A Guide to Journaling

Someone writing in a journal on the couch

I’m a chronic journaler. 

The act of journaling has helped me be honest with the most important person in my life: myself. It’s become an important self-care practice which allows me to brain dump my thoughts, make decisions, work through a situation, acknowledge my feelings, immortalize my memories and, finally, practice gratitude. 

For anyone who wants to start journaling, it’s important to know that journaling has a multitude of benefits from increasing self-confidence (by allowing you to see your progress through old journal entries), to reducing stress and anxiety by providing a space to put your more negative thoughts on paper, to helping cope with depression by giving an avenue for positive self-talk.

Regardless of the benefits, sometimes it can be hard to start or even continue to journal. So, to help, I’ve compiled a list of journaling tips from my own and other's experiences. Whether you want to start journaling or have journaled in the past and want to continue, these tips will hopefully help make journaling the fun, effective, self-love activity it’s meant to be. 

  1. Try to write every day by setting aside a few minutes everyday to write. This will help make journaling a habit. 
  2. Use your journal in the way that works for you. Write (or draw, scribble, etc.) what feels good. You don’t have to follow a certain structure or write about certain things. Don’t censor yourself and instead let the words and ideas flow freely. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes or what others might think.
  3. Write without the inner critic. Remember to always write for your eyes only but sometimes our biggest critics can be ourselves. Journaling is a good way to beat this inner critic! Write honestly without judging yourself, without censoring. Realize your feelings, your words and your thoughts are valid. Sometimes I like to write extra fast to outrun that inner critic. :)
  4. Realize that your journal is as private as you chose for it to be. If you want to share parts of it with others, you can! But if you don’t want to, that’s okay too! It is your own private place to discuss and create whatever you want to express yourself. If you write in a physical journal, make sure to keep it in a place that no one will find it and communicate to any roommates that your journal is private. If you write on a device, make sure to lock the document you wrote on.
  5. There are many ways to journal beyond paper journaling. Some people like writing in a physical journal but some people find typing to be faster and easier. There are a lot of different ways of journaling from writing in a physical journal, to typing in your notes app when you have the time, to even recording a video of yourself just speaking about whatever you want. Try them all and find what works for you!
  6. You can journal at any time. You can journal in the morning to set your intention and goals for the day or you can journal in the night to talk about your day and your feelings throughout the day. You can also journal whenever you feel like it. It might be easier in the beginning to make journaling a habit by scheduling it in your day but don’t feel limited by the idea that there is a “right” way or “right” time to journal. The “right” way is the way that works for you so again, play around with it!
  7. Keep your journal handy: Carry around your journal or your journaling device with you. Whenever you feel like writing down a few thoughts, you will always have your journal with you!
  8. When in doubt, try gratitude or a new environment. You might be staring at a blank piece of paper not knowing what to write about. That’s okay! Sometimes it's helpful to start with some gratitude and write what you were grateful for today, this week, this month or even this year. Sometimes, the environment you are writing in can spark some new ideas and help you combat your writer's block. 
  9. Make journaling a pleasure. The purpose of journaling is to be fun and helpful, not a chore. Try to add the things that will make it more fun for you like lighting a candle, sitting in a comfortable spot covered with blankets, drinking some herbal tea or turning on your favorite or most relaxing playlist. Sit back, relax and journal!
  10. Make your journal yours. Make it messy, add drawings or doodles, don’t worry about your handwriting and decorate! You don’t have to make the journal Pinterest-worthy (but you totally can if you want and if that feels right). 
  11. Experiment! Try different things and find out what type of paper or device you like, your favorite pen, the best place, or the best time for your journaling. Journaling is unique for every individual person so give yourself the time to find out works for you.

In the end, just remember to journal in your own personal way and have fun with it. Journaling is not for everyone but I definitely encourage all of you to try it out! Journaling is an important method of self-love and we all deserve that level of self-care.

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