Anyone who knows me or who I’ve spoken with about anything remotely related to self-care and personal development will tell you that I swear by journaling.
I truly believe that if I hadn’t discovered journaling and maintained a journal practice, I would have engaged in some form of reckless or self-destructive behaviour.
Journaling was a healing balm and saviour to me at one of the lowest points in my life.
When I felt lost, alone and misunderstood, my journal gave me an outlet to voice my feelings without judgement.
Journaling helped me to gain clarity and make sense of what I was feeling and allowed me to express myself in a healthy way, rather than lashing out or simply shutting down.
So journaling is something dear to my heart and something I encourage everyone to do.
However, it’s clear that despite many people wanting to keep a journal and recognising the benefits of developing a journal practice, not everyone knows how to start journaling.
But it really is quite simple.
Get yourself a notebook
You’ll obviously need something to write in.
It can be a plain, basic notebook or a fancier one with a nicely decorated cover.
Personally, I recommend using a journal that is nice to look at with good quality paper.
There will be days when you’ll resist writing in your journal so it can help to have something you’re attracted to.
If you plan to keep your journal with you when you’re out and about, I recommend getting A5 but of course, you can use A4 if you prefer.
I tend to stock up on journals and notebooks from my favourite brands and shops during their sales and generally opt for blank pages. Obviously, you can use lined pages if you choose.
You’ll also need something to write with, which can be either a pen or a pencil.
Even if you sit down with the intention of only writing for a few minutes, you can end up writing for a lot longer once your thoughts and emotions start flowing. And in this digital age, many of us struggle to hold a pen for long periods of time. Therefore, it’s wise to choose something that you find comfortable to write with.
Set aside some time
Time is a commodity that many of us lack these days.
Setting aside time to write down how you’re feeling may sound like a luxury you cannot afford but there is no set amount of time you have to journal for.
If you only have a few minutes, you can begin by simply writing how you are feeling or what you are grateful for.
You can write first thing in the morning before you get up, while you drink your morning tea or coffee or in the evening before you go to bed.
Find the right environment
I prefer to be sat curled up and cosy so I tend to journal on my bed or on the sofa.
Sometimes I’ll have music playing and candles or incense burning.
There is no right or wrong place to write in your journal. You simply need a space where you can have some privacy and feel comfortable and relaxed, without any interruptions.
It could be a café, the local park, the beach or your kitchen table.
It may be all of those places depending on your mood.
Try journaling in different places to find the environment that works best for you.
Put pen to paper
Once you’ve got your notebook and pen and you’re in a comfortable environment, it’s time to actually start writing.
Which is sometimes easier said than done, especially when you’re new to journaling.
I always start my journal entries by writing the date. There is no set format but I use day-date-month-year.
I also record the day of my menstrual cycle and the moon cycle.
Some people record the time and a brief one-word summary of their mood.
Once you’ve written the date, you’re faced with a blank page.
You may instinctively know what to write next. If so, go ahead and put pen to paper and let the ink flow.
However, for many, checking in with ourselves and our own needs is rare so being asked to write what we’re feeling can be a challenge.
Here are a couple of ways that can help you kick-start your journal writing:
- Start with a question – How do I feel? What do I need the most right now?
- Write either “I feel”, “I think” or “I wonder” and then write whatever comes to mind.
- Pick a quote, mantra, prompt or song lyric and write down any thoughts and feelings that are provoked.
- Make a gratitude list writing at least 10 things that you are grateful for.
- Review your day – simply write an account of your day in as much detail as you like.
You can choose to write for a set amount of time, for a specific number of pages or until you have nothing else left to write.
There will be days when you struggle to fill a page and other days when you have to force yourself to stop writing.
I would advise however that initially you always aim to fill at least an A5 page (with average size handwriting).
Journaling prompts can be a great way to help you to get past any resistance or overwhelm that a blank page may trigger.
Final tips for getting started
- Identify a private, safe space to keep your journal so that you feel your words are being kept safe
- Be honest with yourself
- Don’t judge or censor what you write
- Don’t worry about writing well or avoiding grammatical errors
- Experiment and try different journal methods to see what helps you connect with yourself most authentically
- Set a daily reminder to write in your journal
- Enjoy the process
Hopefully, after reading these tips, you are feeling inspired and have a clearer idea of how to start journaling.
Journal prompt: How can developing a regular journal practice benefit me?
Affirmation: I am free to express myself honestly and authentically.
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