My experience with keeping a journal has fluctuated greatly throughout my life. I actually have 3 journals from when I was a kid because I would write religiously before bed every night. It’s fun to go back and read these entries because I only talk about petty problems between friends on the playground or how excited I am to save up and buy a new toy. They’re ridiculous journal entries, but I cherish the written memories.
Once I started college, I never journaled. A few times I made futile attempts to start again. I bought cute journals in the hopes that I would crack one open and start pouring out my feelings. I’m pretty sure I have about 3 entries in total detailing my four years of college. The rest of my adventures were documented in pictures and videos because our generation is more into keeping digital memories nowadays.
When I graduated back in December, that urge started up again. Here we go again, I thought, I’m at a new chapter in my life and somehow I feel the need to journal about it. It was true, I was a new graduate and had no idea where my life was headed, so I wanted to document the process. Again, I bought a journal around Christmas time and what do you know, I popped that sucker open and wrote an entry right on January 1st. Journaling was on my New Year’s resolution list.
But if you flip through the pages of my cute marble journal (I’m obsessed with it) you’ll see entries on January 1st, 3rd, 4th, and then a jump to the 9th, the 13th, and so on. There aren’t entries every day, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, that’s how I’m able to keep up with journaling. You need to take the stress and pressure out of journaling every day. You can’t force a habit, it’s something that should happen naturally. In fact, let’s detail the do’s and don’ts of how to start journaling:
DON’T: Designate a Specific Theme for Your Journal
I struggled with deciding what type of journal I wanted this one to be. A gratitude journal? A journal for scripting my manifestations? A poetry journal? AGH. Finally, I just decided to let my thoughts, gratitude, and stories find their way onto the pages depending on how I was feeling that day. After this, I became way less stressed about writing each day.
DO: Find Your “Why”
Why are you keeping a journal? If you can’t answer this question, you’re most likely not going to be able to keep up with it. It’s ok if you have too many “whys” but if you can’t think of even one, journaling is probably not for you. For example, I graduated from college and had A LOT to let out. I’ve gone through a difficult time post-graduation and writing is very therapeutic for me. In my journal, I share my wins, my losses, what concerns me and what excites me. I write to capture my mood for the day, so I can look back and become present in that period of my life. I write to express my present self and to eventually reflect on how far I’ve come. Find your why, and you’ll see that journaling becomes a whole lot easier.
DON’T: Force Yourself to Write Every Day
Unless you’re totally fine writing every day, don’t force yourself too. This will surely set you up for failure. You know when you put so much pressure on yourself to do something and when you don’t, you feel absolutely awful? When that happens, it’s highly unlikely that you will put yourself through that stressful scenario again, and will probably just give up journaling right away. I initially told myself I was going to write every day starting in the New Year and it just didn’t happen. To be honest, some days I just don’t feel like writing. Sometimes I have nothing to share, some days I’m just a little too upset, and sometimes I simply just forget. You cannot force a habit, and if you want journaling to become a habit, let it happen naturally. Write when you have something to say and don’t feel pressured to meet a certain requirement.
In addition to that advice, it’s important to remember that everyone’s habits and routines will differ. Don’t force yourself into someone else’s routine if it doesn’t feel natural. Success isn’t one size fits all. The following tips are simply suggestions that can be beneficial to some people.
Use a Specific Pen
For me, I have a specific blue pen that I use to journal. I personally can’t imagine using a different colored pen for each entry because my eyes absolutely need the color continuity for aesthetic purposes. However, decide if you’re a specific pen person or if you want to play around with different colors. (If you bullet journal, I could see how you should incorporate different colors, but I’m referring to plain old writing on lined paper journaling.) Choosing a certain pen just helps solidify the routine and habit.
Choose a Designated Time to Write
When I first started my journal, I wrote whenever I felt like it. Now, I’ve started writing in the mornings or right after I wake up. I keep my journal on my bedside table and write about my dreams, intentions for the day, what I’m grateful for, or events that happened yesterday. Some of you may be more interested in recapping your day by writing before bed. This definitely depends on what you want to write in your journal, but again, it’s not necessary to write at a specific time of day. This tactic could benefit you if you happen to be very routine-oriented.
Journaling is a very personal and intimate activity. With most of our lives being shared all over social media on a daily basis, it’s nice to have something that’s uniquely our own. I highly recommend starting a journal, because it seriously has become very therapeutic for me. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re not a good writer, you don’t have to impress anyone. Simply go out, buy a journal that you like, and start writing. Or hey, you could even journal digitally on a Microsoft Word document! It may feel strange at first, you may not know what to write, but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it.
Writing in my journal has helped with my mental clarity, productivity, and goal setting. I’ve become so much more self-aware and now I understand why I feel the way that I do. It helps me work out problems that I’m facing and gives me a space to vent. It has allowed me to share creative ideas that I’m far too scared to put out into the world yet. Make it your own space where you can be uniquely yourself, and cherish those words that are for your eyes only.
I hope this helped you learn how to start journaling! Best of luck!