The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Journal Practice

A daily journal practice: Builds confidence, Increases self-acceptance, Encourages self-discovery, Overcomes procrastinating, Defeats resistance and fear, Creates a positive environment, Encourages self-care, Motivates productivity. Journaling is an incredible tool that digs deep into the roots of who you are, what you want, how you are living your life, and why. As I've been journeying down the path of Mindfulness this year, the WHY has been on my mind each day. Why do I wake up when I do? Why do I want to write this post? Why do I enjoy being outside? Why do I need silence to work? And journaling has been the tool that ... CLICK THROUGH TO CONTINUE READING + DOWNLOAD THE FREE WORKSHEETS
 

I've been journaling consistently now for over a year, and I have yet to find a cheaper, simpler creative outlet that allows me to maintain my creative process and overcome fear than journaling. Anyone can use journaling to create positive changes in their life. Journaling can and will help you overcome resistance and remove the negative clutter from your life. Journaling has the power to transform lives because it is a creative practice everyone can get involved in. It has nothing to do with experience or talent and is so personal, no one can journal the same way you can. I love journaling because there isn't any style of writing that is as liberating as journal writing. I'm guilty of over-thinking my writing when I know others will read it, but my journal is private and gives me the freedom to write the truth in its entirety.

 

There isn't any style of writing that is as liberating as journal writing. (<<< tweet that!)

 

I've been writing in journals regularly since I was in high school. I kept a diary in elementary school, but I'm sorry to say that has long been lost. it's a shame because I would love to read what seven-year-old Emily thought about the world. While most of my journal entries have been, what I call daily journaling (the typical self-history record), I've explored other journal practices that I enjoy engaging in as well:

  1. Respond to Prompts
  2. Brain Dump
  3. Freewrite + Mornings Pages
  4. Bullet Journal
  5. Art Journal
  6. Favorite Quotes
  7. Literature Analysis

(We'll take a look at these in a few...)

It's taken me years to understand my journal is more than a place to simply write about my day, and nearly a lifetime to recognize that the key to a successful journal practice is daily journaling, but you don't need to repeat this cycle of mine. You can start a regular journal practice right now. Here's how...

 

 

WHY SHOULD YOU JOURNAL?

A daily journal practice:

  • Builds confidence
  • Increases self-acceptance
  • Encourages self-discovery
  • Overcomes procrastinating
  • Defeats resistance and fear
  • Creates a positive environment
  • Encourages self-care
  • Motivates productivity

Okay...now I'm just having fun with verbs here, but seriously, journaling is an incredible tool that digs deep into the roots of who you are, what you want, how you are living your life, and why. As I've been journeying down the path of Mindfulness this year, the WHY has been on my mind each day. Why do I wake up when I do? Why do I want to write this post? Why do I enjoy being outside? Why do I need silence to work? And journaling has been the tool that has allowed me to explore the ins and outs of these questions and more.

In a lot of ways, journaling has become an extension of myself. It houses my fears, my dreams, my goals, my problems + solutions... It's where I can jot down ten blog post ideas and outline my next novel. My journal stores information about current books I'm reading and quotes from those books I want to remember. My journal gives me a chance to move beyond words and express myself through drawing, painting, and other media. When a #bosslady I admire prompts the question, "Who makes up your community" my journal is where I turn to write down my response.

Consistently engaging in self-discovery promotes growth, acceptance, and purposeful living.

HOW DO YOU START A JOURNAL?

  • Let's start with the notebook. If possible, I always recommend writing in your journal by hand. If this isn't possible for you though, then choose an application that best fits your needs such as audio journaling, Evernote, One Note, Word/Pages, or Google Drive/Dropbox. However, if you can write by hand, then take your time finding the "right" notebook, and by that, I mean, find a notebook you will be happy sitting down with every day to write in. Honestly, if you hate your journal, you're not going to write in it. So don't be afraid to take your time finding a journal that is comfortable to you.
    • If you like spiral notebooks, pick one of those. Composition books are a favorite of many writers. Faux-leather bound journals are fun and feel "fancy" as you write in them. I am currently using a squared Leuchtturm 1917 and love it. The squares work as guidelines for drawing/doodling (which I do quite often) and the paper is heavy enough, it can hold up to my use of water coloring.
    • Whatever journal you end up with, make sure it fits YOUR needs.
  • Label your journal. I'm glad I started labeling my journals with my name and "volume" plus number back in high school because it has made it easy to know the time order of my journals at a glance. Another way to label your journals is by the date: "January 2016 to August 2016" and "September 2016 to February 2017." OR simply write "Journal #1," "Journal #2," "Journal #3," etc.
  • The pen(s)! Like you notebook, you should be happy with you pen choice. It (or they :) should feel comfortable in your hand, glide smoothly across the page, and make you want to write in your journal.

DECIDING WHEN TO JOURNAL

Deciding the best time to journal can go a long way to helping you establish a journaling routine. Many people, including myself, prefer to journal first thing in the morning before their day has started. One thing I enjoy about morning journaling is the ability to tap into my subconscious. I often journal about what I want to get out of the day, and this sets me up to start a positive workday.

That said, I have seen the benefit of journaling in the evenings when the stress from the day is heaviest. Journaling at this time usually allows me to dump everything from the day onto the page, that way I don't take it with me when I go to bed. I don't know about you, but I either can't sleep or have a horrible night of sleep when I go to bed stressed.

 

Did you know journaling can help relieve stress? Read more about here... (<<< tweet that!)

 

How do you know what time to journal is best for you? Do all the times! :) Seriously though, try several different times to see what works best for you.

