Two mental health professionals we spoke to ahead of Black History Month, registered psychotherapist Meghan Watson and licenced professional clinical counselor Shani Tran, defined journaling as one tool to get in touch with, reflect on, and identify Black joy (you can check out more of their tips here).
Finding that joy within the individual self, Watson said — "demanding space for them to be happy" — is essential because it characterizes someone by more than just their trauma. While putting pen to paper will in no way erase racial trauma, both therapists expressed that it's a step to focus on their joy. "The reason why we're differentiating joy and Black joy is because there's so much trauma out there," she noted. "We need to separate and clarify this is something that we feel, and it's restorative to us because of all of that trauma."
Watson and Tran each named a journal prompt to guide reflection. Check those out ahead.
"What Am I Grateful For in My Blackness?"
Tran told POPSUGAR, "It could be anything, but I know sometimes for me, I look in the mirror and I'm like, 'I am so thankful for these curves that I got from my mom.'" Another example, is being grateful for the sense of community and safety Tran feels with her family. "When I think about my own life and what I have either experienced, seen, or heard, I think of the community and how we're so strong and how we lift each other up, and I find joy in that."
The Black community itself, Tran said, brings her joy, too, knowing no matter what she has experienced, she can count on that togetherness. "It's this sense of, 'I see you, I see what you see. I might not have been through what you've been through, but I just want you to know I see you.'"
"When Was a Blissful Moment in My Childhood?"
Watson suggested writing about times in your past where you felt free. "I think as we grow into adults, we lose the imagination and the joyfulness that comes with unrestricted play. As we get older, we erase ourselves from that narrative because it feels childish," she said. She added that not everyone has those childhood memories, so recalling them is a privilege in its own right (if that's the case, thinking about a blissful memory you have in general can suffice). The key is to try to connect with a sensation of freedom and nostalgia. Joy, Watson said, is for everyone.