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The Art of Journaling

Your extreme feelings need a home when life gets intense.

Key points

  • Dump those negative feelings in a journal so you can smile and move on.

We are in the midst of a mental health crisis that will impact personal and societal systems for years (APA, 2020). The pandemic and racial tensions have made us more stressed out than ever and we are caught in a dichotomy. As much as we need to take off our emotional masks to be real and feel, we are also encouraged to be emotionally intelligent with an awareness and ability to control our emotions so we can be socially intelligent through recognition of other people’s emotions to manage relationships (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, (2002).

Sharing feelings through a journal, a special place to unleash those raw and unfiltered emotions, can help bridge the dichotomy by reducing stress as well as increasing emotional and social intelligence. We are entitled to those messy feelings, whether it is anger towards someone, untangling a confusing situation, or self-reflection, a journal is a safe place to vent, blurt out, and brag without appearing foolish. If we are encouraged to be non-judgmental, peace-loving humanitarians who endure every situation with strength, patience, grace, and a smile, a journal can be that dark place where it is okay to have humanly and epic rants, while keeping your friends.

Journaling is more of an art than a science. There are no rules with journaling. It only takes one word to start. Here are a few guidelines for that first word:

1. Pick a Journaling Process

Do you want to write in a book, type, or dictate into a device? Knowing how you want to share your feelings is essential, because it has to be a process that feels right to you. Be open to changing the process. For instance, you might start out writing, but find that typing is a more effective method for you.

2. Make Your Journal Special

Like your favorite room that needs to be comfortable, your journal should be a welcoming and happy space where you want to be. Pick out a font, special book, or private place to dictate that works for you. My journal must have lined paper and the cover has to resonate with me.

3. Journal as a Buffer

Your journal is a place where nobody cares about grammar, structure, political correctness, volume, tone, word choice, and consequences for not adhering to all of the above. You can say what you really need to say without having to apologize. Hopefully, that release will help you choose the right words and actions in the actual situation.

4. Keep your Journal Private

Your journaling content should not be shared with any other person. Your journal material is not public information. Sharing your journal could invite hard feelings and contribute towards more harm than good. Also, do you want anyone critiquing your raw ideas and unpolished dreams?

We take what life gives us, so having a journal as a go-to buffer could contribute toward reducing stress and getting a good night’s sleep. The more you journal, the easier it gets, and the longer your filter between your emotions and actions, which is the essence of emotional intelligence. You deserve a non-judgmental place to be heard. Happy journaling!


American Psychological Association (2020). Stress in America: A National Mental Health Crisis

Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, (2002). Primal Leadership: learning to lead with emotional intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.