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Keeping a journal can provide several benefits, from relieving stress to helping you plan your goals and future. Additionally, journaling has been widely recognised by therapists and other health professionals as something that can aid in the recovery of several mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. However, many people who have tried to start a journal have given up in a few months. In this article I will explore 5 ways to get into journaling for good and finally be able to see its benefits.
Understand why you want to start a journal
Often it can be difficult to find motivation to do something if we don’t understand why we’re doing it. Before you even start, take a minute to figure out why you want to start a journal – since you’re here there must be at least one. Perhaps you want to further understand your emotions, or want to improve your mental health. Or perhaps you want a place to log all your thoughts so that later you’ll be able to reflect on all the best – and worst – times of your life.
Don’t start on the first page
Any perfectionists amongst you will understand the feeling of discomfort when starting a new journal. An entire blank notebook can be extremely overwhelming and can definitely put someone off the idea journaling all together. Additionally, these feelings can be amplified by photos on social media of absolutely beautiful journals written by other people. However, if you can get through the initial stages and begin to fill up your journal, it generally becomes much easier to write without worrying about how each page looks.
To overcome these feelings of perfectionism, every time you feel an urge to write try opening your journal to a random page and starting there. This way, if you create a page you don’t like the look of, you don’t have to see it every time you open your journal. And if you really hate what you’ve written, you can simply rip the page out – I promise it won’t hurt anyone.
A tip I use every time I start a new journal is to open it to a random page and just scribble all over it. This helps me overcome the idea that every page needs to look visually appealing. Your journal should be a safe space to let out your emotions and while this can be done by creating beautiful looking pages, it can also be done simply by scribbling all over a page until you start to feel better.
Don’t journal every day
You don’t need to journal every single day to be able to see its benefits. In fact, you don’t even need to journal every week. Trying to force yourself to write every day, even when you have nothing on your mind, is a quick way to lose motivation and never touch your journal again. Ideally, you shouldn’t even have to think about what you’re writing – the words should just flow effortlessly. Try sticking to journaling only when your emotions – whether they’re positive or negative – are particularly high.
Indeed, there may be days where you feel the need to journal more than once, and there may be weeks at time where you don’t journal at all. If you recognise journaling as something that can help you when you need it rather than something you should be doing every day just for the sake of it, then you’ll be well on your way to keeping a long term journal and seeing some real benefits.
Stick to one journal
You may see people using several different journals for different purposes: dream journals, gratitude journals, travel journals etc. However, I would suggest just putting all your thoughts into one – somewhere you can write about absolutely anything you want. This way, whenever you feel an urge to journal you can just pick it up and start, without having to think about anything.
An important step in making something a habit is reducing friction. That is, you want to make it as easy as possible to start journaling whenever you feel the need. I’d suggest keeping your journal somewhere safe together with your favourite pen – that way there can potentially only be a few seconds between you deciding you want to journal and your pen hitting the page.
Your journal can look however you want it to, and it doesn’t have to just consist of writing. Even if you’re terrible at sketching, you can use your journal as somewhere to doodle or draw when you’re bored or in need of a distraction. One of the best parts about journaling is it allows you to be creative, no matter how uncreative of a person you already are. Nobody has to see what you create – try letting your imagination loose every once in a while and seeing where it takes you.