These past few weeks have been tough on all of us. Last week in my free journaling session the participants mentioned how helpful and calming spending time journaling about their lived experience has been. I agree. So I want to share with you some of the tools we use in those sessions (and in all of my workshops).

One of the biggest take-aways from working with hundreds of people over years has been that journaling and reflecting on your life stories helps increase resilience and joy. The result is you can stay focused on what matters to you — how you want to show up and live your life.

We all feel hard feelings at times or get stuck in an old story or get triggered into anger, sadness or loneliness. And if we stay in those feelings, we stay stuck.

Journaling about your feelings and stories, and even what triggers you, is one way to start to get unstuck, and maybe avoid the same bumps in the road going forward.

Get More Out of Journaling with These 3 Tools

Develop Narrative Intelligence 

Narrative intelligence is the ability to understand and process information through story, but it is so much more. It’s the ability to discern which stories we truly believe, which ones we want to adopt as helpful, which we want to learn from and then move on and which we want to reject outright. This idea applies to stories we tell ourselves, cultural myths and also stories that have been told to us by others (including the media).

Some of these stories lead to dysfunctional ideas like “I’m not smart enough, always put others first, don’t be selfish, I have to find my passion, I’m too old, be a good girl…”  Add your own.

From birth we have learned through story, and as humans we communicate through story. Narrative intelligence means making the choice of accepting or rejecting stories. You have that power!

Try Curiosity and Reflection

Have you ever looked at a particular time in your life and thought “what a hard time” or “I was so miserable”? Maybe you see failure in your job or a relationship … instead of what you learned from it or took from the situation.

But if you take a fresh look at your story, with curiosity and reflection (what did I do right, what helped, what could I’ve done better, what could I do next time) and then tell it in a different way, you can end up with a different more positive story. AND also tools you can use when you hit similar bumps in the road.

Certain ideas, events or people can create negative emotions like anger, anxiety or sadness. I know I get triggered by certain people I can’t avoid, but by reflecting on how I’ve handled these situations with calm and maybe even grace, I can prepare for the next time. And hopefully avoid reacting in a way that’s not helpful.

Use Self Compassion and Distance

Often we are our harshest critics. If you’ve done something you regret and are beating yourself up, think how you would talk to a friend in your situation. How would you approach your friend with compassion? Can you be your own friend and journal about your experience as if someone else had made your mistake? Or can you write to yourself as you would a friend?

 You can even write about what happened as if you are your friend or even a stranger. Sometimes it’s good to step out of our own skin. After writing from another perspective, you may be able to go back and write from your own perspective. Has your story changed? Can you see your experience in a new light?

There are many posts on my blog on the topics of resilience, compassion, and journaling, and I invite you to explore, read and email me with thoughts and questions.

AND I’d love to share my tools with you in person (on Zoom). Please join me for my signature workshop Write into Joy. In each workshop we explore a theme relating to resilience with the goal of building our inner resources and finding the moments of joy in our lives.

Want to feel more engaged and energized? Get your copy of 3 Steps to a Meaningful Life You Love!