Whether it’s a personal or couples journal
, starting a journal is like starting a new workout – you need great journaling techniques! Otherwise, it’s great at first but fizzles out fast and before you know it, the excitement and consistency wane into more of a meh
kind of feeling.
Well, there are too many benefits to both journaling and exercise to give up so quickly, so today I have some journaling techniques to keep you on track.
Journaling Technique #1: Don’t Make Your Journal Too Large
You’ll see why this is such a big deal in a minute. Your first journal doesn’t need to be a full-size notebook. The pages are larger to fill, and it takes up more space.
Instead, go for a smaller journal. Most discount and drug stores carry notebooks in a variety of sizes. Go for one that’s big enough to write in but not so big that it feels intimidating.
Keep Your Journal with You
Now you see why I suggested a small journal. A small journal is easy to stuff into your handbag, bookbag or even a back pocket. You can easily carry it with you wherever you go, and I strongly recommend doing so.
You never know when a moment will pass by that you would like to remember. Writing about it in your journal can help you recall the memory.
Don’t Create Too Many Rules for Yourself
If you’re one who likes to make rules, pay attention to these journaling tips:
- I will write in it every morning as soon as I wake up
- I will write two pages every day
- I won’t write negative things
- I will only write about personal stuff, not work
The problem with ‘rules’ like these is that once you break the rules you
established, you’ll be less likely to continue.
It’s like eating a big piece of chocolate cake while you’re dieting. As soon as you’ve broken your no sugar rule, you figure the whole thing is a huge waste of time anyway and you give up.
Write in your journal when it fits each day. One day, it might be first thing while another day might be a lunchtime entry.
Setting a rule about how many pages to write can be a good thing, but it can also force you to give up if you feel you don’t have anything to say that day. Whatever length of journal entry you choose for that day is fine.
Review Your Journal Entries
Of all the journaling techniques here, this is one of my favorites.
Go over your entries at the end of the week and look for repeating words or themes. For example, if you find yourself writing a lot about being tired, you can look back on the week and see what may have happened to make you feel so tired. Perhaps there’s something you can fix.
You may find yourself using negative self-talk in a journal. This is something to observe and fix as soon as possible. If you’re writing it down, it’s also banging around in your head. Turning your negative self-talk into positive self-talk is key to mental health.
Another Key Journaling Tip: Create a Journaling Space
You can really write in your journal anywhere, but if possible, set aside a place where you can tune out the noises around you and focus on your thoughts. This is a great journaling technique for those who live in a busy household!
I had a friend who used her oversized closet for her journaling and meditation spot. She cleared out a corner and put a comfy chair inside. She was able to use the light already in the closet and made this space all about peaceful thoughtfulness.
If you prefer to be outdoors, find a spot where you can feel calm and peaceful. Wherever you decide to write is fine, as long as it’s a spot that is as isolated from distractions as possible.
Alternatively, you can journal at a time of day where you experience fewer distractions like first thing in the morning or after everyone else has gone to bed.
Redefine Journal to Fit Your Needs
This is an important journaling technique for people who struggle for topics! Your journal doesn’t need to be the same thing, day after day.
Use it as a brain dump space. Write lists of things you want to do. Write your goals or dreams. Today is my grandmother’s birthday, so when I wrote in my journal, I wrote about my fond memories of her.
There are truly no rules about journaling. Nobody needs to read what you write so write for you and you alone. Put down whatever is weighing on your mind at that moment.
Don’t Make It a Negativity Space
Of all the journaling techniques here, this one is probably the most important!
It’s fine to write about something bad that happens in a day, but your journal should not be a daily dose of what’s wrong with my life
If you find yourself in this mode, shift gears and write some statements of gratitude. What can you be grateful for today?
Gratitude is very powerful for positive mental health. It helps you focus on the good things that are happening in your life. Even if you’re grateful for a box of tissues or a roll of toilet paper, be grateful!
