Why Journaling is Good
Are you ready to learn about journaling? I want to tell you all about my journaling practice and habit, what I do and what I don’t do, to give you some ideas and motivation about how and why you should and can journal daily.
The first thing I want to do to convince you that you should and can journal daily is to tell you about the benefits of journaling, then I’ll give you some tips on how you can get started, or how you can continue if you already have a journaling practice.
I’ll give you some other ideas if you don’t currently use these tips and tools. I’ll also give you some journal alternatives. It doesn’t always have to be the traditional sense of sitting down with a beautiful book and a pen. It can be other things too.
At the end, I’ll address a few common questions I’ve heard about journaling.
Why Journaling is Important
The reason why I believe everyone should journal is because it helps you get awareness around your thinking. If you think of your thoughts as utterances in your mind, just suggestions and beliefs that are always subliminal humming along in the background as you make decisions and react to situations, wouldn’t it be so helpful to see what you’re thinking and be able to consider it from a 3rd party perspective?
By journaling daily, you write down your thoughts. This is the basics of self-coaching. Everyone in the world should have a coach – even if you are your own coach.
The benefits of journaling (and coaching) is that you can see your thoughts, see what results those thoughts are creating for you, and then intentionally decide if you want to keep thinking those thoughts and keep getting those results.
Or, if those thoughts aren’t really that helpful for you- if those thoughts are resistant, you can discard them. Journaling helps you get awareness around your thinking.
Open your Intuition
Another benefit of journaling, is that it helps you invite your intuition to open up and make itself known. We’re frequently on autopilot- just reacting to the thoughts in our brain without thinking about them.
The part of our brain that is the loudest is our primitive brain, the amygdala, the part of our brain that wants us to seek pleasure and avoid pain and conserve energy. It’s not usually our intuition that we tap into and listen to.
By journaling, and by letting yourself write down your inner voice thoughts, you can get a peak into the messages that your intuition has to offer you.
How to Journal for Self Improvement
A really surprising thing that I love about journaling is being able to see your own progress and evolution. You’ll see your own self improvement. Once you’ve been keeping a journal regularly for months and years, you’ll be able to look back at your past self from 6 months ago or a year ago and you’ll see how you’ve changed and how you’ve stayed the same.
Won’t it be interesting to look back and see what was worrying you or bothering you back then – is it still bothering you? Or, is it no big deal anymore? Even though it was such a huge crisis before? This is one way that journaling can help with anxiety. As things bother you now, you can remember, they will probably not bother you at all in the future.
Use journaling as a way to do a favor for your future self. Write daily now, because this is a novel that your future self will love to read in the future.
As we read fiction, part of the reason we love reading it is because really good authors do a great job of describing their characters’ emotions. Your future self will be reading what you’re writing about today, and appreciate seeing the emotions you’re writing about.
How to Use A Journal
My advice before you start is not to start until you decide to believe in the value of journaling. If you agree with some of the benefits I just mentioned, you can use those as your belief in its value.
Here’s what I don’t want you to do: I don’t want you to get caught up in the excitement and momentum of reading about journaling and decide to start journaling if you haven’t decided that this journaling practice is going to be so valuable for you today and in the future.
Know your why about journaling so that as it gets difficult, your belief and motivation will cause you to continue, even if it’s uncomfortable or if you don’t feel like it.
Easy and Enticing
Make journaling as easy and/or as enticing as possible. If you’re thinking you need a leather-bound journal with beautiful linen pages and a special pen before you can start journaling, that’s too much. You’re making it harder on yourself.
If you’re ready to start journaling right now, grab a notebook. That works! Grab some loose sheets of paper. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.
At the same time, make it as enticing as possible. If writing on loose paper doesn’t make it feel special or meaningful to you, and you’re worried about losing the pages, then that’s not enticing. Don’t do that. Go ahead and buy yourself a journal so that not only is this new habit easy for you, but also enticing to you.
Make this new habit something that’s easy, enjoyable and that you look forward to and relish.
While you’re starting, or restarting this journaling practice, allow yourself to be a beginner. This may be new for you. Expect there to be some resistance. Expect it to be a little uncomfortable as you find your routine
Allow your journaling practice to change as you learn what you like, what works for you and what’s effective.
Favorite Journaling Tools
Some of these tools are tangible and some of the tools are more mental or thought tools. These tools are all ways that you can journal effectively.
The tangible tools that I’m recommending are simply a graph notebook and Papermate Flair pens. I’ve used a lot of different types and styles of notebooks over the years. I like a composition notebook with graph, instead of ruled paper.
I use the Papermate Flair pens because I like to write in a different color every day. I like to see the days separated as I flip through my journal.
Many people wonder what to write. The daily writing prompts I use are both tangible and intangible.
When I start a new notebook, I go through and add my writing prompts so that they’re pre-written in the margins every few pages. I use the same list over and over again and they don’t get old or repetitive at all. I sprinkle new prompts in as I think of them. On the day that I arrive at the prompt, it’s always the exact prompt I need on that day.
I also have some mental prompts that I use. If I feel like I have writer’s block or if I feel stumped. I like making lists as I write. Sometimes I’ll make a gratitude list if I think I don’t have anything to write about.. Or, if I’m trying to manifest something or trying to solve a problem, I’ll make a list of 10. I’ll write down 1-10 in my journal then I’ll start coming up with answers in the list. The first 2 usually come easily, then I stay on that list of 10 and open my mind and wonder to fill in the rest of the spaces to come up with possibilities. It causes me to think of some interesting and different ideas.
I have an adorable, tiny gift box filled with slips of paper printed with Intentional Thoughts and Feelings. Everyday I pull one of the slips, unfold it, read it and then write about how I want to have that intentional thought or feeling that day.
I’m a coach and I’m certified as a coach. So, in my coaching and in my journaling I use the Life Coach School’s tools and processes. I use those as self-coaching tools while I’m writing every morning.
I’ll frequently do a thought download, especially when something is weighing on my mind and distracting me. I do a lot of different versions of models. I’ll do a Last Best Thing Model or a Results Raft or just a standard Model.
Other Journal Ideas
If sitting down with a beautiful journal from a stationary store or using a composition notebook is not your preference, or if you’re wondering about alternatives to the more traditional methods of journaling, I have some suggestions for you.
In the past, I kept journals on random scraps of paper. I traveled for work and this was before we had devices with us all the time. I would use receipts, notecards, greeting cards and keep journals on those papers and then collect them all into my journal. That’s an option for you too.
Quick Entry Journal – Effective Journaling
For about 2 years, I had a very interesting journaling practice. I had a quick entry journal on my phone. I used an app that would give me a reminder every day and I would answer about 6 questions that I had chosen for myself. The template would pop up and I could answer the quick, short questions, like:
What are you thinking about lately?
What’s your mood?
Did you have any impulse spending or eating today?
What’s bugging you right now?
What are you listening to?
It was a 5-minute journal experience on my phone. The app let me download all the entries and I had so much fun scrolling through to see what I had written. I loved that I had used the “what’s bugging you?” question because it’s such a good reminder that something that is so annoying or troublesome today is not going to mean anything in the future.
What if someone reads your journal?
Years ago, someone I was in a relationship with someone who read my journal. At the time, it felt like the worst thing ever. I felt betrayed. I felt judged.
That experience turned me off of journaling for many years. I couldn’t trust myself or anyone around me. I didn’t want to write something down and then have someone else read my most innermost thoughts.
I got over it though. So, if you have that fear, I encourage you to get over it too.
The benefit of journaling far outweighs the risk of someone reading your journal. Who cares if someone reads your journal? Who cares if someone knows what you think?
After that experience, my first foray back into journaling was a nonlinear journal. Someone had given me a beautiful journal from a stationary store that I really loved and wanted to use, but I didn’t want to keep a daily journal because of that prior experience.
I found value in writing down expressions, or ideas, or thoughts or personal exercises I was doing on myself. I noticed that I really liked to collect my thoughts, ideas and brainstorms.
I used the notebook as a nonlinear journal. I carried it around with me and anytime I got an idea or insight or heard a motivational quote, I would just flip open to a random page and write it down.
That was the journal I was using when I started my birthday lists. I still use that journal for those lists.
If the idea of a daily journal where you’re sitting and writing in a chronological format doesn’t really interest you, a nonlinear journal may be a good way for you to start journaling.
Read and Write
Your journaling time isn’t only for writing. You have permission to spend that time re reading what you’ve written before. I like to think about “what was I thinking about 1 month ago, 6 months ago, a year ago today?”
I like to see how did I think and feel in those increments from today backwards.
Common Journaling Questions
What do I write about? What if I have nothing to say?
Just start writing! Just put pen to paper and relax and open up. Don’t resist the thought that you don’t have anything to write. Just write “I don’t know what to write.” Maybe your mind will start to offer you ideas of what you could write about.
Ask yourself questions
I love to ask myself “what was I thinking about yesterday?” I ask myself questions as if I’m curious about myself- which I am! Just get curious. Before you know it, you won’t be able to write fast enough!
How do I keep the habit? (I start then I forget after 2 days).
Create a very enjoyable ritual for yourself. What ritual would you look forward to? What would be meaningful and helpful to you?
You could also create a timer or reminder on your phone to remind you to start journaling. When it goes, off, honor that reminder. Don’t snooze it, don’t delete it!
What if someone reads my journal?
Explore those fears and thoughts. Why would that matter? What would that mean. Maybe you can carry your journal with you. Or hide it. Or live with the fear and decide that it’s worth it to do it anyhow.
Can journaling help with depression?
Journaling gives you awareness around your thinking. When you have awareness, you start to have power over your thoughts, and possibly, your depression. Journaling also helps you keep track of your feelings and is a good way for you to track your activities and progress.
Now I hope you have ideas & motivation about starting a daily journal habit. Do you think these tips and ideas will work for you?
What questions do you have about journaling?