So you want to start a journal. Yay! That’s exactly what we love to hear, and we’re already really proud of the way you’re taking the reins in your healing to find time for yourself. It’s an exciting time when you choose to commit to daily writing for personal expression.
Moving from “Should I” to preparedness is empowering. Journals can be a fantastic way to clear your minds, organize thoughts and take control of worries. Fresh starts and personal goals are a thrilling prospect, but it can be a little overwhelming in deciding how to begin. Let’s walk through some of the most common questions about daily journaling together.
When do I write?
When you journal primarily depends on what you hope to accomplish. While there are pros and cons to journaling at any time of day, research suggests nighttime journaling can be the most beneficial to relieving anxiety and putting sleep struggles to bed. Utilising a few minutes at the end of each day to clear your head not of what you’ve already done, but the things still weighing on your mind may help relieve your wandering mind as you wind down.
Alternatively, writer Julia Cameron champions the benefit of morning pages. This stream-of-consciousness journaling style is to be done immediately upon waking. There is no prescribed method by which to write beyond doing it first thing in order to clear your head of residual thoughts, shake out the sleep and start the day with a clean slate.
There is no bad time to pick up a pen – or keyboard, the medium doesn’t matter– and spend time reflecting and processing your current catalog of the world. If morning or evening don’t seem to suit, there are many hours in the day. Choose the ones that work for you. Keep your intentions in mind and remember: if something doesn’t work, you have the power to change it. Try different times until you find the one that works best for you.
How do I journal?
Much like the when, there’s really no right answer to how. Journaling is a personal therapeutic experience. It can be customized for you on a broad scope, and more finely tailored on the day to day experience to accommodate your needs in a moment. No matter how you choose to journal, you can’t get it wrong, so consider what you need and work from there.
Some of the key journaling styles are
- Stream-of -consciousness focuses on, well, nothing. Whatever flows from your mind goes straight to the page and that’s that. The goal of this type of journaling is to shake out the sticky thoughts and bring things to the surface that may be lingering just beyond your periphery.
- Diary/reflection spends time with the events and experiences you’ve been working through in your life. Your thoughts and emotions about life are shared in a raw manner with little filtering so that you can process them authentically and just for yourself. All the things you can’t say out loud find a home in diary style journaling.
- Question and answer focuses on answering questions. Those may be goal-focused questions like “What am I grateful for today?” or “How did I experience growth today?” or even something as simple as “What’s my favorite thing I experienced today?”. It offers a directed experience guided by the question but still tailored to the direction and tone of your thoughts in that moment.
- Affirmations or prompts will focus on phrases or ideas to help reinforce particular ideas that you’re working on manifesting in your daily life. These kinds of journals may have a daily affirmation theme or a longer running mantra to work on.
- Planning journals contain to-do lists and, similar to reflection, the feelings you may have regarding them. It can be great for processing anxiety or working out the details of what’s to come in your world.
What if I get it wrong?
You can’t. That’s the long and short of it, and truly the most powerful thing to remind yourself in all of this. Journaling is a personal experience that is reflective only of what you need and what works for you. If you try something that doesn’t feel good, or an effort doesn’t work the way you hoped, change it. That power is yours to take, but you cannot get it wrong.
Why is it worth it?
In short, the most profound value of journaling is accountability. Your growth becomes more difficult to deny when you have a snapshot of your own thoughts by which to measure it. Progress can feel nominal while you’re making it, but a daily journal will allow you the gift of looking back months, weeks or years at a time to marvel at all the beautiful work you’ve done. The things you’ve overcome will be right there with your joys, struggles and thoughts along the way.
Marking your milestones and moments can be powerful. So too can purging destructive thoughts and destroying those pages instead of ruminating on them. It’s worth it because you are worth it.
Your overall mental health will benefit from taking the daily time to nurture your thoughts and clear your mind. Journaling is an art form, an act of self love and a gift to your journey to wellness. Start today because you don’t need anyone’s permission to make your journaling journey your own, but if you want support, we are here.