Personal journaling has been a big deal in counseling circles for a long time. So, what’s the big deal with journaling ? Why putting feelings in to words is so important. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (  It is a mainstay for most stress management strategies. Even the military, after researching its clinical effectiveness, decided to use it to help soldiers who are stressed or suffering from PTSD.   Without getting too deep into the neurological weeds, personal journaling helps us to wring the painful  and irrational elements out of our experience so that we might be better able to rationally asses and address our emotional wounds.

The term personal journaling can be a bit vague and and confusing because it is used in a variety of ways. Some think a personal journal is like a diary in which random thoughts and ideas are recorded.  Others regard it as a place to ventilate intense feelings and express socially unacceptable thoughts and feelings.  Still others see it as chronological log of daily events and happenings.  7 Different Types of Journals with Examples | Journey.Cloud

For me, personal journaling is a stress management technique through which a confidential ,raw and uncensored , internal dialog about a troubling aspect of one’s past, present or anticipated future can be expressed. Journaling uses words to provide perspective and thereby reduces the emotional intensity of dysphoric feelings and impulses. Journaling converts immediately felt experience into an observed and reflected upon experience.

Ironically, although journaling is talked about a lot,  for many there is much confusion and hesitancy about how to actually do it. Here are  three keys to help you have a helpful personal journaling experience:


You can journal about anything but it is most helpful to write about something that is bothering you or a conflict you may be feeling. For example, you may have felt angry about something unkind that someone said to you. Instead of reacting in a nasty way or actually sounding off to the person, journaling is a way to honestly express and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe and confidential way in which no one is harmed.


Writing in a journal can be done in long hand or in a computer file. The important thing is that, however you do it,  make sure that what you write cannot been seen by anyone else. If a journal is on paper, it must be locked in a secure place away from prying eyes. If you write in a word processing file, make sure that you save what you wrote with a password .

The content you begin with may vary widely but good opening lines for addressing a particular person are something like  “How could you … ?”  or when expressing distress over an unfortunate occurrence : “How could this have happened  … ?


Journaling is not a daily obligation .  You journal when you feel the need and when you can. Think  of journaling as a resource to help you cope with difficult emotions or impulses. Some people find it helpful to write every day. Others do it only when something comes up. How much you write in an installment is completely up to you. You write until you no longer feel the need to do so. It may be just a couple of sentences or a longer essay.  Your internal awareness will tell you when you are done.


Although it may feel odd or awkward at first, with a little practice, journaling can become a reliable resource  to help you deal with stress and anxiety.  Along with aerobic exercise and meditation, personal journaling can help you to wring the exaggerated and irrational emotions out of your experience so that you can address life problems in a more rational and effective way.

Rev. Michael Heath , LMHC, Fellow AAPC  5 15 2021

*Image insert acknowledgement and attribution: October 2014 – Seila’s Designs (