There’s a journal I keep buried in the second drawer of my nightstand. It’s sparkly purple and has butterflies, flowers and an inspirational quote on the cover. On the first page is written, in rainbow gel pen, "Kelli’s feel-good journal."
OK, I'll head this up by saying that a positivity journal doesn’t need to look anywhere near as flamboyantly whimsical as mine does. Heck, it can be written entirely in the “notes” section of your phone. The point of the journal isn’t in how it looks, but how you use it.
The first semester of my sophomore year was a little rough. Nothing was particularly wrong, but I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was lonely, taking a ton of classes I didn’t enjoy, and feeling socially anxious. When talking about it to my sister on a particularly negative day, she mentioned how she was considering keeping a positivity journal for the same sort of reasons.
I’d tried journaling when I was younger, but stopped because writing about problems that were in my head just made them feel more real and ended up being counterproductive. I wanted to try again, though, so I went about it an entirely different way: I didn’t write down a single negative thing.
When someone told me something that made me feel good about myself, even just a passing comment like, “I miss seeing you in my classes,” I wrote it down. If I saw a quote that spoke to me or applied to something I was going through, I wrote it down. If something made me laugh and I didn’t want to forget it, I wrote it down.
On the days where everything felt wrong and I had so much negativity pent up inside me, I didn’t write any of it down. Instead, I used a page in my journal to write a letter of encouragement to myself, regarding exactly what was bothering me, as if I were writing to a friend. I pinpointed exactly why each thing was not a big deal and shouldn’t be worried about. Sometimes that letter would be a game plan on how to get out of a current problem, like a list of ways to break out of my comfort zone, back when I was discouraged by my social anxiety. Other times the letter was only a sentence long, "This may be bad right now, but it’s not going to matter in 10 years."
Sometimes, when I was feeling down, but didn’t have much to say, I would just make lists. The act of writing is cathartic in itself. Almost always one of the lists would be a compilation of all the good things that happened that day, which was especially important if it felt like there hadn't been any. "Answered a question right in Latin today,” or, “Was smiled at by an old woman,” can be enough to remind you that nothing is ever all bad.
One particular list I would recommend everyone keep, even if you don’t plan on keeping a positivity journal, is “Things To Remember During Hard Days.” It’s an ongoing list of all the things you have experienced that made you the happiest or proudest. Mine includes memories like when a friend told me how much it meant to her that I cared about her birthday, when someone I don’t know told me my writing reminded them how meaningful their life was, and hugging Jared Padalecki.
Yeah, it's a little dorky, but this journal keeping has helped me more than I ever would have expected. I’m really happy with where I am right now, and haven’t written in my journal in months, but it’s comforting to know I have it. Focusing on your strengths and how fleeting and solvable your problems are is a great way to keep your mind on what really matters, and to help you move toward the inevitably brighter days ahead.