Navigating Emotions Through Writing

By Jennifer Belthoff | Writer and Certified Yoga Instructor

a notebook, blue pen, a coffee mug that says "love"

Photo credit: Jennifer Belthoff

I’ve been an avid journaler ever since I was young but never realized how deeply healing writing was until I lost my mom five years ago. It was in between the pages of my notebook that I spilled out how scared I was of losing her. I wrote down all the tiny moments I didn’t want to forget — like how she said she felt like a million bucks after I, terrified I’d hurt her, had washed her hair in the hospital. Even now, I write her letters, sharing everything I wish she were here to be a part of, asking for advice and whispering my dreams to her.

A Safe Space

The space inside my journal is one of the few places I feel safe to be completely me. The page never judges what I write, and it never talks back. It simply catches the words and holds them gently. It’s rare to see me without a notebook tucked in my bag. I keep it near in case there’s something I want to jot down. And I write almost every morning, waking up when the world’s still quiet, settling into a special space in my home I’ve created for reflection, and putting my thoughts into a more tangible form before the day gets away from me. 

I also lead writing groups for women, providing prompts as an entry point onto the page, and have witnessed firsthand how journaling has helped others, too. Writing is an act of self-care and can help ease anxiety. It provides an opportunity to dig deep within, release what we’re holding on to and put intentions into motion. You may not consider yourself a “writer” or the very idea of expressing yourself in this way may make you nervous, but I encourage you to give it a try. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin to explore journaling:

  1. The page is yours and yours alone. You don’t have to share what you write with anyone. You don’t even have to keep it. Once you’re done writing, you can rip it out, tear it up, maybe even burn it. The very act of writing is the important part. You don’t have to save what you write forever.
  2. Writing is a practice. It’s not about creating a perfectly polished piece; it’s an excavation of the heart. Give yourself freedom to not worry about spelling, end a sentence midway and even jump around from topic to topic. Through practice, you’ll get better and learn how to trust your deeper self more.
  3. There’s no right or wrong way to journal. What matters most is that you’re getting words down onto the page. When choosing what to write with, use the tool that works best for you, the one that allows you to sink in without worrying about getting things right. This may be a notebook or a Word doc on your computer. Whichever format you choose, be OK with making a mistake and don’t feel pressure to adhere to how the tool “should” be used. With notebooks, some journalers write in the margins; some begin at the end and write to the front. Do what feels good for you and give yourself permission to show up exactly as you are in the moment.

Prompts to Get Your Pen Moving

With the blank page staring you down, it can feel intimidating to begin. Writing prompts are the perfect way to get your pen moving or fingers typing, and if writing a paragraph feels daunting, try starting with a list. The best thing about prompts is they can be revisited. You’ll find your responses to them will differ depending on what’s happening to you in the moment.

Here are a few prompts to try out. Begin with the words below and see where your pen or keyboard takes you. If you get stuck, write the prompt again. Try to write uninterrupted for five minutes.

  • Even if …
  • I wonder …
  • I need you to know ...

My journal holds my heart, giving me space to unearth and process. It’s the one place that no matter what happens, I know I can turn to again and again. I hope you can find similar comfort in a writing practice of your own. Happy journaling!

Jennifer Belthoff

About Jennifer Belthoff

Jennifer Belthoff is a certified yoga instructor, published writer and postcard sender from New Jersey. You can write along with her in one of her writing groups or join in on the Love Notes Postcard Project, a three-week project in which participants connect with one another via postcard. Discover more at