Ever thought about journaling but don’t know where to start, how to find the time or how to get it right?
Maybe you’re reluctant to confront those emotions and thoughts you’re currently keeping under wraps?
Maybe you’ve tried it, and weren’t able to be consistent so you gave up.
Or perhaps you just haven’t found the perfect journal and pen yet.
Lovely, there’s a reason that journalling is constantly recommended as a powerful tool for personal development and wellbeing.
It can have some very significant benefits. Many people would attest that journaling has changed their lives, supported them through their greatest challenges, and helped them grow and achieve their goals.
In this blog post, I’m going to share how journaling can help you, plus some journalling tips to keep it easy, manageable and enjoyable so you won’t want to put it off any longer.
What is journalling?
Firstly, let’s just get clear on what journalling is. Journalling is simply writing about your life and how you feel about what is happening. You may have done this as a child, probably calling it your diary.
There have been numerous studies dedicated to understanding the benefits of journalling. That’s right, it’s backed by science! Let’s talk about some of the reasons to journal.
Your safe place
Your journal is a safe place to express your thoughts and emotions. You can truly be yourself, without judgement or censoring. With no one else reading it, you can empty out all the emotions and thoughts that aren’t fully formed, that you aren’t proud of, that you’re scared to say out loud, or that you feel you can’t share with others.
Having a place to be honest with yourself can help you accept your feelings as they are and take the edge off your emotions, so that you can then get clear on any action you need to take.
If you don’t like being alone, or find being still and unoccupied very difficult, journalling can provide a focus and some structure for your alone time.
Relieve stress, overwhelm and anxiety
Many of my clients find that journalling helps them feel happier and calmer. When you’re overwhelmed, anxious or worried, getting all your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can help you feel better (if you do it before going to bed, it may help you sleep). You can clear your mind of the thoughts that just won’t leave you alone. Seeing your thoughts and emotions written out can also provide perspective.
Improve your resilience and work through challenges
Journalling about challenges you’re experiencing, can help you reflect on your own thoughts more objectively, examine options and find the best course of action. Having a record of what you’ve learned and the challenges you’ve overcome can help you build your confidence and self-belief.
You can also journal about things that have already happened, earlier in your life. When we confront, process and work through memories of past challenges, we build resilience for future experiences.
Improve self awareness
This is one of my favourite benefits of journalling. You can gain SO much insight into your own thinking, habits and patterns. Journalling helps you become more aware of how you feel and why. You can:
- Identify your emotional triggers and negative self talk.
- Deepen your understanding of how you experience anxiety
- Identify opportunities to be self compassionate
- Identify patterns of overthinking and worry
- Uncover your deepest held beliefs, that are creating your life and influencing every decision and reaction.
With this knowledge, you can put things in perspective and shift your mindset and beliefs, building confidence and self-belief. This is literally life changing!
When life is busy, we sometimes forget to stop and celebrate the progress we’re making, what we’re learning and all the little things we have to be grateful for. Journalling is a fantastic way to capture all the positives in your life, and savour the positive emotions. When you’re feeling low, it can be helpful to revisit some of the things you’ve celebrated in the past.
Gratitude journalling is a popular form of journaling that helps to boost mood and your overall sense of wellbeing, by maintaining a regular focus on the things you’re grateful for.
In addition to these benefits, journalling can improve your memory and brain function, help you set and achieve your goals, capture all your ideas, boost your creativity, improve your relationships and communication and even boost your immune system!
Journalling tips to keep it easy, manageable and enjoyable
If you want journalling to feel easy, manageable and enjoyable there are some things you need to know.
No one else is going to see your writing
If you’re worried you’re not a good enough writer, let me assure you, you ARE. There is no standard to reach here, especially given no one else is going to be reading it. Grammar, punctuation or eloquence are not important. I often use my own system of abbreviations and symbols that I created for faster note taking in university.
Release yourself from the pressure to write in a certain way and if you were hoping to improve your writing, then journalling is a great way to practice expressing yourself in different ways.
You can journal in ANY notebook with ANY working pen
There are so many potential questions around what sort of journal to buy – should it be pretty? Thick or thin? Big or small? Dated or not? With or without prompts? What about a matching pen?
