I’ve been a solid journaler for about a year and a half.
When I picked up journaling, I did so with no idea what I was doing. I was just moving the pen along. I had no technique or strategy in mind. After reflecting back on how I’ve been writing and how that’s been affecting me, my journaling style has changed. I’ve learned principles and habits that have made journaling more impactful and enjoyable.
So why not share them with you?
In no particular order, here are the things I’ve learned about journaling.
There’s plenty of “how-to-journal” guidance out there, including here on this site. But at the end of the day, every journaling practice will be unique to each individual. What works for another person may not work for you.
We are all unique. Our minds are unique. Our circumstances are unique. Our goals are unique.. So, naturally…. our journaling practices are going to be unique.
You won’t fit perfectly into another person’s template.
Please allow yourself to reinvent the wheel. Give yourself the space, time, and authority to experiment.
Think about it like this: You can cook with a recipe, or you can add an unknown amount of spice and then taste and tweak as you go. Make sense? Journaling is the same way.
Reinventing the wheel allows you to develop a journaling style that is perfect for you through trial and error. Through trial and error, you’ll have the value of different journaling styles and techniques demonstrated to you.
What’s demonstrated to you tends to stick better than reminding yourself why you “should” be journaling in one way vs another.
My journaling practice has evolved many times. How I write today isn’t how I was writing 3 months ago and I’m sure my practice will continue to evolve.
That’s the beauty in reinventing the wheel — you can never get it just right. Getting things just “right” is limiting. When you reinvent the wheel of “how to journal” for yourself, you will always expand.
Allow things to get messy. ❤️
Keeping multiple journals is fantastic.
I’ve mentioned this before on the podcast episode “Keeping Multiple Journals”. (I’ll embed it here for you).
Keeping more than one journal allows me to keep my thoughts and internal goals compartmentalized.
It’s not excessive.
Keeping multiple journals is strategic.
It’s nice to have a particular place to go with specific internal goals.
Writing in color really changes things
I started journaling in just plain black ink. I started using color gel pens throughout my writing sessions and that really changed the experience.
It allows me to see where my feelings or subject is changing. Sometimes the colors represent a certain emotion or intent. It gives the session AND the time to reflect back on what I wrote more… life. It’s like I’m listening to myself rather than only reading…
Color can be a visual signifier of my internal voice inflection, subject change, aside, or anything. It looks nice, it’s easier to read, and it allows me to be more expressive.
Prompts are not random questions (not always).
I didn’t get into prompts until I started this blog. I felt it was appropriate. Anytime I would see prompts online, they felt like unsolicited random questions. At the same time, I do like to go back and read my journal and ask myself follow-up questions about what I wrote. I like to make a little note to myself on another page if I want to explore that subject deeper.
Funny enough, I didn’t view this as a “prompt” but instead as a follow-up, a note-to-self, a simple “let’s look at this a bit deeper” cue.
Maybe you feel a similar way about prompts — that they are just random questions. But they aren’t. Not when they are inspired by what you’ve already written and you’re using them with the intention to resolve or uncover.
Make your own prompts based on what you’ve been writing to hold yourself accountable. Make sure you are digging deep and moving forward.
Finding people to talk about journaling with is valuable.
We don’t always talk about our feelings. Yet alone our journals. So finding people to have journal-talk with can help you feel less alone in the journey of exploring your mind. Do your friends keep journals? Would they be okay with finding a place out in nature to journal with you? Have you searched for and joined any online journaling communities? Do you go to any online journaling events? There’s plenty out there if you dig for them.
You might have to check under a few rocks, but they are out there. Before starting this blog, I was pretty alone. I have friends who journal but they aren’t journaling stans like me. So getting out there and finding community has made me feel seen and it’s amazing to know that there are others out there that have a similar journaling practice to yours and they may be journaling with similar goals in mind. It’s very motivating. Feeling like “we’re in this together” is always helpful.
Having a journaling ritual preps me for a good session
Have little journaling habits that enhance the experience for you. For me it’s having my journaling playlist,
having my gel pens, going outside to write, and having a hot tea while I’m journaling. These things alone are soothing, so adding them to my routine when I’m showing up to explore myself is icing on the cake.
It prepares me to be open. It gets me physically ready for my internal exploration. It’s like suiting up before venturing into space except that space is your mind and your vulnerability.
Try it. Figure out what things you can do to bring some calm to your writing session. What would make you feel relaxed and open?
I should read my journal more often.
It‘s very easy to pour into the journal without looking back at it often enough to see how you are growing, if something from a while ago is still bothering you, if you’re sticking with your goals, if those goals have changed, your overall mood, etc.
A good brain dumping session is great but I have to make it a point to actually go back, reflect on it, and try to learn and discover.
Don’t get me wrong, I do go back to read my journals. It’s one of the best parts of journaling. Especially since my journal can be quite motivating when I run into those rants about my goals and ambitions. But sometimes I can go through a dry spell where I forget to go back and check on myself.
Now, I have a little “R” written in the corner on roughly every 10 pages of my journal as my cue to go back and reflect. I would set an alarm or mark my calendar, but it’s easier for me to put it off that way so instead, I give myself the cue while I have my journal open and in hand.
Don’t feel like writing but you know a session will be good for you? Write a list.
I don’t hold myself to strict rules when I journal. Still, journaling is such an important wellness tool to me so I don’t like it when I have a dry spell.
Sometimes I don’t feel like writing but I know I should. This happens with my favorite kind of journal, the gratitude journal. Sometimes I just really don’t know what to put in there but as soon as I start writing, I start to feel good. So when I get to that place where I don’t feel like journaling, I opt for a list. The lazy part of me can accept a list much easier than she can accept a full-on writing session about what I’ve been appreciating lately.
Don’t feel like journaling? Don’t. Or, if you really, really want to write, try a list. It’s perfectly fine if that list is short.
Journaling acts as a brain filter
It filters what’s important, from what’s not. Not all our thoughts are useful and journaling demonstrates that.
We have All kinds of thoughts and much of it is brain noise that has no real value other than to be distracting and bring feelings of anxiety, guilt, lack of worthiness, and so forth. Even if those noisy thoughts go off somewhere to be forgotten, their impact stays present.
The practice of journaling creates clear separation and makes it easier for me to separate the brain noise from the thoughts and perspectives I actually want to spend time in. Journaling helps me to create space to redirect my mind when it’s taking me somewhere I don’t want to be.
That’s not to suggest I shove off every uncomfortable thought. That’s just not healthy… But having a journaling practice helps me to sort them.
My mind, and my journal doesn’t always have the same content. What this tells me is that what I think about isn’t always worthy of my attention as evidenced by my choice to spend time with those thoughts or subjects in my journal.
I take full advantage of this when I’m writing to combat negative self-talk. I write affirming things to myself and I love it when I run into them later. You can do the same thing. You know what you actually believe about yourself. You know what sort of perspectives you want to spend time in. Use your journal as a place for that. See if you notice the difference between your internal monologue and your journaling.
Happy Journaling. ❤️