inside: beginner tips for starting a journal to help your mental health journey.
There's nothing quite like a new notebook.
The fresh sheets, with endless opportunity.
I love running my hand across a smooth, perfect first sheet of paper in a new notebook. It sends a wave of excitement up my arms and down my back.
A new notebook is my jam.
I want everyone to feel this happiness, so I'm putting together this guide to help you get started.
Maybe you already feel the excitement, but you're not sure how to keep it going and make a lasting commitment, or maybe you don't know how beneficial journaling is for your brain's health.
How do I Start Writing a Journal?
We have a lot of things on our minds, yet we don't put it down on paper.
These ideas and thoughts bouncing around in your head can start to feel overwhelming quickly. You may have secret hopes, dreams, love interests, failures or ups and downs going through your head.
It's impossible to remember each one without writing them somewhere. It's even harder when you want to organize your thoughts at all.
What was I doing when I had my panic attack last week?
What about the one two months ago?
A great way to fix this problem is to have a journal.
You can clear your mind, you can keep track of important thoughts, and you can have it all in one place.
I truly believe journaling is for everyone and is an amazing way to express yourself without fear of judgment.
But how do you start?
1. Protect Your Privacy
The first step is always protecting your privacy.
Always reserve the first page of your journal for your name and phone number or email address.
If you lose your journal or leave it somewhere, you have a better chance of getting lucky and having it returned to you.
Online writers can get a personal email set aside just for journal entries, or investing in a flash drive to keep entries on, and keeping them password protected.
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2. Date Your Entries
If this entire post only encourages you to establish one habit while writing in your journal, make it adding dates to all your entries.
This allows you to reconstruct your entries chronologically by dates.
It can also help you notice trends of behavior or thoughts.
I find it especially helpful when looking back to find my last panic attack or anxiety attack.
3. Keep and Read What You Write
The majority of journal writers don't go back and read what they have written.
You might be surprised at how much you've grown, or even how much you knew before.
I have always loved going back and reading things I've written before about the struggles I've faced and overcome.
4. Write Thoughts Down Quickly
I'm talking about the “journal block”. Journal writers know all about it and hate it.
It's the same as writer's block, where you lose your train of thought and potentially an awesome few sentences if you don't pull it out of your brain on time.
My tip for outsmarting this block is what I call “word vomit”.
Get it all out. Write or type as fast as you can and as soon as you have a thought come to mind.
Don't allow yourself to write it down late, because you might miss your chance.
5. Be Truthful
Your journal is your personal space for your thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
This journal is for you, so being deceitful will not serve you.
No one has to see the words you write.
Your truth is not your enemy.
6. Write Naturally
The coolest part about keeping a journal is no rules.
You don't have to use all the new techniques if you don't like them. You don't have to write about anything you aren't interested in.
Everything about your journal is to serve you.
Try not to overthink what you're writing and how you are writing. Writing naturally and enjoying the process will help you gain more from writing.
7. When You Start, Don't Stop
I start new entries with the present moment. Whatever is going on in my brain comes out.
It might be the weather, or what's going on this week at my kid's school, or how much I hate Wednesdays with every fiber of my being.
Keep those thoughts and ideas flowing.
Add how you're feeling about these things also.
When you come back and read old entries, you will find it easier to relive the moment if you are more descriptive about how you're feeling as things are happening.
Avoid editing and rewriting anything while you're writing. Let everything flow naturally.
8. Start with A Quick Meditation Moment
A good way to get ready for writing is to take deep breaths and meditate. Find what works for you to get you in the mood for journaling by trying different things.
Maybe you need to meditate, take a shower, or watch a motivational clip on YouTube.
What are the Benefits of Journaling?
Journaling has long been thought of as assignments in high school English class, and not for much more.
Most don't think of journaling as a tool for helping your outlook and your health. Perhaps you've been told by friends or a therapist about how it can help your current mood.
Your children are driving you crazy, and you want to vent your frustrations.
Instead of sending your husband or BFF yet another long text about how much you hate your life, write it down.
We all need to vent.
Get all of your thoughts out without interruption, and get to the root of your problem. When we write about the issues, we can keep asking ourselves why do we feel that way until we get to the real reason for the tension.
Start with your feelings and keep writing why until you make it to the root. The core of your problem won't have blame.
You may start with “I hate my children today”, but widdle that pain away until you get to the real reason for your tension and anger. You may find you're upset because you haven't been able to get a shower in three days.
There is your solution.
Put another episode of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on, lock all your outdoor doors, and go take a shower.
Anxiety can be triggered by so many different things. For me, it's driving someplace new, meeting new people, or forgetting to make muffins on Sunday.
Journaling is a game changer when it comes to finding what's causing your anxiety.
You can work through the anxiety through journaling.
Follow the patterns to show what your trigger is.
For some, knowing your trigger is enough to have an anxiety proof day.
Oh yeah, we're reducing all that negativity.
