I love my journal. In fact, I think it'd be fair to say that journaling is one of the three activities that most helps me maintain a clear mind and reduce any anxiety or worry I might feel. Here are some of my tips and reflections on journaling good practices.
1. I see journaling as a form of self-care. Others might have different reasons for journaling. Give it a try and find what role it plays for you
People journal for many reasons. For me, I think its most useful benefit is that it helps me to take care of my mental health. When my mind is racing, I pull out a journal to calm down and clear my thoughts. When I feel a particularly strong emotion, writing about it in my journal helps me reconcile my emotions and my thoughts.
2. Keep your journal handy
For me, it's easiest to journal when "inspiration" strikes. Therefore, it's important for me to have access to my journal whenever I might need it. Sometimes the ideas and thoughts just flow.
For other people, I've heard that journaling at a regular time and making it a habit works best. Different strokes for different folks, as they say!
3. Type your journal entries, write them out by hand, draw them with calligraphy: whatever works
I prefer typing my journal, because it allows me to get my ideas out more quickly than I would if I had to write by hand. Also, by keeping my journal on my computer, it's easier for me to keep my entries organized.
4. Be as truthful as possible
I don't share my journal with others, so I'm beholden only to myself. This helps me to be as honest as possible with my reflections. I trust myself to be solution-oriented with myself, which gives me the confidence to write out things that I might find hard to admit in my thoughts alone. This could include ways where I can be better, instances when I might've been wrong, and less than flattering thoughts I might have.
5. Think of your journal as a way to understand your thoughts and feelings
I have learned that I need to actively think about my feelings in order to understand them, in many cases. Journaling helps me to understand my reasoning, to see whether I'm being rational, to consider other people and their actions, and basically to take a step back and analyze the situations that play out in my life more objectively. When I'm in the thick of things (aka most of the time, because I'm living my life), it's easy to want to give in to emotions and reactions instead of considered thought.
6. Pick the writing style that works best for you
Prose, poetry, lists, short notes... again, the important thing is to start to get the ides out.
7. How often to journal? It depends on your needs
Many people swear by daily journaling, even if it's just a sentence or two. I prefer writing longer entries, but at longer intervals. I don't doubt that daily journaling could be very valuable, but I've had to de-prioritize it relative to certain other daily tasks and habits I'm trying to develop.
8. Sometimes, just writing for the sake of writing is enough. You don't have to start journaling with a "story" in mind
When I first started journaling, I sometimes felt blocked by the thought that I had nothing to say. Feeling the need to say something put a lot of pressure on me and made me not want to journal. To combat this, I just started writing and tried to relieve myself of expectations. In doing so, I found that I actually had plenty to say, and I was able to draw a lot of value out of journaling. I think the point of this anecdote is: sometimes the good stuff requires a bit of digging.
9. From time to time, make an effort to look back at previous entries
This helps me to identify trends in my thoughts, feelings, actions, and approaches. It also shows me ways in which I've grown.
10. There is no right way to do this. Like so many things, starting is most of the battle
My biggest takeaway of all! I'm convinced that everyone can benefit from journaling; it's just a matter of getting started.