How journaling has helped me

Journaling has helped me get to know myself better. To figure out how I feel about things, to access my feelings in general. I used to have a lot of brain fog, like I was trying to think of something but I couldn’t find the words for it because it was just a thick fog in my mind.

I had racing thoughts when trying to sleep. When I would lie down in bed and try to sleep, I’d lie awake for hours just thinking about stuff. Often the thoughts would race so fast they didn’t even make any sense at all. Just chaos in my head. Sometimes it was even literally painful.

Nowadays I can mostly see clear pathways in my mind between where I am and where the info I need is. The words for the feelings are easier to access, and I can take the time I need to look for something instead of immediately feeling lost and overwhelmed in the chaos of my own mind.

Journaling gets the thoughts out of my head and into words, in a place where I can easily find them again when I need them. This means that my mind can let them go. This is very important – I think my brain was hanging onto all of that stuff because I didn’t have anywhere else to put it. Sometimes journaling leads to interesting discoveries too, and it can be fascinating to look back at older entries and see how far I’ve come.

I fall asleep quicker. No more 3 hours of restless chaos before I pass out from sheer exhaustion.

How I journal

I use a process that I call ‘braindumping’, which is literally just me writing down whatever pops into my head. If you have a lot of nonsensical chaos swirling around in your brain like I did, I recommend this method. If you don’t, maybe some other approach would be better for you.

Here’s an example of ‘braindumping’, from when I first started doing it in February of 2018. This is an actual journal entry that I wrote.

what is in my brain. i dont know. i have vague thoughts that are too vague and abstract to put into words. they disappear before i know what they were. frustration. underwater. muffled. swimming. normal people think in air and i think underwater? ok. so i should use sonar instead of words. lol. that analogy wouldn’t have happened if i didn’t write down the unformed incomplete thoughts i had. they led to the rest of the idea forming. so i should write these things down more. even if they don’t make sense yet.

sonar is sound. music. may be better for expressing myself than words?

potato. cake. wolf. driving around the corner. pine tree. stop sign near church. images. of places. my memories of specific places are storage points for my feelings. how does that help me? designate a specific place for different feelings, and use that to help me figure out how i feel?

writing this shit down helps. it literally gives me longer term memory so i can remember a train of thought long enough to make connections and complete them. why didn’t i do this sooner? because i was afraid of writing down my feelings. and didn’t think random incomplete thoughts were worth writing down.

images coming in from the right side of my ‘view’. bottom right. chandelier top left now. pictures may be better to draw, but i don’t think i can draw fast enough. this is good practice for wording thoughts though. most of the time i’ve pushed away my random thoughts because i didn’t know what to do with them. now i want to pay attention to them. meditation is like pushing them away? pink strawberry ice cream cone. these things are so fucking random but every now and then an interesting connection surfaces. that night at the beach in college. what ice cream did i have back then? crunchy chocolate ice lolly thing? sand. my old car. spontaneous travel. i miss that.

when looking at the pics of the places in london i went to, it felt like so long ago, couldn’t believe i was really there. wanna go back, but what good would that do? i always want to go back to places to relive those moments and the feelings i had, but that never works, because it’s always different the second/third/fourth time. every moment is unique. can’t keep them to reuse. even looking at the photos later evokes different feelings than the ones i had while there. though i can remember some of them. but i am a different person now. and the place has probably changed too. like the flowers that used to grow in the field at the corner in 2012, which is now a barren desert.

i need to get out more. anywhere. beach, rocks, trees. so bored sitting inside all day every day and only ever going to the same places over and over. why do i never want to go traveling alone? i did that overseas, why not here? anxiety. when someone is with me there’s less pressure on me to decide what to do every second. because here i expect to know where i’m going. it feels wrong to be lost. overseas i don’t expect to know where i’m going. it feels ok to just wander aimlessly. it also feels somewhat unsafe doing that here. crime rate and all that. probably ok out in nature in the middle of nowhere maybe? it’s a big world out there and i’m always in here. bored. sleepy. cow. grass. farm? wellington. it’s not even far. nice place.

it’s ok to be a tourist where i live. i’m an alien anyway. look at all the funny humans doing strange human activities. aren’t they fascinating? i hate it when they stare at me. clearly the human disguise isn’t very effective. might as well wear a shirt that says ‘greetings earthlings, i come in peace’… in fact i think i will make one. then the little shits will have a reason to stare. pancakes. with caramel and ice cream. yum. thinking in an orderly fashion as always. green mint crystals in chocolate. 7-11 shop near college. skating in the parking lot. over a bump thingy. cash crusaders where i bought my small skates. clothes. sell old clothes and other shit i don’t use. why do these thought trains always start with some sweet snacks? i can post this stuff on a blog as comedy material. playing roller hockey with my friend. dislocated his shoulder, i had to pull it back into place. i’ve actually done pretty much all the things i’ve ever wanted to do. just that somehow i want them to keep happening repeatedly. permanently? why is it so hard to appreciate a good thing that only happens once? links in with the travel again. going back to same places, never the same. i feel like i ‘should’ do things i’ve done before, just because i like doing them. the ‘should’ makes me not want to though.

That braindumping session helped me realize I needed to make some changes in my life. I started getting out more, riding my bike around again just for fun. In later months that led to me getting back into skating, which is something I always loved to do, but was scared to do out in the road because of bumps and hills and traffic.

Journaling Tools

I used to use KeyNote NF on Windows. It’s a nice little tree-style notebook program that can encrypt the whole notebook with a password.

Since I’ve moved to Linux though, I now use Zim Desktop Wiki, with my notebook encrypted inside a gocryptfs volume (I use SiriKali to manage the volumes). I like Zim far better because it has a journal plugin, so I can click on a day and it automatically makes a new entry for me, instead of me manually having to create a new page. The search function is pretty nice too.

Zim is also available on Windows.

What’s in your brain?

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