Original Author: Patti Schwartztrauber, L.I.S.W.
Journaling is a term used to describe the practice of keeping a diary or journal that explores thoughts and feelings regarding life and events. It differs from a simply keeping a diary in that it is used to record feelings and thoughts, to be used to clarify and provide self-understanding.
Journaling can have many additional uses as well. It can be used for problem solving, comparing pros and cons of a particular decision, as well as identifying various solutions. Journaling about thoughts and feelings can help to process those feelings. Sometimes a journal is used to express feelings as if to another person, taking the form of a letter which is not intended to be sent. It can be used as an aid in therapy to explore deep feelings, to later be shared (or not) with the therapist.
A variation on the journaling theme is the writing of a letter as described above on a separate sheet. It can be saved for later reflection, given to the subject, or ceremoniously disposed of after thorough processing in an effort to release those feelings. For example, one might choose to burn the letter to symbolize letting go of the thoughts and feelings.
As a stress management tool, journaling is uncomplicated and requires no more than a pen and paper or computer. It can be a good practice for stress reduction and emotional healing, and a good adjunct to therapy.