Journaling is writing down personal thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. It can contain daily events or evolving insights. It encourages reflection and emotional discharge. No matter what you write about, it is important to be judgment-free with no criticism or analysis. You can journal with a pen and paper or on a computer. There are no set rules!
The Benefits of Journaling
The literature shows many benefits of journaling. It is a way for you to have a relationship with your mind. It provides clarity on what you are thinking and feeling and helps make sense of experiences, internally or externally. Writing down your thoughts and feelings helps with improved self-awareness, the release of emotions, and provides clarity. It allows you to release any thought or feeling from your mind, instead of carrying them around with you. It is a tool for self-understanding and self-guidance.
How to Start
Many people don’t know where to start or what to journal about and end up not writing anything at all. Below are a few easy tips to help you start!
1. One line. Start with writing one line a day. Anything that comes to mind. What are you feeling right now? What was one thing you did today or will do? Something you’re excited about? Just take 1-2 minutes to write anything. Start small with no pressure.
2. Forget the rules. We can spend too much time thinking about the logistics and if we are doing it right, that we take any benefit from the practice away! There are no guidelines, just do what works for you! The more you journal the more you’ll understand what works for you and what doesn’t.
3. Small habits. You do not need to commit an hour out of each day to journal. It is the little habits we do each day that changes our lives. Carve out a time in each day that you’ll dedicate to writing even if it’s one minute. You will know when you’re ready to write more in-depth.
4. Plan. When I first started journaling it was hard for me to even tap into my thoughts and feelings let alone write them down! I found it was easy to write a heading on what I want to write about so I’m not aimlessly staring at a blank page not knowing what I want to write. For example, I will write “5 things I am grateful for,” then I will think of five things I’m grateful for and write them down. The more you journal the easier it will become to have no structure. However, somedays I need a structure/plan and somedays I can write freely.
There are endless ways you can journal. It can be anything you want to talk about, but if you need a few ideas I have created a list below.
1. Gratitude. Write 3-10 things you are grateful for. It may be hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. I do this in the morning and I notice it helps me become aware of the things I’m grateful for throughout the day.
2. What is going well? Write anything that is going good in your life on this particular day. Did you have a delicious breakfast today? Did you get a good sleep? Write down anything going well.
3. What did you do today? What do you plan on doing? At the end of the day, write all that you did throughout the day and how you felt. If you want to journal in the morning, write what you want to accomplish today and how you want to feel.
4. Challenges. When you feel upset or stressed write about it! What are you feeling? Why are feeling this way? What can make it better? When I do this, it makes all the difference.
5. Open Flow. This is where you write about whatever comes to mind at the moment, even if it is completely random. Do not filter or change it.
6. Thoughts/Ideas. Write any ideas down that you have thought of recently. I have a section in my journal where I write any thought or idea I have on a specific topic. An example can be “what do I enjoy” or ideas of careers/hobbies.
Blog post by Madelyn Richards, Volunteer.
Dimitroff, J. L., Sliwoski, L., O’Brien, S., Nichols, L. W. (2016). Change your life through journaling–The benefits of journaling for registered nurses. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 7(2), 90-98. http://dx.doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v7n2p90