By Tanya Cole-Lesnick, LCSW, PLLC

For years I’ve had an on and off again relationship with journaling. I would journal regularly through difficult periods of my life then stop for long periods of time. And all the while I’d encourage my clients to journal, coming clean each time about my tenuous relationship with my own practice. I knew intellectually, and from experience, that journaling was helpful, but I struggled to make it a more regular part of my life.

While I was clear about how helpful it was during a crisis it was more difficult for me to appreciate the value in my steadier periods. Without a crisis screaming for my attention it felt more like a chore and I never seemed to find the time. Adding to that struggle was that I was never quite sure of the “right” way to journal and spent time feeling compelled to report details on the pages that felt unimportant, details that felt tedious.

At the Lighthouse Retreat this past March that Cathy Anesi (Lighthouse director) and I ran, we talked about the value of self-care practices. Not surprisingly journaling was the first one discussed (it almost always is). And in my interest in staying honest I shared with the group the truth about my own lack of consistent practice, feeling more conflicted about this than I ever had.

Cathy, a daily journaler who swears by it, challenged me on our drive back to NY. She suggested that I give it a month, the approximate amount of time it takes anything to become a habit, and then revisit whether I find it a helpful process, or not.

And so I took that challenge on.

This time I made sure to use it purely as a tool to serve me—it needs serve no other purpose. No need to report details if they aren’t helpful. No need to finish a thought if it is no longer of value. No need to explore ideas in an order that makes sense. No need to worry about sentence structure or pithy words. A tool to process my thoughts and feelings, to get out of my own way, so that I live my life with more purpose. Period.

And wouldn’t you know it, now I’m hooked.