I love journaling because it’s the best way for me to untangle my intense and ever changing emotions. I’ve been keeping a journal off and on since I was ten, and I know this practice has helped me to stay connected to who I am at heart. In my journal, I never have to worry about how I come across. I can be unapologetically me.

There was a time from when I was 20 to 26 when I didn’t keep a journal at all, and I ended up regretting it so much. At the age of 27, I ended up having this huge, depressive identity crisis and I blame part of it on not keeping in touch with my inner-self through journaling. I lost my connection with my identity and what mattered to me because I got caught up in the pressures of life without ever checking in with how I was actually doing.

So now I journal regularly, doing it daily if possible. For a journaling practice to do the greatest good, there has to be space for complete honesty. You have to feel safe to let your thoughts flow as they are.

I’ve found that even when I try my best to be authentic in my journals, at times I fall into not writing about my life honestly. Like, I focus on writing the surface stuff: what I did for the day, what happened to me…light and fluffy things.

To be clear, it’s okay to write about the light stuff sometimes. The problem is when that’s all you write about. I’ve noticed that when my journal entries start to center around what’s easy for me to write, journaling loses its cathartic power.

Honest and Authentic Journaling for Personal Growth

So when I start feeling like my journal entries aren’t addressing what is truly bothering me, I ask myself this question:

What is hard for me right now?

Often, I’ll write this question on the page, and then list all the things that are hard for me. Then I allow myself to rant about each item on the list, giving some air to how I really feel.

This isn’t a space for solving issues, but bringing awareness to them. Sometimes while ranting, my mind does formulate solutions, but other times it doesn’t, and that’s fine. Often shedding light on how I actually feel about what’s going on in my life can make a difference.

If you’re the type of person who tends to fall into a negative black hole while journaling, you may want to check out this post. It’s good to express how you really feel in full, but drowning yourself in such emotions can be counter-productive, so it’s important to find a balance.

But overall, asking myself what is hard for me right now has kept me honest and in tune with what’s actually going on in my life. I’m less likely to have days when I am “mysteriously” grumpy, because I have full awareness of the things in my life that I’m finding challenging at the moment.

If you have days when you feel sad, angry, or just in such a mood for “no reason,” it may be helpful to take a second look at what is hard for you right now. Often such feelings come from a lack of connection with what is really going on in your life.