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Mar 02, 2023 • 3 min read
Not in a reading mood?

Every emotion is acceptable and a natural part of being human. However, not every reaction is appropriate. For example, it is okay to feel anger toward a difficult person, but going violent is not socially acceptable. There are numerous peaceful ways to express painful emotions. Some of us prefer to talk, think, or write about them. Here is where it gets interesting:

Whether our experience is positive or negative, how we express emotions might be helpful or harmful.

Talking and writing about our negative experiences can help us analyze them and find relief; on the other hand, ruminating about them can be harmful. In the case of positive experiences, the opposite is true. Thinking about them helps us relive the pleasurable emotions, while talking and writing about them diminishes their intensity. This lesson will focus on negative experiences because they hinder us from living in the present moment.

Rupert is ruminating about a dropped ice cream. Not helpful.

Everyone wants to feel good about their negative experiences or at least process them and let them go. Those who intuitively talk about them and have good, patient friends who can truly listen are already on the right way. The others can catch up by writing about their troubles. Still, writing can serve everyone, whether we are extroverts or introverts or whether we have patient friends. Writing can be anonymous, making it easier to share our deepest emotions that we would find hard to disclose otherwise. Writing about our emotions is called journaling.

Journaling helps you recreate a story about yourself that you like.

Journaling helps us find meaning in going through difficult times. It allows us to create a meaningful story and find benefits in our suffering. Mary Flannery O'Connor, an American writer, wrote:

I write because I do not know what I think until I read what I say.

Generally, men tend to benefit from journaling more than women, as they tend to be more inhibited, while women tend to disclose. With journaling, men can catch up with women in expressing their deepest emotions.

Rupert and Berta come from different planets.


Here are some benefits of journaling:

  • Reduced anxiety levels
  • Reduced tension
  • Improved overall mood
  • Improved social behavior
  • Improved sense of meaning
  • Strengthened immune system

Action steps

Here is how you can practice journaling.

Write only when you need to. If you're worrying about something too much, it is the right moment. Grab a blank piece of paper and a pen. Set aside 15–20 minutes on 3–4 consecutive days and follow these instructions:

  1. Choose an experience that troubles your mind. Think of something that has affected you deeply or something you have not talked about. Begin with the first experience that comes to your mind.
  2. Express your deepest emotions in writing. What happened? Where were you and with whom? How did you feel? How do you feel about that experience now? Write about it. Go into as much detail as possible, but refrain from overanalyzing. Forget the grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Yippee!
  3. Find a benefit in your suffering. Make a story where you are a good hero regardless of the events. Even good heroes go through struggles. The objective is to give your story meaning and to find benefits in your suffering. Every struggle makes you wiser, more resilient, and more experienced.
Things do not always happen for the best, but we can make the best out of things that happen.

— Tal Ben-Shahar

Do not get discouraged if your anxiety increases at the beginning. A short spike in anxiety is entirely okay and is part of the process.

Rupert feels excellent after initial discomfort.

When you are short on time, write for just two minutes on two consecutive days. Research has shown that even such a short practice can positively impact our well-being.

It is time to roll up our sleeves and find out how to make the best of the things that have happened.

Be the good hero of your story.

Now or never

For the next two weeks, journal for at least five minutes a day. When the painful emotion loses its intensity, move to the next one. Create a daily reminder.