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JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Visual Journal (Part 3)

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JOURNALING: How & Why to Try a Visual Journal (Par

Journaling isn’t only for words. A picture/visual journal offers a creative way to explore journaling, inspiring your brain to work in ways different from writing.


“It can be freeing to work in different mediums, without worrying about whether we are good at it, and to just have fun,” says Kate Orson, a creative writing teacher and author.


Visual journaling uses photos, sketches, maps, or images to record the highs (or lows) of your day, what you’re grateful for, or feelings you’re trying to process. In the same way you might write about what’s bothering you, using a visual journal lays the foundation for those emotions with pictures.


Why Journal This Way?


Visual journals provide a way to express yourself wordlessly, which may benefit people who find writing difficult, or those who communicate their feelings more effectively through shape and color. “The rules of language and logic don’t apply,” says Maureen Clancy, a holistic psychotherapist in Somerville, New Jersey.


She says there’s freedom in expressing yourself this way. A picture, sketch, scribble or color can convey worry, happiness, fear or sadness. “I definitely feel lighter after a session of visual journaling … like I’ve let something go,” Clancy notes. One easy way to start is to keep a visual journal for one week.


Creating a Visual Journal


Collage: Start by looking through magazines. Cut out images that spark your attention.


“Don’t overthink it,” advises Clancy.


Pick what speaks to you. Arrange your images on the page or in your journal. See what themes emerge. You can collage-journal weekly or pick a single image per day that captures something that resonates. A family gathered cozily around a fireplace may indicate you’re craving the same warmth, for instance. Reviewing your images over time can tell you a lot about how you were feeling or what you were thinking.


Photos: Photography can be an easy and fulfilling way to chronicle your life and create more mindfulness.


“When you set a goal of capturing five images a day to share what happened, it puts you in a space of paying more attention to what you’re doing and where you’re doing it,” says Mike Peyzner of Choco Studio, a husband and wife wedding photography studio in the San Francisco area.


Creating images to document your life only takes a minute, but can instill a sense of purpose and intention. Having a photo of some aspect of your day can help you focus on what’s important to you. “You’ll catch yourself spending less time doing mindless things and more time carefully choosing how to spend your day,” Peyzner adds.


Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can offer simple ways to track daily photos. You can also get feedback from your friends and followers, and keep yourself accountable as you publicly state your intention to post a new image every day. Take a few photos daily to document your most important activities, advises Peyzner. Later, you can review your timeline and revisit those memories.


Sketch: You don’t need artistic talent to create a sketch journal. All you need is a sketchbook and a theme for each page. If you enjoy doodling, lettering, or scrapbooking, you may find sketch journaling enjoyable. Some people stick cards, receipts, and scraps of paper from their day to the page, and draw around those.


When you sketch, you experience feelings about life events in new ways. Sketching also helps you preserve memories. Don’t try to make it pretty. Rather, concentrate on capturing moments, ideas, and feelings using your creative muscle. Date your sketches and periodically flip through them to gauge what you were going through.


Personal Mapping: Erin Jourdan Berrios, owner of MemoirClass, a business helping people write their life stories, uses personal mapping to discover aspects of memory and unveil subconscious feelings.


“A map calms us. It gives us a sense of place in a chaotic world, a path to orient ourselves,” says Berrios.


To make a personal map, sit down with a blank journal page or piece of paper and set a timer for 25 minutes. Sketch, scribble, and write snippets of text or favorite quotes with a specific topic in mind: happiness, hopes and dreams, an event, challenges you face. The point is to create a destination. Berrios explains the concept of personal mapping in a video. Maps help you see information in a new way. Creating and reviewing the images you use in your map can help suggest explanations that may reassure, inspire, or lead you to ask more questions about your destination.


If you want to map gratitude, for example, your page may be full of the things you’re grateful for right now—family, fulfilling work, your garden. If you’re mapping your frustration with a person or issue, your map would reflect the resolution you seek. Maybe sketch the person, include a favorite quote about how to move forward, or ways you could resolve things—chatting, writing a letter, going to dinner. Anything is fodder for your personal map.


Visual journaling adds a layer of fun and creativity to your memories and emotions. Experiment with various types until you find the one that feels right for you.


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