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journaling

Journaling is one of the most accessible and fulfilling ways to understand yourself whilst taking some much needed time out for stillness and reflection.

New to this journaling thing?

It can be challenging to start anything new, let alone something that you want to integrate into your lifestyle and make it a habit. Through lots of practice with the expectation and procrastination cycle I’ve come up with some helpful tips to support us all along the way.

Create a reminder of why you want to journal. I find when I think seriously I can make a long list of reasons as to why journaling would be good for me and how it would add value and meaning to my life. This in itself should be enough; if, I was a rational human being. I’ve come to realise (probably from trying and failing so many times) that I’m not rational at all. I need to be reminded regularly of the value I find in doing something new to overcome the constant reminder that there are so many other things I could be doing.

To remind me I keep something special to me as a bookmark for my journal. It came to me in a fortune cookie which makes it even more fun and brings my attention back to the benefits of journaling enough to overcome my usual procrastination. Creating your own bookmark reminder with an inspirational quote, a positive affirmation about yourself or from one of the many reasons that you want to journal will help keep your new priority in focus.

Re-define your idea of journaling. What is a journaling anyway? It’s you on a page. Yikes! that actually does sound scary. Reframing your expectations can actually help you put pen to paper. For ages, I refused to write in my journal because they seemed so much better without my messy handwriting in them. So I needed to reframe all my expectations including that it needs to be perfect, be time well spent, or produce something of worth. You are simply setting aside a little quiet, undistracted time to think about your life and add some thoughts to a page.

Keep your options open. There are so many options for what you can write about. Anything from what I did today, those pesky ruminating thoughts, something that inspired me or I’m grateful for today. I guess the list is endless. I think it’s more about taking the pressure off and making it achievable. Just write. Anything. Some days it may be pages and pages, and some it may only be a few words. Just as long as I’m doing it.

Creating a habit of writing is something that just requires getting started. As with most things, whether it be eating better, exercising more, the sooner I start the more easily I am able to find the motivation to keep going. It’s also an opportunity to get real with myself and be honest about what I’m thinking and feeling.

Although I am the first to admit that finding the best way to start can be different for everyone. Here are some different strategies I’ve tried, perhaps you will find the one that sticks with you.

Different ways to get started. I like starting with word definitions. Reflecting on a word was a great way to take the pressure off and at the same time improve my vocabulary! Writing should be more about that process of self-reflection rather than perfect prose. If you are feeling pressured by the act of writing in itself, perhaps start with making bullet points? By making it this easy, it’s much more attainable and sustainable. You can also use journaling as a time to practice your creative expression. Dream up a character, your dream hideaway or your ideal life and describe it in as much detail as you can.

Replace your notebook . . . NOOOOOO! That’s like my favourite part you say . . . well maybe it’s the problem too. Sometimes the hardest part of journaling is staring at a blank page. Having prompts can be a more supportive way to begin your journaling journey.

Instead of getting a notebook to journal in, get a huge desk calendar and challenge yourself to write something, even just a sentence every day. This is good for two reasons: First of all, this small amount of writing a day feels totally achievable. But second, you have a visual reminder of when you have missed a day which can help in maintaining your motivation.

Write in the morning? There are lots of reasons writing in the morning might be a good idea. First of all finding time in the morning is usually easier than trying to fit it in around your busy daily schedule. You may also find that your dream filled sleep has provided the perfect inspiration. Perhaps you have a to-list of things that you want to get done today or are worried about something. Writing it down can be a great way to take that first step to overcome what’s bothering you. Also, you know it will get done. This in itself can help give you confidence that you can do other things that you had on your list and it even might help to wake your brain up.

Stack it like you mean it. How many cups of coffee or tea do you have a day? Perhaps spend one of these moments jotting down a few words or experiences from your day. I know my morning coffee is one of the best times for me to take some time before I start my day to think about what I want to achieve, jobs I need to do and prioritising things that are important to me.

So now it’s time to fill those empty pages. So grab one of those unused notebooks you have lying around, a pen, and let’s start writing those thoughts down rather than having them floating around our heads.

No matter how you choose to start, just start. Then everything becomes easier. If you don’t know where you are headed you will find your way. Just trust yourself!