How to Start a Journaling Practice and Why You Should
posted on April 10, 2020 | by Kelley Matney
I have kept a journal on and off for my whole life. If you went through my childhood bedroom, you would find a dozen half-finished journals, because while I loved starting a new journal, I wasn’t the most consistent. That was until a couple of years ago.
I had a tough year. I was stressed, mentally exhausted, and incredibly anxious. I struggled to process my emotions. One night I couldn’t sleep, I had a million thoughts running through my head. So, I got up and grabbed a spare notebook and just started writing. It was a stream of consciousness—I hoped if I wrote all the different thoughts from my head down on paper it would clear my mind enough to go to sleep. It helped, I felt lighter and I could finally relax enough to go to sleep.
Now I’m not saying that journaling will solve all your problems. But there is some scientific evidence that proves it is a beneficial endeavor. Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas, literally wrote a book on the topic. He believes that writing about stress in your life helps you come to terms with it, thereby reducing the effect of those stressors on your mental health. He’s not the only one; there is an abundance of research that has come to similar conclusions.
So, now that I’ve convinced you to start journaling—here are some tips to get you started.
Find Your Medium
I am a certified notebook addict. For me, part of the appeal is the pen to paper aspect of journaling. I get excited to buy a new journal whenever I finish one. However, find the medium that works for you. It can be a laptop, your notes app on your phone, and for some, even recording voice memos.
Set a Timer
Journaling can be daunting when you first start. To make it something that feels more manageable, use a timer. Start small. I would set a timer for 10 minutes and just write about whatever came to mind in that time. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the more time you can add or the less you’ll need a timer altogether.
Follow Your Own Rules
There are so many ways to journal. You can stream consciousness, like the popular morning pages approach. You can follow prompts to guide what you are writing. You can make lists, you can doodle, you can do whatever you want. It doesn’t have to make sense; it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct—all that matters is getting words on paper.
Take Time to Reflect
When you’re finished, read what you’ve written. Then read it again the next day, the next week, the next month. Part of the process is seeing how things change, how you grow, and what you learn over time. But the key is to get it all out on the page.