There are days when your entries will be about something bad that happened and that’s fine, all I ask is that this journal doesn’t become a place to wallow in self-pity or complain continuously about everything that’s wrong in your life.
Find Writing Prompts
Pinterest is full
of journal writing prompts for all types of occasions. It won’t take but a minute or two to find lists of 30 or more prompts you can use. I like to list them in my journal at the beginning of the month and then go through them, writing about a new one each day.
This not only helps me dig into topics I might otherwise avoid, but it also helps me avoid the plague of the blank page.
Make it a Judgment-Free Zone: Journaling Technique for Building Confidence
Your journal should be something you are free to write, draw or be creative in. You can make an entire entry by drawing a picture or writing and then painting over it with gesso.
Whatever you do in your journal, though, don’t sit back and judge it after. No, “I never should have written that about Julie’s boyfriend. He’s not so bad.”
If it’s a thought you had and it was important enough to write it down, leave it and don’t sweat it. It’s not like your friend will read the entry.
Journaling Technique: Allow Your Thoughts to Go Where They Go
Sometimes, we try to avoid unpleasant thoughts, but if you start writing in a journal, your mind might just take off on a tangent. This mother of all journaling techniques is about letting your thoughts wander wherever they go without slamming on the brakes because it gets uncomfortable.
Something might be eating away at you and if you start writing, it just might pop out. It can be very freeing to write about things like that – things that are bothering you.
Sometimes, you don’t even know what
is bothering you until you start writing and then, there it is, big as you please, staring back at you on the page.
That’s the point at which you just kind of say, “Well hmm. So that’s where that is coming from!”
Important Journaling Technique for Those Who Don’t Like Mistakes: Use a Pen
It’s easy to erase things you wish you hadn’t written, but the truth is that if they came out while journaling, they needed to be said.
Therefore, use a pen or marker to write in your journal. Again, if you get on Pinterest, you will find tons of examples of journal pages
done in a multitude of color.
This isn’t necessary, but if it helps you, go for it. Some people are more visual than others and they enjoy this type of thing.
Me? I’m a guy. Just give me a pen that writes and I’m all set.
How Can You Make a Habit out of Journaling?
You’ve got a few journaling tips under your belt so now let’s look at how you can make this a habit!
It can take up to two months or even a little longer to make something into a habit so how can you make a habit out of journaling?
Decorate the Cover
This is a great journaling technique for those who are creative – and even those who aren’t for that matter.
Make the journal fit you. Grab some decorative paper at the hobby store or some of that washi tape stuff (what the heck is washi tape anyway?) and decorate your journal. If it’s a plain cover, draw on it or glue pictures on it.
Whatever you do, make it something you like to look at. Make it feel more like it belongs to you.
One caution, however, would be to make sure your embellishments won’t get damaged when you carry your journal around.
Try to Journal at The Same Time Every Day
I know in the journaling techniques above, I said no rules and I don’t want you to make this a rule. It’s more about fitting journaling into your routine. Is this something you could wake up fifteen minutes early for? Is it something you can do as soon as you get to work, before everyone else gets there?
Try to figure out where in your daily routine journaling fits so it’s not so hard to make it part of your day.
Schedule an Appointment with Your Journal
Once you know where it fits into your daily routine, set an appointment on your phone calendar so you get a daily reminder.
If nothing else, it will be annoying enough to at least give it some consideration. After it becomes part of your daily routine, you won’t need the appointment any longer and you can delete it.
Give It Priority in Your Life
All the journaling techniques in the world won’t make a whit of difference if journaling isn’t a priority in your life, so make it a priority.
Know why you want to do it and what value it has to you. If this isn’t something that is important to you, you won’t do it. Know the why for you.
Make It for You
Don’t do this for anyone else but you. If you are journaling because someone told you to or because someone urged you for some reason or another, you won’t make it a week before you toss it aside.
Make this something you do for you – a form of self-care. If there is nothing else you do in your day for yourself, do this for you.