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When I was young, I always wanted one of those pretty little diaries with a lock on it. You remember the ones, something to write down the deepest desires of your little 8-year-old heart, without fear of anyone reading it. I don’t think I ever got that diary, but I did eventually start journaling in a little spiral-bound notebook. Sporadically, at least…I’d get so caught up in trying to write down every little detail of each day that it would take hours! And if I missed a day, it would take even longer to catch up. Eventually, that little notebook would end up set aside and forgotten until something BIG and IMPORTANT happened that I just had to write down. And then I’d start the whole process over, usually with a brand new little notebook.
Fast-forward a few years (okay, more than a few years…) and I’ve learned that there are actually several different ways to keep a journal. Ways that don’t always include writing down every single detail of each day. After some experimenting, I’ve finally found one that works for me. And guess what? It’s not the diary-style journal I’d always envisioned keeping! In fact, I barely even register that I’m “journaling”, it’s just become a part of my day!
Why start journaling?
If you’re considering journaling, I have to say that I’d recommend it. Journaling is such a simple habit to develop and has so many benefits! There are no limitations on who can journal and no “right” or “wrong” ways to do it!
Some of the benefits of journaling include:
One big cause of anxiety is those constantly swirling thoughts. They may be thoughts of things you need to do, that you need to remember, or possibly events from the day that still need to be processed. Journaling gives you a safe place to write them all down and organize them, on paper, where you can easily see them, instead of keeping them looping in your head…and making you anxious!
Improved communication skills
Reading and writing are both great ways to improve your communication skills, but writing, in particular, can help you become more aware of the ways that you personally communicate. You might notice patterns or gaps, and those can help you become a better communicator in your daily life.
Journaling is a great way to make yourself aware of growth, changes, and patterns in your life. You may not even notice them until you see them on paper.
For example, last year, I had a pretty solid pattern of writing that I needed to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. I wrote that same thing several times a week. If I’m writing it down that often, it’s probably time to do something about it!
Increased gratitude and happiness
A journal is a fantastic place to record all the things that you’re grateful for and notice good things in your life that you may have otherwise overlooked. By putting a little extra focus on the positives, you will also feel more positive!
Journaling can reinforce your mindfulness practice. It’s a chance to pause and just be aware of your thoughts, your emotions, and your surroundings. (Check out this post to learn more about mindfulness)
Better mental health
Journaling is a positive way to vent emotions, without taking your frustrations out on those around you. Instead of bottling those emotions up, put them on paper. When they’re on paper, they tend to be less “forward” in your mind.
If you’re trying to reach some goals, journaling can help you get there! Writing about experiences you want to have and goals you’d like to achieve makes them much more likely to happen. Taking the time to write them down kind of cements them in place and keeps them front of mind, so you’re more likely to reach those goals!
You can also use your journal as a habit tracker to record your progress in creating new habits and see patterns that prevent you from making those habits stick.
Journaling can help you organize your thoughts, which in turn, will help you organize your life!
Once you have a journaling practice in place, you may or may not choose to go back and re-read your entries. I don’t reread often, but occasionally, it’s interesting to see where I was mentally last month, last year, or even a few years ago. And that’s a great way to gain perspective on things that may have felt like a big deal at the time but worked out in the end.
How to begin journaling
Is it time to give journaling a try for yourself? One of the first steps to journaling is to decide what style of journal will work best for you. And there are lots of choices! Here are a few of my favorites:
Diary style journals
There is a good chance that this is the first type of journal that comes to mind. A diary-style journal a daily journal where you record the events of the day. It’s a great way to start as a beginner and a classic journaling type. It wasn’t the best option for me, but it’s still a very good place to start.
Planner style journals
Planner style journals are typically part planner, part journal. A place to keep track of your tasks, as well as a place to write down your thoughts. This type of journaling is perfect for my fellow organizational nerds out there. Since I fit solidly into that category, this is a type of journal that I use regularly.
The one below is my current favorite! I’ve used several, but I keep coming back to this little journal.
If you’re a creative person, you will love this one! A bullet journal (or BuJo) can literally be anything you want…daily diary, habit tracker, calendar, planner, a place to record goals and progress. It’s also a fantastic way to incorporate mindfulness into your day because bullet journals leave a lot of room for creativity. Think colored pencils or markers and lots of doodling.
It CAN require more time than other journal types, though, especially if you tend to be very detailed or artistic, so if time is an issue for you, this one may not be your best option.
But if it is, there are TONS of resources available to help you get started, like this one:
Gratitude journals focus less on daily events and more on recording things in your life that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small they happen to be. A daily gratitude journal can help to shift your attitude to a more positive setting and focusing on the good things will make your life feel more full.
Guided journals are journals that ask you questions or suggest topics to think over and write about each day. These journals are perfect for beginners who aren’t quite sure how to start or what to write about, as well as those of you who just prefer a little more structure.
(You can also check out Pinterest for journal prompts to help you get started, if you’d prefer to use a blank notebook.)
Wreck journals are somewhat new to the journaling scene and a lot of fun! If you’re a recovering perfectionist or have a tendency to get hung up on details, this might be a style to look into. Instead of trying to keep a beautiful, perfect journal, wreck journals encourage you to get a little messy and even destroy them as you go along! Tear them up, doodle, bend the pages, and leave “perfect” behind.
Once you’ve decided on the style of journal you’d like to try, get some supplies to make it feel like a special event in your day. I use the journal I mentioned above and some colored pens, but the idea is to go with whatever will make you most excited to get started.
Then, schedule it in. Add journaling to your daily routine. For me, it works best first thing in the morning, while I’m drinking my coffee and planning my day. Journaling can take as much or as little time as you’re willing to spend, but even 5-10 minutes a day can be enough – if you have more time, and would like to spend it journaling, feel free!
Also, think for a little bit about why you’ve decided to start journaling and what you hope to get out of it. Ask yourself:
Why are you keeping a journal?
Will anyone else see your journal or will it be completely private?
What would you like the result of journaling to be?
What would you like to write about?
And then, just write! Don’t worry about misspellings or editing yourself. This journal is for you, no one will be grading it with a red pen later, the act of writing itself is the important part. So feel free to write anything that comes to mind – misspellings, bad grammar, and all!