A Beginners Guide to Journaling
Updated: May 15, 2021
What is Journaling?
Firstly, lets address the elephant in the room, What is Journaling? Journaling is a bit like keeping a diary, but not like the one Adrian Mole kept, where he talked about puberty and girls, no. A journal is more of a collection of thoughts, feelings, goals, ambitions, gratitude and whatever else HELPS YOU.
A journal is still a very personal thing, but it’s not like talking to the teen angst version of yourself, it’s more like talking to the person who you are today or possibly even the one you want to become.
How do I Journal?
There should be no hard and fast rules around journaling in my opinion; it should be a natural process that helps get everything that’s rattling around inside your mind, down on to a piece of paper.
You can create a journal that helps you achieve targets, show gratitude, set goals or simply as a way of trying to make sense of all those thoughts and feelings. Ultimately a journal will give you piece-of-mind, because you’re sharing everything that’s bottled up inside, with it; meaning it no longer stays bottled up inside.
How does it work?
There are many reasons why journaling works, from a physical, psychological or an emotional point of view.
It can be a very cost-effective therapist. Many times I’ve written stuff down only to realise why I’ve been feeling a certain way about something. It can do wonders for your mental health too. Regular journaling can give you a safe, cathartic release valve for the stresses of everyday life.
Journaling can help clarify your thoughts and feelings and help you get to know yourself better too. I was shocked at how badly I knew myself, but after reading back some of my entries, I soon discovered that my thoughts and feelings on certain topics, were different to how I outwardly perceived them to be.
Writing down all the positives in your life can have amazing benefits for your self-esteem too. I always write down 3 things I’m grateful for, as it helps me appreciate the positives in my life and understand that the small things really do matter.
There is so much data about the emotional and mental benefits of journaling that counsellors and therapists will often encourage their patients to do it. You may not be seeking medical advice for your mental health, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking after it. After all, you get you car serviced on a regular basis, to prevent it from breaking down. Why wait until you’re broken down, before you do anything about your own mental health?
Keeping a journal can help harness your creativity too. Writing about your experiences not only helps you process them, but it can also help you to figure them out and potentially, spot new opportunities too.
Decide what to write about
Make it suit you. It will evolve, so just start writing. Have fun with it. This shouldn’t be an arduous exercise, or you won’t do it. Equally, be honest with it. That stuff isn’t always fun, but that’s when the break-throughs come. I’ve made some big realisations when writing in my journal… just get scribbling.
Types of Journals
Again, there are numerous types of journaling you can try…
There are journals for Gratitude, Goals & Ambitions, Exercise, Artistic, Travel, Food, Bullet, Sleep… and many more besides.
However, in the first instance, I would simply open a notebook and start to write your thoughts and feelings down; nothing more complicated than that. There’s no need to create something complicated from the off.
When should I Journal?
First thing in the morning? Last thing before I got to bed at night? During a quiet moment in the day?
Personally, I journal first thing in the morning, as soon as I get up. However, I’m a morning person, I do my best work first thing and it really helps me sort my head out for the day ahead.
Journaling in the evening makes a lot of sense to me too though. It gives you the chance to reflect on the day that has just happened and everything will be fresh in your mind. Because I tend to ‘look forward’ when I journal, I find that my morning journaling works best. But, if you want to remember the day and the good and bad things that happened, last thing at night is ideal for that.
I have done this, but again, I prefer to have no time limit on my journaling. If I get in to a flow and then I have to stop for a meeting or because the phone rang, that wouldn’t work for me.
Basically, what I would look for is the right time for you; the time when you know there will be no interruptions, so that you can focus fully on the task of journaling and not be disturbed.
Once you discover how good journaling is for your piece-of-mind or your mental wellbeing, you won’t want to stop. It won’t be a task you have to do on a daily basis, it’ll become something you look forward to doing and something you’ll benefit from hugely.
Go on, pick up a pen and start writing in a notebook. Even if it starts with… “Right, let’s give this journaling thing a go then shall we?” You’ll have made a start and just see how it goes from there. Good Luck.