I remember making my first ever journal entry in 2008. It was a green, A5, soft covered book with lined pages, which ended up being transformed into my confidant and wise adviser. I had not anticipated what a powerful and useful tool that journaling would become for me. It developed into an invaluable medium where I could freely articulate my thoughts and feelings, which I could not express to others at that time in my life. It increased my awareness of myself and my life, as well as it being a place to release any pent up feelings of sadness, anger or fear. It was also a space where I could rejoice and record my achievements or happy events. I have not stopped journaling since 2008 and I now have quite a collection of different note books on my shelf of varying shapes, sizes and colours. I now see journaling as an important part of my self-care routine as well as it being a method that assists with my continuous personal development.
The idea of putting pen to paper as a means of personal development goes back for many centuries (click here for more information on this). Although journaling is an old method it is still just as relevant today as it ever was.
Journaling can be used to:
- gain a different perspective
- put your thoughts and feeling in order
- vent strong emotions
- recognise your achievements
- make decisions
- discover patterns in your life
- record memories
- Increase well-being
How do I go about journaling?
Although there can be many different ways to journal, here is a quick start guide. You will need:
- A note book & pen or a computer - Although a computer can be used for journaling I personally prefer to use a paper and pen. My thoughts flow more naturally when I write and there is something about the tactile nature of writing. I also find it easier to be more creative on paper, I can illustrate my writing or use an unconventional layout. I know that some people prefer to use a keyboard and to type their words and there are some advantages to doing it this way. For example, it might be easier to keep the journal private and it might be quicker to type then to write things down. It is about finding what works best for you. Maybe give both writing and typing a go to find out which way feels better for you.
- Set aside time - People often report time as being their biggest challenge to journal writing. I often hear people say that they either never got around to starting it or that they started it but somehow it got pushed aside for other things. So if you intend to journal make an intention to set this as a high priority task. It might be helpful to set aside a specific time of day in which you can write so that you can get into a regular routine of doing it. One of the beauties of journaling is that it creates space in your life for you, which we often neglect at the expense of our well-being.
- To realise there are no rules - Another challenge when writing a journal is that often people are initially self conscious and can be critical of their writing. However, this is your journal, you are writing it for you alone, no one else will see it (unless you chose to show them). There is no right or wrong, grammar, spelling and layout do not matter here. Let your thoughts flow freely onto the page.
- A way of securing your journal - It is important to find somewhere that you can keep you journal safe. Your journal is a place for you to share your innermost thoughts and feelings. If you felt that it could end up being seen without your permission you would more than likely find yourself monitoring what you write.
How do I write a journal?
There are many different ways to do your journal. Play around with different things and see what works for you. I often find myself using a mixture of ideas depending on what I am reflecting or writing about.
Here are some ideas:
- Write from a different perspective - You could try writing in a third party perspective, so rather than referring to yourself as ‘I’ write as ‘you’. For example, I went to the shops would be you went to the shops. You could also write from the perspective of another person. It could be a person know, such as a friend, family member, a character from the TV or someone made up.
- Unsent Letters - You could write a letter to yourself. One example of this is to write to a younger version of yourself. In the letter you could tell your younger self lessons you now know that you wished you had known then, or maybe just offering them your love and support . You could write an angry letter to someone who has upset or annoyed you. If you try this really let go and say all you want to say, be as unpleasant as you want knowing that the person will never get to see this.
- Lists - You can list your ideas rather than having to write full sentences. This is a great way of getting thoughts down quickly if they are coming too fast to write completely.
- Images - Sometimes words are inadequate to describe what we are trying to say. You could draw, paint or use a picture from a magazine to express yourself.
- Dialogue - You can write a dialogue. Dialogue with someone you know, a character from TV or a book, different aspects of yourself (e.g. your worrying self, logical self, happy or sad self), an object, a part of your body, to name a few.
What to write about?
If you are not sure where to start with your journal here are some ideas on the kind of things you can write about:
- Your day
- Something in the media that you had a reaction to
- Your past
- Your hopes and dreams
- Your worries
- Your achievements
- Your values
The list is endless. Once you start to write you will find yourself coming up with more and more ideas on what you can reflect on in your journal.
Where can I find more information?
I have started a pinterest wall that I will continue to add to as I find useful journaling ideas. Click here to go to it.
There are also many different books out there on journaling Click here to go to my blog entry to read about some of the journaling books that I have found helpful.