We all, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, know we have some things we need to heal from. Most of us just don’t know how to do it.
Recently, I typed “healing journey” into a website called Answer the Public. It’s a website where you can see the most popular Google searches for virtually any topic you’re interested in. When the results came up, I was shocked to see that the majority of searches about healing journeys were some variation of the phrase “how do I start healing?”
It’s a hopeless thing to want to heal and not know how.
Today, I’m going to make my best attempt to give you the tools you need to get started. Yes, I am a psychologist, as you might have learned from my other blogs. But I’m not that kind of psychologist. I’m a research psychologist; I don’t practice therapy. But I do pay for a lot of therapy! So, this blog is written from my personal perspective as a healing person myself. Think of me as your equally broken friend who’s just a few steps ahead of you on the journey. And keep in mind that healing journeys are an incredibly personal and unique experience. There is no one size fits all approach. So take what resonates, and leave the rest.
#1. Acknowledge and accept your pain:
So much of our pain has been pushed way down, out of our consciousness. No one likes to dwell on their pain, and often our way of “coping” is just to ignore it. But before a healing journey can begin, we must take the time to examine the pain. Put it under a microscope. Acknowledge and feel it all. The pain may be difficult to access at first, if you’ve pushed it down far enough. That’s okay. Just acknowledging the emotions, traumas, or challenges you’ve experienced is a good enough start. I’d suggest getting a journal to write down all the things that come up as you explore your pain. Not only is writing an incredibly therapeutic process; it also serves as a way for you to track your progress as you heal.
#2. Set your intentions and goals:
Reflect on what you want to accomplish on your healing journey. Setting clear intentions and goals will help guide your process. It can also help you communicate to your support system how they can help you. Some common goals and intentions are things like:
— I want to finally forgive my parents
— I never properly grieved a loss, and I want to grieve it now
— I want to overcome my fear of dating again
— I want to gain self-confidence and self-esteem
— I want to process a trauma I’ve been ignoring or suppressing
#3. Seek support:
You’ll want to have people you can lean on during your healing journey — people who can check in on you and provide guidance and encouragement. If it’s accessible to you, it is always a good idea to have a therapist guide you though the healing journey. A good therapist will know how to patiently and expertly navigate the difficult terrain. Therapists know when to push you past your comfort zone, and when to hold space for where you are without pushing. If you don’t have access to a therapist, you can download my free guide The Next Best Thing to Therapy here. It offers tips for how to do self-directed therapy at home.
#4. Explore healing modalities:
Healing can be so much more than going to therapy. Try to find things that resonate with you, that make you feel healed, whole, and good. This could include things like yoga, meditation, art therapy, journaling, or simply spending time outdoors.
#5. Embrace self-care:
And HEAR ME here! Self-care can, of course, be simple pleasures like bubble baths and facials. But real, nourishing, fulfilling self-care is so much more than that. Embracing real self-care means doing things that promote overall well-being. This can include practicing setting boundaries, working on communicating your needs even when it is uncomfortable to do so, and choosing to show up as your authentic self. These are all habits that will serve you well when your healing journey is complete (although, let’s be honest, healing journeys are never really complete, they just keep moving forward).
#6. Practice self-compassion:
Be kind and gentle with yourself. Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with understanding, forgiveness, and patience. Recognize that healing takes time and it’s okay to have setbacks along the way. As they say, healing is non-linear.
#7. Find healthy ways to release “stuck” emotions:
This one has been huge for me. I find that a lot of my hard feelings are pushed so deep down that they’re essentially stuck there. When I try to experience and express them, I come up only with numbness. An interesting part of my healing journey has been learning how to get those feelings up to the surface. For me, that looks like getting in my bed and beating the absolute shit out of my pillows and mattress. When I feel emotionally stuck, something about letting all those feelings out in a physical (but safe) way seems to get the feelings to bubble to the surface. Usually, by the time I’m done, I lay down in an exhausted puddle and cry a soul-bearing cry. Feel free to try my technique, or figure out what works best for you!
#8. Be patient and persistent:
Healing is a process that takes time, and it’s important to be patient with yourself. Acknowledge that setbacks or challenges are normal and part of the journey. Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance.
Every healing journey is different, and your path will be unique and special to you. Be brave enough to get started. The amazing thing about healing journeys is that it just takes that one small step to start. The journey will show you the next steps as you go.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.