A visual journal can help you make sense of the themes and thoughts of your life. Whether you journal everyday or once in a while, it’s a powerful way to document and organize myriad experiences.
Writing and drawing have a way of sorting through the jumble of thoughts.
Visual journaling adds an extra component to written narratives in terms of self-expression. Creating an image of your experience, whether realistic or abstract, expresses the sensory parts of the event. It tangibly conveys what words cannot explain in a linear way. And writing about the event and its image, places experiences in an objective, historical context.
In other words, creating images helps you make emotional sense of an event while writing about it helps you have some distance so you can approach it from a logical perspective. Like I described in a previous post, it’s making use of the brain’s ability to process information in both hemisphere. It’s your brain processing information the way it’s meant to.
Visual Journal Exercises
Think of your visual journal as a personal playground where you can explore different combinations of verbal and visual elements on the page.
Try one of these ideas to get you started:
Grab your visual journal, watercolor paints and a pen. (On Thursday, I’m posting a short video about the supplies I like to use for visual journaling.)
Recap a memorable experience
You can either draw/paint first or write first – do what feels best for you. Take a moment to pause, take a few deeps breaths and relax more and more with each exhale. Close your eyes if it helps and remember with your senses what the experience was like: Smell, taste, touch, sound, sight. What feelings come up? If that feeling was a color or two what would you see. Start putting that paint down in your journal, and let the watercolor mingle and dance. After the paint dries, use a pen to doodle or sketch the experience and write about it, describing the sensory experience with words. You can think of the image and words as complementing each other and creating a holistic version of your experience.
That thing that’s really pissing you off right now
A visual journal is a good place to express all your feelings – positive and negative ones. So use it as a safe space to get what’s eating at you out of your head and onto the paper, where you can analyze it and find a positive solution.
Now I’m not saying that writing and drawing makes a negative experience disappear. Some issues are just too complex for a journaling session to “fix.” But journaling isn’t about fixing anything. It’s about working through an experience – celebrating if it’s positive and working through it if it isn’t. It’s a way to:
- Express the emotions in the experience;
- Approach the experience logically;
- See if a solution presents itself, or an idea pops up to help you cope, or giving you a foundation to articulate your needs to someone who can help.
Grab your journal, paints and pen and repeat the exercise above. Stand up and stretch. Now look at your journal entry. If you feel your emotions overwhelming you, add more colors, doodle or draw. Express it with images. If you need some distance, take a break because you can always come back. When you look at the entry, try to process it with some distance. Do any ideas or solutions present themselves. Don’t force it. Sometimes just getting it into your journal is enough to make you feel better. And other times you may have to journal multiple entries before a solution presents itself. Stay loose and let both hemispheres come up with helpful ideas.
A visual journal will help you build the practice of living an attentive, reflective, and intentional life. Give it a try. Interested in getting 5 days of prompts to help you get started delivered to your inbox, click the button below: