4 Tips on How to Start a Journal (+ Create More Mindfulness)
If you’re looking to draw more mindfulness into your life, journaling is a great place to start. They say the magic happens when pen meets paper, and it couldn’t be more true. By taking the time to sit and reflect on our experiences, we are able to learn more about ourselves, get in touch with our motivations and fears, and grow from our mistakes.
At various times in my life I have tried to keep a journal, but these spurts of writing never lasted over a few days. Eventually I would get lazy, make excuses, call it a waste of time and resolve that it was ‘just not for me’. But over the past few months, I felt compelled to give it another shot – and for the first time, I feel like I write because I want to, not because of any expectation that I have to or I should.
Overall, I’ve found journaling a great way to reduce stress, offload thoughts, find new solutions and to identify where I’m going wrong. I’ll admit that I don’t journal daily – probably once a week or so or whenever I’m feeling it.
If you’re struggling to get started, here’s 4 tips on how to start a journal:
#1 – Keep a notebook on your nightstand
Most of us have 5 minutes to spare before we go to bed, and when I journal it is usually the last thing I do before hitting the lights. Having a notebook handy and in sight keeps me on track. I’ve also found journaling at night a great way to reduce stress and get a sounder sleep. Often after a long day I’m prone to overthinking – writing has been a great way to externalise and resolve these thoughts.
#2 – ‘Free write’ without overthinking
Journaling is messy. Sometimes our thoughts don’t make sense, and our feelings are all over the place – a nightmare for all the perfectionists out there! In my past (failed) attempts at journaling, I always put unnecessary pressure on myself to write coherently, with well mapped thoughts and carefully constructed sentences. This stifles creativity, and is a quick way to make journaling a chore – and I could never keep it up for more than a few days.
Now, what I find is working is ‘free writing’. That is, writing whatever comes to mind without overthinking. Short-hand is perfectly acceptable, punctuation can be sloppy and sentences don’t have to be complete – remember, nobody else will read it! It doesn’t have to be your best literary work. By taking the pressure off, I find journaling to be a more enjoyable, more creative and I’m just more likely to do it.
If you’re having trouble letting go of your analytical brain, this leads us to…
#3 – Stop judging
Often we censor our own thoughts because we become overly self-conscious and critical of ourselves. But what’s the use of being dishonest with yourself? Give yourself permission to write freely, no matter how silly, cringe-worthy or shameful something may feel at the time. After all, the whole point of journaling is to reflect and to draw lessons out of your experiences.
And remember: you don’t have to go back and read it. And if you, at the very least, you can have a good laugh – it’ll be good for your health! ?
#4 – You don’t have to journal daily
Another giant barrier to journaling is the notion that you have to write everyday. Again, for me this kind of pressure made journaling a chore, not to mention there are days when I don’t have anything to write about! Now I only journal when I want to – that could be once a week, once a fortnight, one a month, or everyday! If you think you’ll forget, remember to keep a notebook in sight on your nightstand (#1) – accessibility makes a big difference!
Do you have any tips that have helped you start journaling? I’d love to hear them below!