Today’s post might seem a little out of character for me, because if you follow me at all and if you know me, you know that I love my daily journaling practice. So why would I create a post all about how and why not to journal daily?
Here’s why: I am a resistance coach. I help people recognize and release their resistance.
And I know there is a lot of resistance to journaling daily, and rather than try to argue with anyone or try to push against their resistance, let’s just ride that resistance wave. Let’s just notice what are the reasons why you or other people may not want to, or may not be able to, journal daily and let’s find some alternatives or other points of views or additional ways to think about journaling.
I also want to acknowledge that I really don’t think it’s always resistance.
Some of the reasons that people don’t journal daily do represent resistance. Some of the reasons are a preference. Some of the reasons may be actual true reasons, not resistance, not to journal daily.
I don’t think every time we have a preference not to do something or decide that something isn’t for us, it is resistance.
So, if you’re not interested in journaling daily or if you have decided it’s not for you – I’m not classifying your decision as resistance at all!
Instead, I’m agreeing that not everyone needs to like and do the same things. We don’t all have to live our lives the same way! What works for me might not work for you and what you love may not be my favorite. It’s all perfect! Our differences weave into a beautiful tapestry!
Let’s Talk About Journaling Differences
I want to bring up some common reasons that people don’t journal daily, and then weave these in, throughout all of the ideas and suggestions that I have for you today.
Some of the common reasons people give for not journaling daily are:
I don’t have time.
I don’t know what to write.
I don’t like writing.
I want to journal daily, but then I forget.
I don’t like routines. So I don’t want to set this as a routine for myself.
I don’t like, or I cannot read, my own handwriting (and)
I’m afraid someone will read my journal.
Those are some common reasons. Do you know of a reason why someone might not journal daily? Or if you haven’t been journaling daily recently, is there another reason that I didn’t mention just now?
Even with all of those reasons not to journal daily, I want to talk to you -not about journaling daily- but about considering an alternate journaling method or practice for yourself. And I hesitate even calling it a practice because that does indicate or imply some kind of routine or expectation.
Really what I’m trying to do here is remove any routine or expectation from the idea of journaling so you can still get the benefits of journaling – without what someone might consider -the downside.
Benefits of Journaling
Let’s talk about the benefits of journaling. Why is it worth it to you to journal or do some other writing practice?
Here’s why: with journaling, you get to see (if you write) in black and white, (or if you’re like me and you use flare markers, in multiple colors), you get to see what you’re thinking and remind yourself -even subconsciously- when you see them, these are just thoughts.
It takes a little bit of practice and intention to start to understand that what you’ve written or what you’ve recorded is a thought because your brain is telling you 100% of the time, this is the truth. This is how it is. This is what it is.
By writing thoughts down, it gives you the tiniest bit of separation so that you can notice, “Oh, I am thinking this,” instead of continuing to believe “this is the way it is.”
You can also recognize repetitiveness. This one is a surprise for me frequently. In fact, you might even notice some repetition in this post because I’m treating this topic as if it’s brand new for me, but in truth, this might be my fifth post about journaling. So if I go back and compare all of the posts that I’ve done about journaling, I’m definitely going to see some repetition, even though I think I’m giving you this information for the first time, right?
By writing things down, by recording them, by collecting your thoughts in a way that you can go back and look at them objectively afterwards, you actually can start to see some repetition that you may not even be aware of. Seeing that repetition gives you the option of considering it and analyzing it.
If you are thinking the same thoughts over and over and over again, without even realizing it, you can then have the option to consider: “Do I want to continue thinking those same thoughts? Because are those thoughts serving me? Are those thoughts benefiting me?”
The Benefit of Your Thoughts
Maybe they are. And if so, that is wonderful. Then you can double down on that repetition. Maybe, more likely though, especially if you’re not aware of the thoughts that you’re repetitively thinking, when you see your repetitive thoughts with a little bit of objectivity, you can notice: “Wow. I think that thought a lot. I think it, I believe it. I repeat it to myself. I don’t question it when I do think it. There are multiple times that I’ve thought that thought.”
Then you can ask yourself: “Is it helpful? Is it serving me? Do I want to believe it? Do I want to continue thinking it? Do I want to make it part of my belief system about myself or about the way the world is?”
Because maybe you don’t. I don’t know of a better way for you to see and recognize those repetitive patterns, then by getting the thoughts out of your brain and into a medium where you can see them again.
Non New Thoughts
The third benefit of journaling is very similar to the second benefit that I just mentioned about recognizing the repetitiveness and it’s noticing non new thoughts. This happens to me all the time. I’ll get an idea one morning and I’ll be like, “Oh, this is a great idea.” And I’ll write it down or I’ll think about it. And then, later, as I’m rereading what I wrote a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, I’ll read, almost verbatim. exactly the same idea.
