As someone who believes in the power language has to shape and change our lives, I am a big advocate for processing thoughts and feelings through writing. At its simplest, writing is an excellent way to take a thought or feeling out of our mind and project it somewhere it is safe to unpack, a blank page that we can treat as a laboratory for experimenting with that idea in a controlled environment.
In times of great distress I can become confused and overwhelmed by my thoughts about everything I face, and lose touch with my sense of center in the vortex of events and feelings swirling around me day to day. It’s all so much, and I just don’t know where to begin.
One major social issue in our culture is that we don’t have any commonly practiced rituals that encourage sitting and spending time with our thoughts. We balk at ideas like meditation or contemplation as boring or wasteful, preferring instead to satisfy our need to feel relevant and engaged with constant participation in communication and social networks. We don’t make time to do something as important as organizing our thoughts when we’re having a really difficult time with them. Which is exactly why we should.
I sometimes tell clients to think about their mind in the same way they do an operating system (OS) on a computer. If you leave the operating system running too long without shutting it down and rebooting, it leaves processes running that don’t need to be, uses up memory on old tasks, and locks up when prompted to perform new complicated tasks. Your OS needs to be rebooted from time to time.
When you do reboot your OS it spends a period of time not being available to you so that it can sort and process its structure, as well as any unresolved issues from the last time it was on. During this time it focuses completely on itself instead of extending out into the world, or engaging in distractions, because it knows this work is critical. It is going back through its core programming, line by line, and reminding itself of who it is.
For people, this can be achieved a lot of different ways. The two key ingredients to constructing the person who you recognize and has all of the faculties you need for the day are:
- Spend a dedicated period of time, however short it needs to be, attending to the task of processing your thoughts.
- Do this every day, or as close to daily as possible.
Step 2 is especially important, because it’s not only the act of sorting your thoughts that helps you reconnect with your core code, it’s that you are choosing to do it, and even more importantly, are choosing to be committed to it. It’s a small action that serves as a token, proving to yourself that you are able to achieve something important when you put your mind to it, even if that important thing is also very simple.
For myself, and for clients who find it helpful, I like to use writing in a journal (diary, log, manifest, etc.) to fulfill this purpose. It can build nicely into the first tasks of the day, which usually include eating food or drinking coffee. It’s the time before you’ve really started paying attention to anything else yet, so it’s perfect for sorting through the thoughts that are there before the distractions start filling the place up.
What is interesting is that it doesn’t really matter what you write about, or how in depth you choose to explore any ideas. It seems that the greatest benefit from writing in a journal comes from simply the act of writing itself. It’s something that happens between your mind and the pen, a period of contemplation that lets not only the conscious ideas, but the subconscious ones, sort themselves and re-establish important connections.
That being said, there are many wonderful prompts that can fold into your writing, which I provide in another article. Don’t let whether or not you have something to talk about stop you from writing, even if it’s just “words words words” your efforts to organize your thoughts through this process do have benefits. Every day that it occurs to you to write in your journal, jump on the opportunity, remembering that the choice and commitment to write are important fuel for building a solid platform toward becoming who are striving to be.