles, cutting and pasting, and freedom of creation and expression. I've now started carrying my journal with me everywhere and it's become much more than just a journal. I don't only sit and write when I have something on my mind, a problem I need to find a solution to, or just need a space to vent. It's now become my guiding book through life. I write down to-do lists, things I need to remember, any notes from my day, how I've been feeling, happy moments, sad moments—really anything and everything. Journaling is an outlet I didn’t know I needed, and has provided me so much room to breathe.
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