In This Post
- What journalling is and how it can help you
- Tips to get you started with your journalling practise
- How to journal to get the most out of it
What is Journaling?
Journaling is an incredible tool for dealing with the highs and lows of life, in this post we’ll walk you through our easy journalling guide for beginners that will help you master this useful tool. Journaling, or keeping a diary, is the process of writing down your thoughts and feelings, reflections and experiences as a way to help process and manage them.
The content of your journal can be whatever helps you. The frequency with which you write is entirely dependent on your goals. You can journal digitally, or on paper, whatever suits you! Although, there is something about physically writing that benefits the brain in a way that typing cannot.
Why Should I Journal?
The benefits of journaling are numerous; it can help with self-reflection, tracking improvement and growth. As well as giving you the retrospective material to gain insight into patterns of behaviour and thinking. Immediate benefits include helping you process feelings of stress, anxiety, and low mood. Along with highlighting and helping you truly appreciate positive seasons in your life. It can be a great way to get into the habit of practising gratitude and can also help cue your memory. Thus allowing you to retain more from your day-to-day experiences.
What Should I Journal About?
There is no correct way to journal. Journaling is very personal and what you want to get out of it will inform the way you should journal. A common and useful method is ‘blurting’ or ‘information dumping’. This is where you write down a stream of consciousness, your current thoughts and feelings. Whatever is in your head currently. By doing this, it allows you to release all the things that are in your mind and gain a sense of clarity, peace and calm.
This is also a good way to deal with more intense emotions. Especially if you are feeling anxious or frustrated. By doing this in the safe environment (you and your journal) you avoid unleashing all of these unfiltered thoughts onto an unsuspecting friend, colleague or family member.
Another style of journaling can include objectively listing your accomplishments or activities for the day. Focusing on the actions and behaviours, rather than your thoughts or emotions. This is a useful way to combine habit tracking and other measures of success, such as productivity or time usage. This method, in combination with writing about your thoughts and feelings, can help you establish the relationship between your behaviour patterns and your internal world.
What Techniques Can I Use?
If you are choosing to journal in the morning, this is a great time to set an intention or goal for the day. The process of writing it down will help you remember what you intend to do. It will also makes you statistically more likely to complete it! In a similar way this method allows you to look back and reflect on whether or not you achieved your goals. It can also help you form conclusions as to why, or why you were not successful.
This has been particularly helpful in my life, when the intention is not an item on the to-do list, but rather a way of behaving or a value. For example, setting the intention to be patient and disciplined, rather than setting the intention of mowing the lawn.
Another highly recommended element of journaling is practising gratitude. This is something you can do without journaling. But, by writing down the things you are grateful for, it gets you into the habit of routinely recognising the joys and privileges in your life. Practising gratitude is one of the most significant things you can do to improve your mindset. Your list of gratitudes doesn’t have to be long, or focused on the highly important, large-scale things in life. Although these are valuable and it is good to be grateful for them.
It is okay for your list of gratitudes to be short and to focus on the small things in life that bring you joy or peace. By practising gratitude through journaling, you will become more appreciative of the things you do have. And your brain will more easily be cued into thinking positively and from a place of satisfaction and peace.
What Else Should I Consider?
As you get into the habit of journaling more frequently, it is good to reflect on how your journaling routine is going. Consider journaling about your journaling. Has it helped you deal with uncomfortable feelings? Or, has it helped give you more patience and clarity throughout the day? Are you finding it easier to fall asleep at night? Are you going into your day with a more positive mindset?
By looking back at previous journal entries, you might see patterns of behaviour that can help you learn something. For example, have you previously written a lot about worrying about the future? Only to have the end outcome be okay all along? How can you learn from your past behaviour patterns to optimise and improve your life now?
What Are Some Common Challenges?
If you are struggling to be consistent with journaling, consider what the obstacles and challenges are. For some people it can feel like a chore to address what they’ve done in the day and how they felt about it. If this is you, consider shrinking your expectations. Writing a few sentences is much more beneficial than writing nothing. Not every journal entry has to have a deep and meaningful conclusion. Sometimes it’s ok to just write about your day, say you enjoyed it, and call it a night. Getting into the routine is much more valuable.
Another pattern that is easy to fall into is avoiding journaling when the process would require you to address particularly painful or difficult thoughts and feelings. Such as during challenging seasons in your life. This, coincidentally, is probably one of the times journaling can be most beneficial. Not only retrospectively, to see how you dealt with life’s challenges, but in the moment. It can help with processing, acknowledging and coming to terms with your internal state and external environment.
It can be hard to want to journal when you are feeling painful emotions, but coming to terms with them and acknowledging that you are struggling is important for growth and for finding peace with the ups and downs of life.
How Can I Make It a Ritual?
Journaling can only give you back what you put in. The more consistent and intentional you are with your journaling practise, the more benefits you will see. At the start of your journaling journey consider trialling lots of different methods – digitally, on paper, in the morning, at night etc.
Once you have found a method you like, consider making it a ritual: having a specific playlist you listen to while journaling, or doing it with a specific pen, book or space in your room. If possible, journal at the same time each day – using the habit stacking method to make sure it becomes part of your existing routine.
Eventually, journaling can become part of your life and help bring you peace day to day. It can be something that shows you immediate benefits and long-term ones too. By having a detailed account of your thoughts, feelings and experiences, you can reflect on your mistakes, successes and growth.
It is rewarding to see how far you’ve come and to use the lessons you’ve learned about yourself to continue into the future. The goal is to make journaling something you look forward to each day, but also a mechanism for coping that you can come to whenever you need it.
A Little Recap
As suggested earlier, you can journal whenever you need to process complex thoughts and feelings, maybe for you this looks like writing a stream of consciousness in the morning and setting your intentions, and then reflecting on those and writing a list of gratitudes at night.
Whatever works best for you and your life is the best way to approach how to set up a journaling ritual. Journaling has truly been one of the biggest saviours in my own self development journey. It can bring many benefits into your own life if you are willing to take the time to put pen to paper.
To Put it Minimally
- Journaling can be a great habit to get into to help you cope with stress, anxiety, and also offer an opportunity to practise gratitude and boost your mood
- Journaling is a personal thing, so writing about whatever helps you is the most important thing to focus on – although reflecting on your day, your thought patterns, and things you’re proud of are all good things to include
- Journaling regularly is more important than the length of time you journal for – so try to make it a routine by doing it at the same time each day