I think it’s important to invest in daily self-reflection to live a purposeful life. Yet the stresses of daily living can keep us from leaving time to look within and contact the best parts of ourselves. Its easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle of life without much time left for thoughtful reflection of one’s thoughts, feelings, motivations and actions. But even just a small time commitment each day to exploring one’s inner workings can be well worth the while. All journaling is useful – they can usually help you to understand yourself better somehow. I am a huge fan of food and exercise journaling as a personal trainer and have seen the effects of such accountability greatly benefit my clients through the years. But what I want to suggest, a “purge journal,” is a bit different and can be an invaluable tool in your mental and emotional development and well-being.
A daily journal or diary is a great way of getting back in touch with what moves you and makes you special – of what power you have to make your life satisfying and successful. Plus, it gives you a way to dump the daily build up of tension in your body and mind in a safe and regular fashion. Simply put, purging your stress on paper keeps it from festering within you. It also gives you a chance to understand where you’re coming from and why you make the decisions you do. It acts as a form of therapy by allowing you to guide yourself through your desires and make changes with confidence. It would be challenging to overstate the benefits of writing a bit each day to find clarity in your mind and serenity in your life. A purge journal is a great way to begin or enhance that process.
Stream-of-consciousness writing seems to work best when developing a “purge journal.” Since you want to get out whatever is on your mind, just dumping what’s on the top of your head first is always best. Thought by thought, feeling by feeling, you just write it all down. There’s no wrong way to go about it. Use pen and paper, type out a digital journal or even blog about it. This technique works well for a “dream journal” as well, tracking your subconscious motives by making a log of your nightly visions. A purge journal isn’t supposed to be anything more than an outlet for releasing stress. It’s not a “dear diary” where you share your secret passions and hidden crushes, unless they have something to do with the stress that’s holding onto you. Or are you holding onto it? The purging process is meant to help you let go of what makes you feel fearful, agitated, sad, bound or frustrated or to spell out what you want to do to feel better. If you write for long enough, usually three or four pages or fifteen to twenty minutes per entry, the answers to what you want to fix usually present themselves.
If you have a high-stress life, a purge journal is one of the best ways to beat mental and emotional stress and get back to business. Unlike a daily diary your purge journal can be used at random, according to need, but must be turned to right away when you feel tense to be of use. Use it everyday for a while at first if stress is a pressing issue. As your internal pressure subsides by journaling about it you’ll probably need it less and less. Also dissimilar to the aforementioned types of journal writing, the purge journal does need to be “kept” forever. Just like the negative emotions stress creates – frustration, hatred, rage and disgust – you may not want to keep your purge journal entries. You can bid them farewell once you’ve gotten out the anger and reviewed where you may need to grow. Feel free to rip them out, delete ’em, chuck ’em or burn ’em! Or do as one of my guru’s suggests, “Drop it in the toilet, do your business and flush!” I think that drives home the point of letting the ugly stuff go. I think the same holds true for a letter you need to write to someone who may have treated you wrong in your past. You might not want to send it, but writing it is a great release.
So whether you’re a critical or creative type, the student or the professor, blue or white collar, a purge journal can be your new best friend if you want to live a low-stress life. Stress can be a good motivator, but not when it accumulates to the point of adverse effects like illness, depression or irritability. Processing out your tension in a journal also allows you to reflect on what helped you let go of it so you can draw on that example to combat future stress. It’s like having a really good psychologist in your own head that takes intimately accurate notes that you can reference anytime you need to better know yourself. “Know thyself and to thy own self be true” is the motto of the consummate journal writer. Your inner life is gold, but sometimes much sand needs to be sifted through to find it. Try just a few sentences or a paragraph each day for a week. There’s really no right or wrong. You write it out, accept it, put it away and move on with life. You unload so it’s off your chest. The benefits to your emotional well-being are found simply by the act of doing it.
Here’s how it works…
Write down your impressions, what you notice about your behavior or feelings when you’re upset or stressed-out, any given day. It could be a list of what’s bothering you but doesn’t have to include any immediate solutions unless they jump out at you in the course of your writing. Anything that qualifies as self-expression will do. Don’t read anything you’ve written for at least a week or two and never edit anything you write. It’s the random thoughts, the mind’s wanderings we’re looking for. A purge journal can make you feel quite open and vulnerable – it’s a starkly honest account of where you are in a given moment. Feeling a bit insecure about what you’ve written down and admitting how you feel is a good sign of progress. Your journal is not meant to be a critical expose of your life and no one else ever has to read it, so go easy on yourself as you purge. Remember, getting to know yourself better is a process and some confessions are harder than others. Writing this kind of journal is ultimately a safe way to find out what makes you tick, what brings you stress and what power you have over it. It’s a simple way to to get what most people want out of life – peace, harmony, health and happiness. It’s also a way to talk to your own inner guides and strengthen your intuition and bolster your emotional fortitude.
You’ll find over a couple weeks of purge journal writing that you’re thinking better, feel clearer-headed and act more confidently. Plus, your stress levels will plummet! You’ll also find that you want to write in your purge journal more at once, but less often – because you’ve been managing and coping with your stress more efficiently. Then, in a few weeks, you can go back and self-reflect on what you’ve written and see the patterns and passions behind your actions – and the purpose and worth of both your stress and its remedy. Stress is a great teacher that makes you stronger and wiser and its lessons are an ongoing lecture. I think it’s advisable to take some notes in a separate journal as you learn from what you’ve purged. Notice how you grow as stress harms and limits you less and less. Once you’ve grasped the lessons of your purge entries you can purge them along with the stress they represent!
Have an urge to purge yet? Be well! ~Namaste