So here I was thinking this morning that I just had this new thought for the very first time, but because I am a frequent journaler, I am able to look back and notice this thought that I’m thinking today is actually not new. And that recognition and that awareness is very helpful because my brain is telling me that it’s new. And then it turns out that I’ve thought it before. So then again, I have more awareness.
So if I’ve thought this thought before, and haven’t taken action on it, why not?
Maybe there’s some resistance there that I can uncover instead of continuously -like Groundhog day- waking up and thinking a thought and thinking it’s brand new. With awareness, I could do something about it. I could decide to take action on it. I could decide to develop that thought. I could do so many things now that I know it’s not a new thought that I’m just thinking for the first time today.
Possible Downsides to Journaling
I’ve just given you some benefits of journaling. Writing things down lets you see and create a little bit of a distance from your thoughts to give you some objectivity. You get to recognize some repetitive patterns. You get to notice which of your thoughts are not new, even though your brain is telling you that those thoughts are new.
But I do want to tell you some possible downsides to journaling. I do think it’s possible that you might not be doing it right, or it’s possible to do it wrong. And this might be a little controversial. People might think there’s no wrong way to journal, but I do think there are some practices in journaling that could actually be more harmful than helpful.
One of those would be, if you force yourself to journal frequently or every day, or, periodically, but then you spend that journaling time, just writing out a boring report of what happened yesterday.
If you’re writing, “okay, so yesterday I went to work, I ate this for lunch. I saw this person. We had a good time. I was angry at work and I went to bed and that’s my life”. Okay. That is an accurate depiction of the facts of what happened yesterday, but you’re not really getting any of the benefits of journaling from that kind of writing, especially if you do that writing day in and day out, because you’re not observing your thoughts. You’re not digging in deeper. You’re not getting curious. So my advice for that downside, if you find yourself just recording a boring report of what happened: mix it up. Get curious. Dive in. Ask yourself questions. Interview yourself. Really use that daily report of activities to get deeper with what is going on, not just in your world, in day-to-day activities, but in your brain.
What thoughts are creating those daily activities for you?
How are you feeling about what you’re thinking?
See how answering those questions would make your journaling more interesting and more helpful?
Sugar Coating Beyond Recognition
Another possible danger of journaling is if you sugar coat beyond recognition. The first downside that I mentioned was just doing a boring action summary. That’s not interesting to read later. That’s not helpful to read later. You’ll probably see patterns, but just of your normal routine activities, you won’t see patterns of what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling.
And at the opposite end of that, instead of a boring action report is sugarcoating your actions.
It could sound like: “Oh, I had a lovely day at work. Everyone was so friendly and so helpful. And I’m just so excited about my future with this company.” When none of that is really true. When you’re really not thinking or believing that. I’m not sure why someone would write like that – maybe to make themselves feel better or to talk themselves into something that is actually not really true. But when you are sugarcoating things beyond all recognition, maybe it’s an effort to not feel negative. Maybe the rationale is if you write how you really think and feel, it sounds like complaining or it feels negative and you don’t want to be a downer and you don’t want to have negative feelings about your life.
So that’s why it might seem like a good idea to sugar coat. But really, I mean, I think writing fiction is fine, but if you’re going to write fiction go all in, right. Make it into a really good fiction story. Add some drama, add some suspense, add a little thriller. But don’t just turn your journaling into fiction writing. That’s all rainbows and daisies because even though there might be good intentions, it’s probably also not very interesting.
Fictional Journaling probably will turn out to be boring if it’s just repetitive sugarcoating and it also won’t be very helpful. So, hopefully I’ve made the case that there are some reasons why people wouldn’t want to, or can’t, or don’t think that they can journal daily and I’m not advocating for journaling when you don’t really want to or when you don’t believe that you can. I’m not trying to overcome any reason why you think you wouldn’t or shouldn’t journal daily.
I’m not about journaling daily if it’s not for you, I don’t want to argue or convince.
If journaling daily is not for you, I get it. I’m not trying to talk you into it. I do think there are so many benefits in journaling, and that’s why I want to help you come up with alternatives or ways that you can still get the benefits and also ways for you to avoid maybe some of the more harmful or non-helpful ways that people might journal because they think they should, or because they think they could get those benefits. If you’re doing any of those “what not to dos” you probably won’t get the benefits, even if you journal daily.
So what are your options? What are some ways that you could journal and get the benefits of journaling, even if you don’t want to journal daily?
One way I think you could do it is just have a journal, a blank journal, and just journal when you need to. There’s no expectation that you would have a set time or a set amount of time or a set number of pages to journal. You don’t need to follow a template and include some similar information every journal entry. Just journal when it pops into your mind. And when you need it. Basically allow your intuition to suggest journaling as an activity and then follow that intuitive nudge and do it. The more that you answer that intuitive nudge, hopefully, the stronger you will trust it. And you will see those benefits, even if they are sporadic, even if it’s a year between journaling sessions. At least go ahead and journal when you think about it, when you’re feeling it. Do it, then, when there’s no resistance to it and don’t make any gap in between mean anything.
