An instructive guide for everyone – The curious, the beginner and the seasoned journaler.
What is journaling?
So, we know journaling is good for us. It is a powerful tool for reflection, noticing our patterns and gaining helpful insights into ourselves. However, journaling has been hijacked by popular culture in more recent times and the true purpose of it has become a little bit convoluted. A lot of people who have had a difficult relationship with journaling. Maybe they haven’t been able to keep it up consistently with long gaps between entries or perhaps some have not tried it at all. Don’t worry, if this is sounding familiar, you’re certainly not alone. It is a bad habit we have as humans to overcomplicate even the simplest of things. In doing this we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. But I am here to tell you, you don’t need to do this when you journal. Journaling can really be as easy as thinking. “As easy as thinking!” I hear you say. Yep! You know that constant stream of internal babble that goes on inside your brain? That in essence, is all journaling really is or needs to be.
Messy is best!
The idea that your journal needs to be some edited, carefully constructed piece of literature that’s ready for an Instagram flat lay post, is absurd! It’s this kind of thinking that popular culture has ingrained in us, and quite frankly, it’s ruining journaling for you. In its simplest form, writing in a journal is a tool for mindfulness. Now, the term mindfulness is flung around and misused a lot too, but essentially all I mean by that is, journaling brings us into the present moment. It allows us to observe our internal babble. By observing it and then writing it down, we can make better sense of it, rather than letting it Pacman around in our heads all day. When we slow down and tune into ourselves, letting whatever is there for you in that moment come out onto the page, that is when we tap into the true power of journaling. Unedited, messy and awesome… YOU!
What is the hardest thing about journaling?
The hardest thing is simply getting started! Looking at that first blank page can be daunting, but with practise, I promise it does get easier. Pssst, a little trick I use is to never write on the first page, flick to the next one, problem solved! I mean who needs the pressure of deciding what the very first page of a fresh new journal will say anyway? Not me. Now, for those of you still in need of a catalyst, some inspiration…here are a few tips and techniques to get your pen flowing.
Start with the actual journal
Your journal should look and feel like it is yours. Find a journal that speaks to you, whether it is a joyful colour that lifts your mood or perhaps an art-inspired design across the cover. I love the Aboriginal art design journals by artist, Kathleen Buzzacott. These covers of these journals have a beautiful metalic finish, so they feel beautiful to look at. The pages are also scattered with wonderful quotes to brighten your day. Or maybe you would prefer a journal featuring a cute Aussie wildlife designs, by Melbourne artist, Anna Blatman. It is all your call! Whatever makes you look forward to cracking open the pages and writing, go for that one! The other thing to mention is the importance of a physical paper journal. Handwriting on paper, forces us to slow down and take a moment, a rarity in this day and age. I highly recommend a physical journal over typing on a laptop, or on your phone. The uniformity of a typed-out document on a laptop, contradicts the messiness that a journal should be! The perfect letters in their perfect fonts can make us feel like our writing also needs to be perfect. That the writing should be edited into a ‘final draft.’ This is not the mindset you want when journaling. The less constructed the better! Therein lies the beauty of a paperback journal.
When and where to journal?
My friends, I am sorry there is no black and white answer to this. It is completely dependent on who you are as an individual. I have always tried to be one of those morning people that rise with the sparrows and have journaled, exercised, made lunches, meditated, and been bathed and dressed by woodland animals all before 7am…but that is not me. I journal at night when the house is quiet, and I have no disruptions. I find that getting all my thoughts out on paper before bed allows me to leave the thoughts in my journal and find sleep quite easily. Whenever works for you!
Once you’ve found your time, think about your space. A space that you feel safe and peaceful in will allow for more open and vulnerable journaling. You ideally want to feel as though all your senses are being given a bug cuddle! Smell is a very powerful tool you can use to create a peaceful journaling space. A beautiful soy candle scented with essential oils could be just the thing! Limit your distractions as much as possible too, by putting away your phone, gently asking other family members not to disturb you, and lessening outside noise as much as possible. These tips will all help you create a space that is optimal for journaling.
The perfect cure for mindless scrolling
Journaling is the perfect cure for mindless scrolling. When you become more confident in your journaling and it starts to feel natural, I encourage you to take it with you every day as much as possible. When you find yourself commuting on public transport, or waiting for an appointment, rather than mechanically reaching for your phone to disconnect from reality and scroll mindlessly, reach for your journal. Journaling has the complete opposite influence on us to what scrolling on a phone does. A phone disconnects us from ourselves, journaling tunes us in. Simply writing a detailed description of your surroundings can have such a profoundly grounding effect.
What to journal about
This is probably one of the most common questions I see, and the answer truly is, anything! This is the beauty of journaling as a simple mindfulness tool, all you need to do is write whatever comes up for you. It might be a song lyric, a worry you have, a feeling, a shopping list, your wonder at how fast your child is growing up, a string of curse words, an idea, your weird but hilarious dream from last night…anything at all! There is no right or wrong, you do not need to solve the mysteries of the universe, you do not need to conceive of enlightening nuggets of wisdom. All you need to do is be present and put pen to paper. As you grow more confident with your journaling, it can be taken further and used to set goals, reflect on your behavioural patterns and perhaps even give you some solutions to move through obstacles in your life…. but for now, just breathe and write.
30 journal prompts for those days where no words will come
As much as I would love to say that your pen will flow across the page every day, that is not the case. Some days are speechless, and that is OK. So to help you through those days, here are 30 journal prompts to get that heavy pen feeling like a feather again. Keep this list at the back of your journal, on a speechless day, find a prompt that jumps out at you and start writing. Cross them out as you use them. So go forth, and journal! And remember, make it messy!
- Revisit a memory from your past. A vivid one and describe it in detail.
- Who is someone I truly love and can depend on? Write them a letter and tell them.
- If my body could talk in this moment, what would it say to me?
- What has changed most about me in the last year?
- I feel most like myself when I am…
- What are the words I need to hear most right now?
- I need…
- I feel…
- I have been putting off (insert answer), because…
- 5 things I am grateful for in this moment
- How do I define success?
- What scares me the most?
- 3 things I absolutely must do before I die
- Who is someone that I admire? Write down 3 reasons why.
- Describe your current surroundings
- What is something I could cut out of my life that would make me happier?
- What am I worried about today?
- When was the last time I cried, and why?
- When was the last time I belly laughed, and why?
- What is the most important thing in my life right now?
- If I sit quietly for 1 min. What are the persistent thoughts in my head?
- What sort of impact did I have on the people around me today?
- Something that makes me smile is…
- What is something someone said about me that I have never forgotten
- Where in my body am I holding tension, what does it feel like?
- What was a life changing meal I ate, describe the memory.
- Something that annoyed me today. Vent about it…then let it go.
- What was my first thought when I woke up this morning, how did it set me up for the day?
- Who is someone that hurt you in the past? Dedicate this entry to them and tell them what it felt like.
- What made me feel good today? 1. What did it look like 2. Smell like 3. Feel like 4. Sound like
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