Remember when I told you about telling my husband I hate my children? I worked through it and realized I was most negative on Wednesdays and Fridays when both of my sons were home all day.
Through venting my feelings, I found the root of my anger, and how to fix it. They were bored, and they took it out on each other.
Venting out your issues will help you see what people, places or events are triggering your negative reactions in your life.
This means you can focus on how to fix them.
Changing events in your life, changing your outlook or removing negative people from your life.
Ousting the negative will leave you with space to grow your positivity.
A positive view will lead to less stress, less anxiety, and less wanting to throw your children out the window.
These benefits represent only a few of the overall benefits routine journaling can have on your health.
You will discover other benefits that are more specific to your needs. As you discover these benefits, you can expand on your journaling to become even more personal and beneficial.
How Do You Create a Successful Journal?
Success depends on the person, doesn't it? I find something successful if it changes my life for the better.
How can journaling change your life?
Whether you're dealing with anxiety or simply going through a rough patch in life, journaling can be your free and self-managed form of therapy.
Journaling is always there for you when you need it.
Even when you've managed to reach a state of emotional balance and mental peace, there's still room for journaling in your life.
Evoke A Sense of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is so important in today's society. People move from day to day without ever stopping to smell those roses. They're failing to feel or express gratitude for the countless wonderful things happening in their lives.
Writing a journal forces you to stop and reflect on what seems like a minor even that might go overlooked otherwise.
It's not just about noticing the positive either.
During the process of writing about your day and your interactions, you may notice some negative patterns repeating themselves.
Problems in your personal relationships, or personal needs you haven't been paying attention to.
Writing them down will help you find alternative ways of responding to both internal and external stress you haven't been using.
Establish a Positive Mindset
Positivity sure is an elusive thing, isn't it?
I have such a hard time with positivity on those hard days. I can't see the blessing of my life, and I get caught up in the negativity.
Spending time to reflect on the small blessings in life can automatically spring me from negativity into a positive and proactive mindset.
You may have every reason to be angry or upset, but you also have a million blessings, like your health, or your happy dog at home who would love to go on a long walk with you.
You have another day to affect change in your life.
Listing out things that establish you as stronger, smarter, and more enduring than the problems you're facing at the moment will give you strength, and the right attitude to keep pushing forward.
Start Forming New Goals
Journals are a great first step towards life planning.
You can sift through all your thoughts and find what you think is important and worth pursuing.
Bounce ideas around and see what sticks as something you want to follow. Once you are ready for something more formal, you can draft ideas in your journal about what you hope to achieve and why.
Enhance Your Creative Potential
Writing every day is such a cool way to boost your creative juices.
You're not writing a news report about what happened, but you're writing about your feelings, and how you want things to be.
Dreaming about your future flexes your imagination and enhances your creative skills.
Journaling can lead to even more writing. If you aspire to be a writer, journaling gives you a private space to write without fear of judgment.
Build Better Communication Skills
Think about it.
If you're writing your thoughts regularly, you're being thoughtful regularly.
This can help you in debates with friends and family about social issues, or expressing your feelings adequately to your spouse and even giving you better tools to talk to your children about their feelings.
I had great luck with my children when I helped them name their feelings and thoughts so we could work through them. Knowing my own feelings better helped me help them.
Your emotional intelligence dictates how you respond to the wants and needs of others with empathy.
How Do You Maintain a Daily Journal?
When I struggle with motivation, it's important to remember why I started something.
Scroll up to see some of the benefits and reasons why you would want to keep journaling. Aside from those, here are some tips to help you manage to keep your daily journal.
You May Also Like: Daily Habits for Reducing Anxiety.
Create Daily Prompts
Daily prompts are a great way to keep journaling when you're not sure what to write about.
The important thing is you can't do it daily.
You'll do this weekly for the week ahead, it will give you enough to keep busy, and have something to focus on.
You can write out prompts that correspond with events you know you'll be attending later in the week, such as a birthday party for your daughter's friend, or goals you're trying to achieve.
You could even make prompts about politics or sports.
Make sure it's something you're interested in writing about, and get to it.
Don't Just Write
Every day doesn't have to be written. You can put in pictures, or drawings, or even print out your favorite meme.
Keep your journal personal. If that means pressed flowers or a drawing from your child, then put them in.
If it means something to you, it has a place in your journal.
Don't just write. Feel instead.
Decorate the Journal
It is yours on every page internally, so make it yours externally too.
Make it a journal which represents you.
If it invites you to write and brings you joy, you're doing it right.
Share some Entries
Sometimes the motivation we need in life comes from other people.
Sharing a few entries might help you keep your motivation.
Choose something not too personal, such as a picture you drew or a poem you wrote.
The positive feedback might be the motivation you need to keep going.
You know now how to start journaling in eight simple steps, you know how to maintain your motivation, how to be successful, and how journaling helps your mindset. So get writing!
Comment below with some tips you have for journaling: