I started to journal after my divorce and I am still going strong. I don't remember how I got started but suspect I may have journaled as a coping mechanism to deal with all that was happening in my heart and head at the time. No one ever told me or suggested "how" to journal but over the years I have developed a number of ways to journal and I thought I would share a bit for anyone who might be interested in the subject. Here are a couple of different journal exercises I do on a regular basis for everyone's consideration.
1. Free association. This may be the most common and popular type of journaling. Free association involves just writing down what you are thinking or feeling about a particular issue/topic or situation at a particular moment in time. This kind of journaling can be very therapeutic and cathartic.
2. Journaling about the past. Because the present is so intertwined with the past this form of journaling can be very beneficial in dealing with a particular issue or problem. While I was working through abandonment issues I once sat down and journaled for hours identifying the numerous people in my past who had come to my aid and provided help and support. This practice helped bring healing to a difficult aspect of my past and it provided a reminder of the grace that was always present even when I wasn't aware of it. I later added these thoughts in another "special" journal and frequent what I wrote from time to time, especially when I feel flooded with certain feelings of rejection, neglect, or abandonment.
3. Copying down quotes. If you visit my blogs time to time you may have noticed that I use a lot of quotes. Over the past seven years I have spent countless hours copying quotes from the various books I read. When I read a book I generally highlight the book and then go back at some later time and copy the highlighted sections that are particularly meaningful and sometimes I take this practice a step further and type them. I now have a huge database of quotes at my disposal. I have found this practice very helpful because it helps move the words from my head to my heart. I have read a lot of books in which the ideas went in one ear and out the next but when I write or rewrite the highlighted sections in my journal it often moves the thoughts into my long term memory where it can be recalled later when I might need it. I also go back and reread the quotes from time to time and one can do this as a type of meditative practice.
4. Interacting with the quotes. I have another journal where I go back and read what I previously journaled and then write a response that applies to a particular situation I am currently going through. This practice helps bring to life what I have read and if we are not engaging ourselves with what we read then what is the purpose of reading?...unless, we are reading for entertainment or pleasure which has it's place.
5. Pictures...I have added some pictures to my journals. The pictures include some very special people in my life and some fictional characters that symbolize important aspects of my life that I wish to be reminded of from time to time.
In conclusion, I consider journaling a "spiritual discipline" that can enrich and nurture ones soul and provide an important resource that one can take with them any time. I take my journals to work and on vacation and read and write in them as often as needed.