I am interested in using a journal for self-improvement and personal growth and need some suggestions for resources and aids to take my practice further.
August 24, 2012 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in using a journal for self-improvement and personal growth and need some suggestions for resources and aids to take my practice further.

A new bluetooth keyboard has vastly increased my productivity on my iPad, which is nearly always with me. I have been experimenting with some journal/diary apps and am finding it a really helpful tool. I am very introspective, and have been told many times that I 'think too much.' Writing some of it down is helping me. I want to go to the next level and use the journaling experience to improve myself, grow as a person, really 'work on' myself and so forth but am not sure how.

So far, I have been doing daily recap type things of what happened the day before, and then using tags to reference certain topics. I had success on one occasion with writing out a list of things to say at a therapy appointment---the appointment was three days away, and writing about it over the course of those three days helped me crystallize the main point I wanted to work on. I also had success with writing one day in a letter format to my recently deceased grandmother. I had been really missing her, and writing out some of the stuff I was feeling game me some closure on a bit of it.

I am looking for more stuff like that. I have read some previous askmes and what I am *not* interested in:

- keeping a record that my future children will read to learn about me. Even I don't tend to re-read them past a few days, although I suppose the tags can help me mark stuff I might want to refer to later. If I ever do have children and want to keep a record for them, that will be a separate process from this one.

- Answering all sorts of pre-fab prompts and questions like 'what was your first pet?' or 'what food did you most enjoy in childhood?' I want to go deeper with where I am *now* and really do meaningful work here. If there is no specific point, I don't want to write about it just because.

Some issues I am working on:

- Improving my friendships and my romantic relationship
- Getting better control over impulse eating and such to lose weight
- Being better able to deal with stress and roll with the punches
- Wasting less time; doing more productive things
- Handling my emotions better (I cry, over-react, catastrophize)
- Supporting the process of CBT, which I am involved with now

Hacks, tips, books, websites, resources, suggestions?

I also welcome discussions of pros/cons of specific iPad apps. I am using MaxJournal right now because you can keep multiple books and it handles pictures better than some of the other ones I have looked at.
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I use Momento because I own an old iPhone 3G, but I've heard some great reviews about Day One, which has iPad, iPhone and Mac versions which sync with each other.
posted by jgwong at 9:18 PM on August 24, 2012

As a prior non-keeper of journals (and of habits) something that's rapidly become essential to me are my Morning Pages, from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. I haven't actually read the book but I picked up the practice from some Internet post (probably a previous AskMeFi question!) and have managed to stick with it faithfully for over a month now, even while on vacation. It's done truly incredible things for my mental health.

Morning pages are three pages you write every morning as soon as you wake up. The trick is that you write about anything that goes through your mind— it's three pages of pure stream-of-consciousness, from dreams you had last night to worries you have for the upcoming day to the words 'I don't know what to write' over and over again. I think it's officially recommended that you write them longhand so you don't get distracted by technology, but I imagine that plenty of people type them instead, which is admittedly much faster; I average 30-45 minutes each morning on my handwritten MPs. The point is that you get the thoughts out as honestly as possible— no self-editing and no going back to what you've already written! I don't even read old entries.

I typically wait until I've done the whole bathroom thing before getting started, but some people pick up a pen as soon as they roll out of bed; in either case, you want to write your Morning Pages before your day starts, so you can get out all the nagging worries and stray thoughts that crowd your head in the mornings.

An noteworthy example of how they've worked for me:

I recently started a super-low-carb diet in which I've given up sugars and starches cold-turkey. During the first week I devoted pretty much every page of my MPs to obsessing about what I'd eat that day; I wrote about my cravings, my worries for how sustainable the diet would be, my anxieties about somehow doing it wrong. On the morning of day 7 I was writing my Morning Pages (still freaking out) when out of the blue I wrote down a few key sentences that completely changed my perspective on why I was doing this; everything came together in a way I never would have expected given my neuroses over the first few days. I'm now nearing the end of the second week, which has just flown by, and I feel very calm and confident about the future of my health. I absolutely credit my Morning Pages for helping me acknowledge and articulate the process and my goals.

They've also helped me become more productive by allowing me to focus on myself first thing in the morning instead of checking my email or Facebook, and I've generated a huge number of ideas and to-dos in the process.

If you're not sure about Morning Pages I recommend googling the term (maybe even in conjunction with 'site:ask.metafilter.com') to see how other people have been using them. Otherwise, there's no wrong way to start! The most difficult part is probably setting aside that chunk of time in the mornings, and once you get used to writing MPs it becomes a natural process.

If you're fine with typing into a website I've heard good things about 750 Words. Otherwise I imagine that any iPad journaling app will let you tag entries as 'morning-pages', etc. If you're like me and always get caught up in judging what you've just written as you write, I recommend using a notebook and a pen and your worst handwriting. It's worked splendidly for me so far!
posted by brieche at 9:19 PM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm always suggesting keeping a journal as a way of working through stuff and it's so good to hear that's working out well for you.

I like brieche's suggestion of morning pages--they have really helped me become more emotionally aware. From simple stuff like "I'm annoyed and picking a fight because I haven't had any water today at all, not a drop" to "My parents: what is up with the way I feel about them?", morning pages have provided the path to clarity.

I also recommend reading Natalie Goldberg's books Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind for suggestions on prompts that aren't really prompts. She has a way of writing about writing that encourages saying deeper things.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 9:34 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Read The New Diary by Tristine Rainer. It helped me tremendously!
posted by jgirl at 6:37 AM on August 25, 2012

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