How to Journal: 7 Top Tips to Get Started with Purposeful Journaling + FREE DOWNLOAD
From my own experience, learning how to journal has been a powerful tool in my self development journey. It’s a practice that allows you to identify what you are feeling, recognise triggers, process and reflect. When my head is filled with thoughts, procrastination, overwhelm, anxiety, stress… journaling is one of the tools I always go to. It’s always one of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning.
How to journal
Journaling is a process of expressing yourself, letting it out and going deep.
Journaling can seem like a daunting thing, but it really doesn’t have to be. It is simply writing down your thoughts, feelings, emotions, events and using it as a tool to identify, process and reflect.
Find a safe space where you feel comfortable opening up, grab a pen (and some colours if you wish) and a notebook and get comfy (you may be there for a while!) and come with an open mind. Personally, I love to make it a little ritual. I will do my morning meditation and maybe a yoga practice too, make breakfast and a coffee and set myself up for a little journaling session.
The best way to start is to just write and let is flow out of you.
I have found journaling to be so powerful because it allows me to bring awareness to negative thought patterns and habits that sit in my subconscious and are stuck in a vicious loop. Writing it out and exploring these thoughts, help me identify why they keep happening and change them into new, productive thought patterns.
By bringing awareness to them, it allows me to:
- break free from the shackles of negative thought cycles
- create new pathways, thoughts and habits
- not let negative thoughts take over or run my life
- take back control
- increase my understanding/awareness
- introduce more compassion
And many, many more.
I am really passionate about journaling, and I hope through a consistent practice it can help you in the same way it has helped me.
Struggling to think of what to write?
If you struggle and cannot think of anything, I would recommend starting by writing down exactly how you feel in the moment and see where it goes.
Describe what you can see, here and feel. Describe what happened in your day, or if there is anything bothering you. Sometimes, the hardest part is starting.
Other times, I personally find doing a yoga practise or meditation beforehand can help, as this practise alone can help bring us into the present moment and become a witness to our thoughts. We can then take pen to paper and write out what came up for us during the practise – was your mind wandering, if so where to? Could you concentrate? If not, why not? Are you resisting sitting in silence? Why could that be?
You can also start by using some prompts. There are many different ones you can use, depending on your goals and what you are feeling. I have created a document with 50 of my go to journal prompts that have helped me when I am feeling anxious or disconnected with myself. Download them here.
My 7 important tips to get started with a journaling practise
#1 Be real and honest with yourself
Write like no one is watching… because they’re not!
If you are a perfectionist like me, when you start journaling you may try to write it in a certain way, as if someone is going to be reading it or marking it.
This is yours and yours only.
Treat it like a safe space to open up and be honest. There is no reason to hold back or hide anything. This might be hard at first, but the more you write, the more you will feel safe and can open up. Don’t write what you think you should be writing, or what other people write, don’t lie to yourself. This is an opportunity to shine the light on things that need shining on.
Take your mask off. Be real, be honest and be authentic.
#2 There is no limit
Don’t hold back. You can write as much or as little as you feel like.
There is no right or wrong, either. Some days you might not have much to say, some days you might have a lot to process and others, you might want to work through something specific.
#3 Don’t stress about it
You may feel stress if you are working through something, this is normal, you are not alone. But try not to allow the process of journaling to stress you out or stay attached to that stress. It is supposed to be a mindful, releasing, freeing practice, not a chore. (Although – if you are really resisting, sometimes it can feel like a chore. It’s important to ask yourself, if the thing you are resisting the most, is the thing you need the most?)
If you are feeling stressed about it, ask yourself why? What is triggering this response?
#4 Start small and simple
If you are lost or stuck with starting, start small. It’s a habit you want to build over time. Try committing to just 5 minutes a day and/or 3 prompts.
#5 Get curious
This is a safe space. Be vulnerable, get curious with yourself, ask questions, explore thoughts and feelings. It’s interesting where it can take you. It can also get uncomfortable, especially if you are processing or working through something. Let it all out and write about it. Why is it getting uncomfortable? Why is this coming up for you? Why is this triggering you? How can you show yourself more love in this area?
#6 Let go of expectations
It’s not about writing a certain amount or making it look a certain way, it’s about what you uncover and learn along the way.
#7 Write without judgement
I know I have said it many times throughout this post but journaling really is meant to be a safe space. Part of this means writing and reflecting without bias or judgement. Don’t allow any feelings of shame or guilt, or the voice of your inner critic stop you from enquiring. Allow whatever you need to come out and onto the pages. Of course, those feelings will inevitably come about, so rather than resist or avoid them, write down the feelings you are feeling, what your inner critic is saying or why you are judging yourself. This is the purpose – to identify what is happening and bring more awareness to it. Why is this happening? What can you learn from this? Where can you show yourself more love in this area?
Journaling has been a powerful tool for me, and I hope it can be for you too.
Do you journal? And if so, has it help you in any way? And if not, what’s stopping you?
If you feel you need some extra support, please feel free to message me, alternatively I offer some 1:1 mentoring, to help you dive deeper into your self enquiry and growth journey more.