If you are open to a little bit of routine, but not down with the whole daily situation, another way would be to journal periodically. For example, you can journal weekly, monthly or annually.
I do have periodic journaling practices that I’ve incorporated into my daily practice and I really, really like them. In fact, these aren’t really like traditional journaling. They’re more of making bulleted lists and answering questions. These styles of journaling don’t include a lot of freeform writing. So, these might help with some of the reasons people don’t journal like “I don’t know what to write about or I don’t like to write.”
Here’s my weekly journaling practice. Every Saturday, I like it to collect information about what happened the past week. I consider it my weekly evaluation about what happened from the week before and what’s going into the next week. I do mine in 3 parts – what worked, what didn’t work and what I’ll continue or start doing next week. You could also do it as a “start, stop and continue list.”
Another kind of periodic journaling practice is to have a monthly interview with yourself. I talked about this at the end of last year. I really loved doing a monthly interview with myself every month of 2020, and then being able to go back in December and read those months all in succession so that I could really see how things flowed and changed and what I did over the entire year without having to read 365 individual days of journal entries. Being able to read 12 monthly interviews gave me a nice high level overview of my entire year – almost at a glance. I read some nice memories. I got reminded of things. Patterns emerged. Growth and development was evident. I recognized things that were very important a few months ago that are now no longer important at all. It was a great way to close out the year.
If weekly and monthly journaling practices are still just too routine for you, you know that I love my yearly practice of creating a birthday list. Actually birthday lists – plural. I do have an episode explaining how and why to create a birthday list. Basically, once a year, write down everything that you’ve created since your last birthday, and then make a second list of everything that you hope to do and achieve and create before your next birthday. So that’s just a once a year check-in. There’s a lot of value in that. Even if you just journal once a year on your birthday, over the years, you will really get to appreciate seeing what you wrote year after year.
Journal With a Problem
Another way to journal without a routine would just be to journal when you have a question or a problem that you’re trying to solve. I definitely believe that the answers you seek are inside of you. So what better way to get great answers to your problems or questions, then sitting down with a piece of paper or a notebook, or maybe a guided or prompted journal and ask and answer yourself.
You will be amazed at what you come up with. The,n it will be so fun for you to go back a month from now, six months from now, a year from now and read it. First of all, to find out how did the problem get resolved? Was it what you thought in your journaling? Was it a totally different way that you didn’t come up with? And then secondly,, to notice that thing that was a problem six months ago, a year ago, is it still a problem in your life? If not, that’s great to know that problems that are such big deals eventually are no big deal at all.
Or, if it is still a big deal in your life, maybe you have a fresh perspective now. Maybe now going back, you can see some repetition or a pattern. And just seeing that with objectivity helps you notice and break out of it. There are a lot of benefits of writing about problems and asking yourself to come up with solutions to your own problems. You might be surprised at how well you can solve, or deal with or, maybe even, compartmentalize what you’re going through.
Journals for You
If you want to journal when you have something specific going on for you, I have created 2 journals that might be perfect for you. One of them is an emotions journal. It’s called Feel the Feels and it’s bright yellow! You can use it specifically when you notice that you’re feeling some way. This journal guides you to focus on that feeling, then asks follow up questions for you to really see what you’re feeling and thinking.
If you notice yourself feeling anxiety or stress, you could use one of the Anxiety Exercise Books to work through what’s going on for you. There’s a worksheet for you to notice how you’re doing and to track your mood throughout the day. You can also make note of what triggers you and what coping skills work for you. Plus, there’s space for coloring, doodling and free form writing too.
We’ve covered so much already! We’ve talked about sporadic and periodic journaling – so now you have some ideas of how you can journal weekly, monthly and annually. And if you are like me and you already do journal daily – these periodic journal exercises are a great addition to a daily journaling practice. I do each of them and highly recommend them. And, I’m sure they can stand on their own too.
Since I wrap them into my regular journaling, I don’t use a separate journal for the weekly evaluation or the monthly interview – but I do have a special Birthday Lists notebook that I am now using for those annual lists.
I have created a Monthly Interview Journal for you in case you do want to do it as a stand alone practice. Check out this gorgeous purple and pink floral notebook that prompts you to have a monthly interview with yourself.
What I haven’t covered yet – and I think now I’ll save for later – is what to do about some of those other common reasons I mentioned earlier. For example, when you mean to journal, then forget or not having time or not liking your handwriting or being afraid someone might read your journal.
There are lots of ways to deal with those reasons for not journaling. Do you have other reasons not to journal daily that you’d like addressed in a future post?
Do you have any resistance or questions that came up as you read today’s suggestions?
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