Writing in a journal sounds easy, right? All you have to do is write in a notebook once a day and you’re done.
Regretfully, journaling in a way that is beneficial isn’t so straight-forward. To achieve results (i.e., sleep improvement and stress reduction), you must write in your journal consistently about what matters to you.
How? Well, you must first be willing to write. What you write doesn’t have to be perfect; think of it as an expression of your inner voice, a way to process the thoughts and ideas running rampant in your head. Grab a notebook, buy a new journal, or download an app.
After that, try out the tips below.
Decide On Your Why
Journaling to gain benefits is a wonderful thing, but you must also have a defined purpose for your writing. What do you wish to accomplish by keeping your journal? Do you want to clear your mind of the constant ideas waging war? Figure out what you want to write in your journal – lists, unsent letters, personal inventories, perspectives, or ideas. Perhaps you want to capture the moments of your life (or your children’s). Whichever way you decide, you aren’t wrong. The goal is to write about what is important to you and what will be the most beneficial.
You may find that writing about multiple topics is helpful. In that case, you try my method – I have a journal beside my bed for nighttime processing. Before going to sleep, I write in my journal for 5-10 minutes in a brain-dump format. About once a month, I go back and review my entries to see if there is anything worth pursuing. Doing this helps me go to sleep quicker and I feel more refreshed the next morning.
I also use this app to chronicle the little things my children do and say. I elaborate on photos and videos, as well as mapping the milestones of their lives. When I am feeling particularly nostalgic, I write about my childhood and the life lessons I’ve learned. After I finish my entries, I always feel happy and optimistic.
Where To Write
When you write in your journal, it’s important to find a place where you can focus. Distractions are unwelcome in your writing zone. Allow yourself to focus on your writing, without interruptions. Get comfortable.
Which medium you choose to use is important as well. Are you comfortable writing free-hand in a notebook? Do you prefer to type your thoughts on a device? Find the way that works the best for you and stick with it. There are tons of journaling apps available if typing is your forte. What if writing isn’t for you? You can try drawing in your journal, writing lists, pros and cons, doing a brain dump, using a guided journal, or following journal prompts.
Journal With Consistency
Now that you know why you want to keep a journal and where you will be writing, the next step is scheduling a time. You can write when you first wake up, sometime during the day, or before bed. Anytime that suits you works. The key is to create a habit out of it. Set reminders or alarms so you don’t forget, and by all means, do not ignore them! The point is to write something everyday, no matter what. Five to Twenty minutes is ideal, so set a timer.
Remember that what you write doesn’t have to be perfect.
Meditate and/or Brainstorm
Before starting your entry for the day, take a moment to reflect. You may find that playing soft music and lighting scented candles helps you relax and focus on the important matters. Practicing yoga or deep breathing may help you get into the zone. Find what relaxes and focuses your thoughts.
If you are having trouble getting started, ask yourself questions. What did you do today? What happened? How did it make you feel? Are you looking forward to anything in particular? Reflect on the thoughts and feelings you’ve been having then write them out.
Remember to Title and Date Your Entries
At some point in your future, you should go over the entries you’ve written. Adding dates and titles will help when this inevitably occurs. How you felt and what you were thinking at different points in your life can be satisfying, cathartic, and fun. Using titles helps as you navigate your journal and keeps your writing focused. Try to write the title after finishing your entry; that way, your thoughts flow more freely.
Write Naturally, Quickly, and Honestly
You don’t have to follow any kind of structure – do what feels right and go with the flow. Remember that you don’t always have to finish what you start. One rule of thumb that I use is this: Write how you speak. By doing this, you are writing conversationally, which can feel much more comfortable. Once you start writing, don’t stop! Write so fast that your inner critic doesn’t have a chance to chime in. Writer’s block is the enemy and we can only keep it at bay by keeping the pen moving (or the fingers typing).
Your journal is for your eyes only (or for your children), so don’t censor what you write. Give yourself permission to tell the truth. Be honest with your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions. What you write should be an honest representation of who you are and the times you are living in. If the truth is a bit harsh, pace yourself. Take time to sort through the hard subjects.
Above All Else: Have Fun
Writing in your journal shouldn’t be a chore, but rather an enjoyable exercise. All of the amazing, anti-anxiety benefits you can receive from journaling will not come about if you aren’t having fun. I recommend taking a break if you start to dread your daily writing retreat. If one journaling approach doesn’t seem to be working or isn’t the right fit, try something different. We shouldn’t take life too seriously, so why would we do so with our journal writing?
Start Writing Today!
Writing in a journal daily is a rewarding experience. Whether you choose to write about your hopes and dreams, chronicle your days, or share stories with your children, there is no right or wrong way to do it. The important thing is to actually take the first step and start writing.