We all know that keeping a journal is useful and constructive, but the idea of writing down your thoughts can seem intimidating. What should you write about? How do you find time to keep a journal? How do you keep your thoughts organized? Can journaling really improve your life?
There’s no wrong or right way to journal. You don’t need to be a great writer, and you don’t need to plan or follow any set pattern.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Your journal is uniquely yours, so you can write about anything you like. Don’t get caught up in a lot of thinking or planning; just put pen to paper and let the words flow.
Document bad days and struggles, but also note achievements, moments of joy, interesting events, and random thoughts Explore your relationships, your hopes, dreams, and ideas.
Be as honest with yourself as possible, and don’t censor yourself. Feel like using a few “bad” words? Go ahead! Your journal is for your eyes only.
Many people enjoy the ritualistic aspects of journaling, and for others, it’s all about the peace and solitude. You may want to get up early, make a cup of coffee or tea, and write when the house is quiet. Or, you may find that journaling at bedtime clears your mind and improves your sleep.
Don’t feel like writing about your feelings or day-to-day events? Are you experiencing writer’s block? Take a break and sketch or write poems.
Finding time to write isn’t always easy, and it may take time to settle on a system that works for you. It’s good to set lofty goals, but when it comes to journaling, it’s best to establish a realistic schedule that you’ll be able to sustain.
Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, recommends a process she calls morning pages, which involves beginning every day with three pages of longhand writing about absolutely anything that comes to mind. Don’t slow down, don’t think about what you’re writing, and don’t lift your pen until you’ve filled three pages.
Many people have discovered the benefits of writing first thing in the morning, before checking email or looking at the phone. However, as effective as can be, morning pages may not fit your schedule or your style. Writing with a timer may work better for you than filling a certain number of pages. Put your pen on the paper, then don’t stop writing until the timer rings. You may want to start with five or 10 minutes.
Freewriting, (also known as “stream of consciousness” writing), is a powerful technique, but if it doesn’t feel right, try something more focused. For example, write about an imaginary discussion you might have with another person, such as your partner, parents, boss, or best friend. Another idea is to write a letter to your past or future self.
If you prefer to write for a few minutes during your lunch hour, that’s good, too. Some people like to keep a notebook in their pocket or purse for writing down thoughts as they arise.
If you write regularly, journaling will eventually become part of your daily routine. Some experts claim that consecutive 21 days is the magic number for forming a new habit, while others say it may take almost a year.
However, journaling should be something you look forward to, not a task like doing the dishes or paying the bills. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few days. You can always get back on track or just start from scratch.
Don’t worry about your grammar, punctuation, or spelling, and don’t stop to edit yourself or fix your mistakes. (Your high school English teacher won’t see your journal). Just write and see what emerges.
It’s fine to journal with a keyboard if that method is more comfortable or satisfying for you, but you might want to try writing the old fashioned way. There are a host of reasons why journaling by hand is beneficial.
Journaling is your time to explore your journey through life, and it should be unique and special. Your journal needn’t be fancy or ornate, but it should enhance the journaling experience. For instance, a quality leather journal will last forever, becoming softer and more luxurious with time. Of course, we'd recommend Wanderings.
Leather journals are available in a variety of sizes and prices, but if you’re serious about journaling, look for an easily refillable journal. Store the completed pages in a secure location. A lockbox is a good idea if you’re concerned about privacy.
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