  • Start with your morning. Wake up fifteen minutes early and use that time for journaling. Or shower, dress, eat breakfast and then journal. As you journal, record how you feel. Are you too sleepy to journal? Do you have too much on your mind to want to journal? Or do you clear headed and relaxed writing at this time?
  • Journal in the afternoon (or during a lunch break). Depending on your typical day, there may be pockets of time in afternoon where you could carve out ten to twenty minutes to journal. Try a few times. Does it feel right to journal at one o'clock each day? What about four o'clock? Maybe you're too busy in the afternoon to want to journal at all. Or maybe journaling is the pick-me-up you need to finish off your day.
  • Journal in the evening/ at night. Journal as soon as you get home and before you eat dinner. Or wait until dinner is over, the house is picked up, and you've changed into your p.js. Do you have more time in the evening? Perhaps you usually spend time alone in the evenings anyway, so it's the perfect time to add journaling. Or maybe by the time dinner is over, you're too tired to want to journal?

Remember to add to your journal how each time feels. There's no perfect time for journaling. Like your notebook and pen, your journal time slot has to be right for you otherwise, you won't' want to journal. And you never know...maybe mornings and evenings are perfect, so some days you journal in the morning and other days you journal at night. Own and protect your journal time.

 

Own and protect your journal practice. (<<< tweet this!)

 

WHAT CAN YOU WRITE IN YOU JOURNAL?

The best thing about journal writing is that there aren't any rules:

  • Keep a record of your daily life.
  • Write down a secret you've never shared with anyone.
  • Write about taboo topics that interest you.
  • What are your deepest fears?
  • What is something you've always wanted to say to your ___(boss, significant other, parent, friend)___ that you've always been too scared or shy to voice.

Let's go back to that list I from earlier about types of journaling:

  1. Respond to Prompts: Write a prompt (your own or someone else's) at the top of the page then respond.
  2. Brain Dump: Dump out everything going on in your mind right now. Stressed about tomorrow? Write down everything that is going to happen tomorrow (get really detailed here!)
  3. Freewrite + Mornings Pages (I wrote over 1500 words on this subject—check it out here)
  4. Bullet Journal: Combine your daily agenda and task list with daily journaling, grocery store list, blog post ideas, novel outlines, etc. I like bullet journaling because pretty much everything goes into it.
  5. Art Journal: Combine media such as paints, stamps, collages, and drawings. If you want to dive deeper into art journaling, start with this epic post.
  6. Favorite Quotes: Store your favorite quotes in your journal.
  7. Literature Analysis: Write about the books you are currently reading. Has this book had an effect on you? Why or how so? Do you agree with the author? Why? What have you learned from the book? What do you want to implement?

But really? What goes into your journal is completely unique to what you want/ what you need

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU JOURNAL?

For years, I journaled sporadically and only when I felt like it. Almost every year, I wrote a New Year's Resolution to write in my journal every day, and not surprisingly, I didn't stick to it for longer than a month. But I also didn't understand the benefits of journaling back then either. Usually, I would go so long without journaling, when I did have the time, I didn't get much out of it besides a quick catch up of what had been going on in my life the past few months. Journaling wasn't life changing—not yet.

If you want to make the most out your journal experience, then you need to aim for journaling every day.

Why? Because journaling every day makes us look at our lives. It forces us to think—to go beyond, "Today there was a meeting at work and I make chicken tacos and am looking forward to Friday." Daily journaling gives us that chance to spend time with ourselves and get to know ourselves better. And with regular practice, journaling every day leads us to accepting ourselves. You make time for family, friends, your partner, your coworkers, don't you? Why wouldn't you make time for yourself? Building a relationship with yourself is just as important as building these other relationships.

[bctt tweet="Building a relationship with yourself is just as important as building other relationships."]

Here are three more ways you can start creating a regular journal practice today:

YOUR FIRST PAGE

  1. Choose to write either in the morning or evening/night.
  2. When you sit/lay down to journal, give yourself space and quiet away from the rest of the household. If this means shutting your bedroom down to be alone, do it.
  3. Write a question at the top of the page, whatever comes to mind. What do you want to focus on today? What do you want to understand better? What have you been struggling with recently? What are you afraid of? What are you excited about?
  4. Spend twenty minutes writing down everything that comes to mind as you answer this question. Be open to where you journaling takes you. Don't try to force yourself to go in any direction.

IF YOU'RE FEELING STUCK/BLOCKED

  1. At the top of a clean page, write these three questions: "What do I love to create?" "Why do I want to create?" "What's stopping me from creating?"
  2. Be honest in your response (remember, no one will read what you write).
  3. Don't worry if your reasons sound silly. Don't worry if your fears seem childish. Just write everything that is standing in your way and why you want to overcome these blocks.
  4. Take action.

THE DAILY CHECK-IN

  1. For the next week (you can give it at least a week, can't you?), write every day for fifteen to twenty minutes at the same time each day.
  2. Check in with yourself during this time. How are you feeling: Physically? Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Creatively? What has been on your mind lately? What is your current mood? How are your energy levels feeling?

In some ways, journaling is a lot like meditation, allowing you to connect with yourself, and by setting up a solid journaling practice, this connection is strengthened. It's easy to dismiss the power of something as simple as journal writing. When all you need is a notebook, pen, and fifteen minutes a day, can journaling really make that big of a difference? Yes, it can! Often, it is the small and simple things in life that make the greatest impact. And as we've already agreed, it's so simple, it can't hurt to give journaling a shot, can it?

 

 

Do you (or have you in the past) keep a journal? What has journaling taught you? And if not, what do you want to get out of starting a new journaling practice?