Did you ever keep a diary as a child? Up until I was a teenager I had a diary that I would use to record my thoughts, feelings, hopes and worries. This private space allowed me to voice things without fear of judgement or recrimination. Getting all of those thoughts out of my head and onto paper helped me make sense of the world and my place in it. I neglected to keep a diary for many years (partly due to fear my younger sibling would discover it), but after many years a friend introduced me to the idea of journaling. Just like your childhood diary, journaling gives us the space to compartmentalise our lives and a sense of introspection that can be positive for our mental and physical wellbeing. In this blog I’d like to discuss how to start journaling, and what benefits this simple self help practice can offer.
Understanding The Benefits Of Journaling
Journaling can be great for those who want to bring a sense of focus and calm into their lives. By recording our thoughts on paper, we can offload negative emotions by confronting how we feel about them and reinforce our positive experiences. Journaling is great for gaining a sense of self awareness, and unpacking any stressful emotions so you can begin to take action to ease stress. Keeping a journal over a period of time can help us track our emotions and personal progress. Identifying trends in your mood and emotion can be a great way of finding solutions to life’s ongoing problems.
Studies have also suggested that journaling can help improve communication skills. Over time as you become better at communicating your own thoughts and feelings with yourself you can learn to vocalise this better around others. Studies have also demonstrated that Jounaling may help you sleep better. Journaling before bed helps you unload your brain of racing thoughts that may keep you from a good night’s sleep. A study published by the Journal of experimental psychology even suggests that journaling can help improve mental cognition. By dealing with our trauma and negative emotions we leave more room for clear and coherent thought, which can aid focus and improve mental wellbeing.
Getting Started With Journaling
All you need to get started with journaling is a blank canvas and the willingness to self reflect. You can keep a journal either on pen and paper or digitally. Regardless of what method you use to keep your journal, consistency is key. Establish a time of day and space for you to begin your journaling. You could start by laying out for thoughts and feeling over your morning coffee or in the evening after a long day. Find yourself a calm and quiet space for this moment of self reflection, this can make it easier to avoid distractions and keep your mind focused on itself.
Choosing Your Journaling Style
Just as our personalities are individual to us, so is our journaling style. A range of journaling styles exist, so it’s important to find one that works best for you. You can keep a traditional style of journaling: keeping a daily record of the events and happenings of your day, or try something less formalised such as free writing. Free writing involves expressing your thoughts freely through writing, without editing or taking time to consider what you are writing. Bullet journaling is great for those who are on the go. Bullet journaling entails keeping records of thoughts as they occur, this is a highly effective form of journaling for those who may struggle to find time to journal during the day.
There are other types of journaling more specific to certain needs also. Gratitude journaling, seeks to focus on positive events, noting down what you are grateful for or appreciate over the course of your day. This can be particularly useful to raise a low mood and instil a sense of optimism. These are just a few types of journaling but there are many more. Find what style of journaling best fits your lifestyle and the goals you would like to achieve from journaling.
Prompts For Mental Clarity
Prompts are questions, ideas and suggestions to help you get the most out of your journaling experience. Prompts can be specific or vague as long as they help you to self reflect and write honestly. We can use prompts to reflect on certain areas of our life that we want to work on, or gain more insight into. There are many different kind of prompts for different styles of journaling. For example someone who is journaling to better their communication and social skills might use a prompt like:
- What’s the best social experience I had recently?
- What would I like to talk about in my next interaction?
- How did talking make me feel today?
In relation to journaling for calm, focus and a sense of wellbeing there is a plethora of prompts you can use such as:
- What would make my life happier right now?
- What are the limits to my happiness?
- Where do I spend most of my time and focus today?
- What is important to me today, and what can I put aside?
Your prompts should allow you to explore areas of your life that you may not make time to acknowledge across the course of a day. Find some prompts that work for you, and see if your answers raise more questions or prompts that you would like your journaling to answer.
Overcoming The Challenges Of Journaling
Starting a journal can be easy, maintaining consistency and sticking with it may not be. It can be tempting if you miss a day’s journaling to skip the habit altogether. Be kind to yourself if you miss a day’s journaling and don’t let it dissuade you from continuing. It can also be tempting on particularly emotional or trying days to skip your journal, in favour of avoiding thinking about what may have caused you distress. However this may be the most important time to keep up your journaling habit.
When experimenting with journalism you may try a few different types of journalism that fail to resonate or feel constructive to your journaling goals. Don’t be afraid to move on to a different form of journaling or find a new set of prompts that leave you more inspired to write. Journaling is a personal experience, and you should tailor your journaling around what works for you. Don’t feel intimidated by other more experienced journalists, just remember that your journal is a space for your thoughts and not for the judgement of others.
Journaling may not be the solution to all of life’s problems. But it certainly offers a simple and accessible way for anyone to begin analysing their thoughts and feelings, which can provide space to make rational and well thought out decisions. By maintaining a constant diary it becomes simple to track your emotions and thoughts, identify what causes you to have bad days, and make positive changes for yourself. Anyone can start journaling, and everyone stands to gain at least a little insight, calm and focus into their lives. Start simple, and try your best to keep it up. You may find journaling is the key to instigating positive change and you’ll know exactly how you did it.