Key to Journaling Insights: Dump the Garbage!!


Updated: February 28, 2013


In many of my appearances and my books I talk about the power of journaling.  From the release of emotions to getting clear about what we want and don’t want, journaling can be a fabulous tool for self-discovery.

However, I sometimes hear people tell me they struggle with journaling because they believe it just captures the negative things that happen in their lives.  I had one woman even tell me she stopped journaling after 20 years because one day she looked at the large box of used journals in her closet and saw it as a “treasure chest of gloom and doom” – her words not mine!

I can certainly understand that perspective, but only if you limit your journaling to releasing and not learning from your experiences.  Here’s what I mean.

As you sort through your emotions and write out your struggles you generate a lot of trash—those thoughts and feelings that don’t serve your well-being but, instead, keep alive your negative beliefs and painful emotions from the past. It’s human nature to want to get out all of our anger, sadness, and fear and speak our truth, however ugly it may be.

It’s important to let go of the harsh feelings and judgments and focus on what you have learned and how you’ve grown. Set an easy schedule for yourself, such as once a week or once a month to Dump the Garbage.  As you read your journal entries, use a colored highlighter to mark any passages that are “gems”: insights that have value and can serve you in the future.

If you keep a separate gratitude journal, or what I recommend in my Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much program, a Solutions and Insights journal, write about your insights and the treasure you’ve found in your lesson.  You’ll be better able to track your real growth and progress, and less likely to sabotage yourself.

As you reread what you wrote when you had negative thoughts and emotions, think about how much weight you gave them in the moment and how much they have right now.  Does it seem like a lot of drama about something minor? Did you invest emotional energy in a situation or a thought or emotion that you now see really wasn’t important?

Now, as you look at these passages, say aloud, I release these thoughts and feelings with love and compassion for myself and everyone. Imagine they are being taken to a garbage dump to fertilize something better.  Take a moment to feel a sense of relief at having dumped the garbage.

For more information about keeping a Solutions and Insights journal as well as a Dumping Ground journal, check out my book, Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much, or sign up for my free Jump Start program here.

Love and blessings,
Colette Baron-Reid
Intuitive Counselor


P.S.  If you are struggling with an area of your life – relationship, weight, loss, etc. and I can help you, please reach out.  Don’t be afraid if you think it’s not important enough, you never know who else you may be helping simply by sharing your issue.  Send your question to  I will respect your privacy.

Showing 7 comments
  • valerie

    Thank you Colleen!! That is such a wonderful idea! I really like the part about highlighting the gems and releasing the rest! My yoga teacher suggested starting a grief journal to help release pent up emotions, that sometimes manifests as pain and gets stored in our body, but after journaling, not to dwell on your thoughts, but to release the pages, either by shredding them or having a burning ceremony.

    Thank you!!

  • Brandie

    I stopped journaling years ago for the above reasons. Great topic and advice!

  • Twila

    Sometimes it can help to work with a journaling coach as well, someone who can give you resources, customize journaling exercises for you, and help encourage you along the way. There is an incredible body of research by James Pennebaker and others about how journaling cannot only help emotionally, but it literally helps heal the body as well. It can improve immune function, reduce inflammation, etc. You are always a champion for whole person healing, Colette! Thank you for spreading awareness about this powerful therapy.

    • Colette Baron-Reid

      thanx for your comment I see you’re a journalling coach – LOVE it !! many blessings

  • Amanda

    Can’t wait to learn more about journaling!

  • Adriana

    Dr James Pennebaker,who has done 20 years research in the effects of journal writing for healing, is not convinced that writing every day, is a good idea,” He is not even convinced that people should write about a horrible event for more than a couple of weeks. You risk getting into a sort of navel gazing or cycle of self-pity. I believe that through journal writing you can gather perspective and evaluate where you are in life.
    I believe in the power of journal writing with a focus… to help “create” a new life- to come to terms with whatever life has been. And then use gratitude and imagination to spark what is it that your soul wants to experience next. The point is to empower not to get fixated in the same old story.

    • Colette Baron-Reid

      I fully agree hence why I suggest a Dumping Grounds for people to let their stories go, then take out the ” trash” until there is less and less. Love that you wrote!

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