How To Start A Journal And Stick With It
Our lives contain a series of hidden gems of insight and understanding, and our most recent experiences contain the most useful gems of all.
This is because our most current lessons have the strongest impact on how we are living right now.
By documenting your struggles, achievements, and relationships in a journal, you can use this blank canvas to help clear your mind, solve problems, and process your emotions.
Journaling can also lead to a deeper understanding of your past, present, and future and insight into how you have grown and changed over time.
Many people choose to write in a journal because it provides improved mental clarity and an ability to view life in the big picture, while also creating a written testament of their journey.
It is also an excellent tool for healing past wounds and current stress, as it helps free you from the mental baggage that causes mental and physical illness.
Studies have revealed that the emotional release from journaling lowers anxiety and stress, and improves physical health.
Journaling is a perfect mindfulness activity because you are willfully encouraging your mind to be present with your writing.
It forces your brain to slow down to better organize your thoughts and consider the big picture. It is an uninterrupted connection between thought and language.
“There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.”– William Makepeace Thackeray
If you're not sure how to get started with your journal, rest assured that this is a common roadblock. There is no right or wrong way to go about this process.
If you want to start a journal and stick with it, here are the steps to begin this transformative practice.
In addition to a pen and paper, the only thing that you need to start your journal is a willingness to write.
Don't worry about writing well or avoiding grammatical errors. You just need the desire to write without self-judgment.
It's okay if you aren't sure what you want to write about — just allow your words to flow, even if they feel disjointed or nonsensical at first.
The more you write, the easier and more fluid the process will become.
Find A Good Journal
You may be perfectly happy using a spiral notebook and a Bic pen for your journal. But if you want a keepsake journal, you may want to consider something a big more sturdy and elegant.
If you just want a lined journal, one of my favorites is this classic hardcover notebook with pen loop.
If you want a journal with daily writing prompts, check out Q and A a Day: 5-Year Journal with questions for each day to kick-off your journaling.
There are so many beautiful journals and notebooks to choose from, so select something that matches your style and reflects your personality.
Make It A Habit
Create a daily schedule for journal writing by choosing a time when you can write for fifteen to twenty minutes without interruption or distraction.
First thing in the morning before you get out of bed or in the evening before you go to sleep are often quiet and peaceful times to consider for journaling.
In order to stick with your writing schedule, it needs to become a habit that is automatic. This can take several weeks, so you want to set yourself up for success so you don't quit too soon.
If you don't want to feel overwhelmed in the beginning, start by writing for just five minutes a day for the first week, and slowly add time to your journaling schedule.
You'll find a variety of helpful steps for creating habits that stick in this article about habit creation.
Let It Flow
You may want to take a few moments before you start writing to think about what you want to focus on.
Once you start writing, let it flow and try to ignore your internal critic. Just keep writing to see where it takes you without going back to edit your initial thoughts.
Use your own, natural voice in your writing, and always be honest with yourself. Don’t try to convince yourself that you are not feeling what you feel.
Instead, allow yourself to be completely open and authentic. You may be tempted to edit yourself if your truth seems too harsh, but don't sugar coat your feelings as you are getting them out.
If you worry about others seeing your journal, keep it in a private place.
Styles of Journal Writing
Journal writing should provide you with the sacred space you need when you are inspired, as well as when you are looking for relief and solace.
Whether you choose to make your journal a conglomeration of ideas or laser in on just one topic, the style you choose will never be wrong. Let's go over a few different styles of journaling.
Specific Topic: You may want to focus on one topic in your life for your journal, such as your children, your career, or your weight loss journey. To start a journal like this, you may want to begin your entries with a standard template to help you track your progress over time.
If you want to write about several different journal topics but keep them all separate, file each topic in a different section in your folder instead of journalling chronologically.
Free Writing: A free writing journal is an unstructured personal narrative that holds no boundaries. This is a great way to garner your creative thoughts throw the flow of spontaneous writing.
Some people choose to structure this type of journal writing by limiting themselves to a specific amount of time or number of pages to write, but others choose to keep writing until they have nothing left to say.
Free writing is a great way to purge all of your most recent thoughts and feelings down on paper.
If you are not sure where to start with free writing, begin with a prompt. Begin your journaling session with the small structure of a question, topic, or thought to help begin to frame your writing and just allow it to go from there.
Gratitude Journal: We tend to focus on the negative things that happen in our lives and neglect to think about the things we are thankful for. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you direct your thoughts too the good things in your life.
You can carry a small notebook around with you, and write in it whenever you experience something you are grateful for. Or you can journal a list of things each night that you were grateful for throughout that day.
You might focus on a friend or family member, and write about how the various reasons you are grateful to have him or her in your life.
By contemplating the good things in your life that you're grateful for, you will train your mind to see more positive than negative, helping you feel happier and more optimistic in general.
List Writing: Writing and maintaining a list of something is a useful and powerful strategy when you are keeping a journal.
You may choose to complete your list in one sitting, or you can keep your list going throughout the year.
The process of writing a list will become a self-awareness exercise that is more streamlined. You can focus on your interests and experiences without having to spend the time writing long paragraphs.
Your lists can also serve as inspiration for other journal entries that go deeper into a specific thought or feeling.
Some examples of lists that you could journal about include:
- Personal achievements
- Books that you have read
- New recipes you have tried
- Things you have done to help other people
- Habits you are trying to avoid
- A bucket list
- People who have influenced your life
Quick Journal: A quick journal is similar to a list journal, as you are not writing long paragraphs or pages worth of content at one time.
If you like the idea of journaling, but you're scared of the commitment, try writing just one or two sentences each day.
You can target the most important or pressing thoughts or feelings you are having at one time in your life. Later on, it can help you to look back on these sentences to see how far you have come in your life journal.
Stream of Consciousness Journal: This is a journaling idea I have used frequently. I'll begin with a prompt, like, “What do I need to know today?”
Then I just begin writing without thinking about the content or focusing on any particular topic. I just write what comes to mind in the moment, even if it doesn't seem to make sense.
It's surprising to see what your subconscious mind brings forth in this style of writing. I've gone back and read some of this journal writing months later to realize how almost “prophetic” my inner thoughts turned out to be.
Try a few different styles to see what feels the most comfortable and whether you think you can stick with for the long-term. You may try one style and decide it is not for you and move on to another.
The key is to keep up the journaling practice and make it a daily habit. The longer you journal, the more you will enjoy the healing benefits of the practice.