Although I have always expressed myself through writing, a few years ago I began to intentionally use journaling in my life. Before then, I’d never really been someone who kept a diary. I’d also never understood the power that writing down my thoughts, struggles, and challenges could have in helping me to work through those stresses and improve my mental well-being. A regular practice of journaling has changed that.
WHEN TO JOURNAL
Like all things, the times and methods for journaling are as individual as the people utilizing them. But there are some common times that people find useful.
I think that the early morning hours, immediately after waking, hold a special quality, as the body and mind more easily fall into a state of calm and stillness during this time. My favorite time to meditate and journal is right after I have woken up in the morning, before checking my phone, email, or social media. I also relish the quiet hours in my home before anyone else has stirred.
Journal writing in the evening can provide a beautiful process for reflecting upon all that has occurred during the day. Writing your worries down before bedtime can also clear them from your mind, allowing your mind to be free of these thoughts during your sleeping hours.
When Planning or Creating
If you are working on a project or embarking upon a creative endeavor, let your ideas and dreams flow onto paper. After letting your visions flow, you can begin to add pictures, comments, color-coding, or anything that sparks your creativity. I often open a new file on my computer or buy a paper journal dedicated to a new project. Then I am able to keep everything in one place and can refer to it whenever I am ready.
If Something is Worrying You
There are times when I find my day blocked by worries or troubles. I have found that if I stop what I am doing and put my concerns on paper, I am then able to move on with my day—all the while knowing that I can come back and reflect upon my journaling whenever I am most ready and able to do so.
HOW TO JOURNAL
When I first began a journaling practice, I was overwhelmed by the thought of the blank page staring at me each morning. Setting a timer for 15 or 20 minutes helped me by making the process much more manageable.
stream of consciousness approach
I generally follow a free-flowing stream of consciousness approach. After meditating in the morning, I go right to my computer and open my word processor and just write. I don’t worry about form or grammar or spelling. I just write. Whatever flows out is meant to flow. Sometimes the days when I feel that my meditation was the most unsuccessful, I receive the most profound insights during my journaling. The meditation and journaling join together in one extended prayer session.
Another technique I have found useful is list-making. If your thoughts or worries—or even your “To Do List”—feel too overwhelming, just jot down a list of thoughts. Don’t worry about order or organization. That can come later. Sometimes the process of simply getting the ideas down on paper is a powerful first step to creating future order and plans.
Writing following a particular intention or prompt can also provide a method for introspection on ideas you have not before considered or upon those you would like to delve further. A popular form of this is keeping a Gratitude Journal, where you spend time on a regular basis writing down those things for which you are thankful. This is a beautiful and beneficial practice on its own accord and can also serve as an accessible process to begin incorporating journaling into your life.
HOW OFTEN TO WRITE
Though this, again, is a personal decision, I have found that writing at least 3-4 days per week helps me keep a balanced outlook. At this frequency, I tend to work things out as they come up, which prevents them from snowballing out of control. If you are working through a particular trouble or project, daily journaling might also prove beneficial.
30-Day Journaling Challenge
Once or twice per year, I also embark upon my own 30-Day Journaling Challenge, where I wake a few minutes early each morning for one month to be sure to have time to meditate and journal before I begin my day. I usually try to allocate 20 minutes for each meditating then journaling, but if 20 minutes for each endeavor seems too overwhelming, try 10 minutes. I have found that the benefits I receive serve my emotional state almost like a detox diet can cleanse my physical being. And if a month seems too ominous, try one week.
As you begin to incorporate journaling into your life, you might see some powerful shifts begin to occur. Allowing the paper to hold your thoughts and reflect them back to you can provide a meaningful tool for you to calm your mind and balance your emotions. So, grab that pen (or keyboard!) and let the words and insights begin to flow…