Let’s call this what it is – procrastination!
It’s a lovely idea to buy yourself a special book for your journalling, but many a journal has been started and abandoned, only to be replaced by a shiny new journal when the urge strikes again. It’s what’s in the book that matters most. You’ll see the same benefits from journalling in a $2 notebook from the supermarket with a half chewed pen from the bottom of your handbag, as you will from a monogramed leather journal with a matching rose gold pen.
There may be benefits to writing over typing
People often ask whether they can use an app or other online journal. The answer is yes! Whatever works for you! Some people use note taking apps like Evernote, or the Notes app on their phone. There are also specific journalling apps like Day One (Mac, iOS) or Diarium (Windows, Android) which allow you to add photos and social media posts, and schedule reminders.
However, the act of writing may actually be more beneficial for your brain because it requires you to slow down, giving you more headspace for thinking. While your left brain is occupied with the act of writing, your right brain is free to dedicate all of it’s capacity to creating, intuiting and feeling. You won’t be distracted by social media or notifications and your notebook will never run out of battery or have wifi issues.
It’s ok to write nonsense
People often don’t start journalling because they don’t know what to write. Journal prompts are here to help! There are loads of journal prompts available on the internet. You can use the same one for a few days in a row, or choose a new one every day! I’ve created a list of simple journal prompts to help you – download it here.
However, writing anything and everything that comes into your mind is a completely legitimate way to journal, especially at the start (and even if it makes no sense). For example, “I have no idea what to write. This feels a bit silly. I’m hungry. I wish I had a blanket right now. Gosh, I’m so distracted…… Ok, today I feel a little all over the place.”
Alternatively you can draw something to represent what’s going on in your life and how you’re feeling about it.
You can journal at any time of day
Some people like to journal in the morning, before their day is underway and their mind is racing. Others like to reflect on the day. It doesn’t matter when you journal, as long as it works for you. Include journalling time in your daily schedule if you have one or set a reminder in your phone.
One thing that can help make your new journalling habit stick, is attaching it to another already established habit. For example, if you always sit down with a cup of tea after the kids go to bed, journal while you have your tea. Or, if you like to plan your day in the morning, add journalling to this routine. This is called habit stacking and it greatly increases your chances of creating a new habit!
You can’t fail at journaling
This isn’t another thing you have to get right lovely. There is NO right or wrong way to journal. Whatever happens to be your way is perfect for you! Forget all the rules!
One of the things that makes people give up on journalling is that fact that they find it hard to be consistent, writing every day. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you miss a day, or two days, or a whole week, that’s ok! Just do it the next day. The important thing is you get back to it. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
Journalling tips for getting started
Ready to give this a try?
Here’s how to start:
- Grab a journal and pen (or your app).
- Find somewhere lovely to sit, e.g. your favourite chair, somewhere with a view, in the garden, tucked up in bed. Take a minute to be still, calm your breathing and set your focus on your writing.
- Set a timer for 5 – 10 mins (if it’s really daunting, start with 2 mins).
- Date your entry.
- Start writing. If you feel like you’ve run out of things to write, or you start to get distracted, read over what you’ve written and continue. Here are some options:
- Write in response to a journal prompt.
- Write whatever thoughts come into your mind.
- Draw a picture.
- Reflect on your day or set your intentions for the day.
- When your time is up, smile! Be proud that you did it! Notice how you feel.
Important: Editing interrupts your flow. Your brain can’t edit and create at the same time, so don’t edit or censor anything. Just keep writing. Use symbols, bullet points or broken sentences if you want. Follow your thoughts.
If you want to take it one step further, review what you have written before you finish up. Write a sentence or two to sum up your key insight, for example, “I notice / feel….” and any actions you want to take.
Release the need to get journaling right, and just have fun with it.
If you’re still finding journalling really challenging, start with the absolute minimum amount you can do to build a habit – one sentence, one bullet point or one graphic each day. That’s it. Once you’re in the swing of things with that, make it two. Keep increasing slowly as your confidence builds and it becomes a habit.
Enjoy your journalling, lovely! No rules, no stress, just loads of benefits from journalling your way!