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December 17, 2021 4 min read
Journaling can be a great tool for getting in touch with your emotions, processing conflicts or difficult events, gaining clarity, and working through decisions. Many people swear by journaling as a tool for maintaining their mental and emotional health.
You may have thought about trying journaling for yourself, but you’re not sure where to start. You might be worried that you’ll just sit in front of a blank page with no idea what to write. Or maybe you’ve tried journaling in the past, but you found that you had trouble sticking with it.
Here are our best tips for starting a journaling practice that will nourish and sustain you.
1. Find a journal that you like
The first thing to do is to get everything ready. It’s best to have a journal or notebook dedicated only to your journal entries. Keep your journaling separate from your to-do lists, notes for work, and such – don’t just use the same notebook for everything.
Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy, but if you choose a journal that you love, then you’ll be more motivated to write in it. Ideally, choose a pen that you love too, and keep that pen with your journal.
2. Make it a habit
Journaling works best when you do it on a regular basis. Choose a time of day that you’ll journal and a length of time or a number of pages, and then stick to it. For example, you might decide to write for ten minutes before bed every night, or to write three pages first thing every morning. You could even choose to do both – for example, five minutes in the morning and five minutes before bed.
Make sure that your goal feels achievable. If you decide to write for an hour every day, it will be very hard to stick with. Choose a number of minutes or pages that feels well within reach. This doesn’t have to limit you – if you feel like continuing to write after you’ve reached your goal, you can keep going for as long as you’d like.
3. Keep your journal close
Even though you’ve chosen a time of day when you’ll always write, that doesn’t mean that you’re limited to only journaling at that time. Some people find it very helpful to journal when they encounter a difficult patch during the day, such as when they have a conflict with someone else or when they find themselves feeling anxious. Try to keep your journal close by, so you can reach for it in these moments.
For example, you could tuck your journal into your purse after you write in it in the morning, so it’s with you during the day. Some people choose to keep more than one journal, so they can leave one at work and one at home and never have to worry about forgetting it.
4. Be fully present
In order to get the most benefit out of journaling, you’ll need to be fully present with your practice while you’re doing it. Before you begin writing, take a moment to breathe and tune in to yourself. Set an intention to stay present with whatever arises during your writing.
Some people like to choose a particular place for journaling, and place some inspiring or meaningful objects there. You might even choose to light a candle before you start writing, to set the mood.
5. Write freely
With journaling, there’s no wrong thing to write. Remember that you’re only writing for yourself, and no one else ever needs to see it. You don’t even need to write full sentences. Just start writing whatever is on your mind and heart, and let the writing flow, without judgment and without any editing. Try to keep writing, without stopping, for whatever time frame you’ve decided on. Even if you just write the same word or phrase over and over, keep writing.
6. Use a prompt if you’d like one
You certainly don’t have to use a prompt – you can just start writing whatever first comes to mind. If you find that you’re stuck and have no idea about what to write, you might find it useful to start with a journal prompt to inspire you. Here are a few that you could try:
What am I grateful for today?
How would I like to show up in the world?
What would I like to say to a loved one?
What makes me feel most alive and inspired?
What do I fear most? How can I address that fear?
There are literally thousands of journal prompts available. If you enjoy having a prompt, you can make a list of them to refer to when you’d like to have one. You can find these online, or create your own. Then you can use them for inspiration whenever you need to.
7. Adapt your practice as needed
Remember that your journaling practice is there to nourish you. Feel free to modify it until you find what will work best for you. You’ll know that it’s working when you look forward to your journaling time, and when you find yourself moving through your days feeling more centered and connected to yourself.
Journaling can be a powerful way to work through difficult emotions. However, we don’t always have to handle our emotions alone. If you’re dealing with something very heavy, please reach out for help. Therapists are amazing resources and have helped many people get through difficult times.