Journalling can be healing, fun, exciting, or a drag (especially if you set up too many expectations for yourself). If you’re looking to journal, here are a few tips to keep in mind so that your journalling ritual is enjoyable and not torture:
- You don’t need a journalling ritual: write whenever you want to. I’ve been keeping journals for almost three decades, and I sometimes didn’t write a single entry for a couple of years.
- Write as little or as much as you want. It’s your journal, after all!
- Consider journalling in the morning instead of at night (but don’t make it a journalling ritual). I got this idea from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way for Parents. I find my morning journal entries more positive than my nighttime ones. They help me focus on my intentions for the day instead of lamenting about the imperfections of the day.
- Keep an eye on yourself when writing about negative events. I find that journalling about negative things can help me deal with them or it can reinforce them. Writing in the morning also helped me focus getting out of my difficulties instead of rehashing them. (This is not a replacement for professional help if your situation is truly over your head. But if you’re trying to live a mostly positive life – not one in ignorant denial, but one that is realistically optimistic – this is a great way to do that.)
- It’s your choice if you write on paper or your computer, but my general preference is paper. Journals are hard to lose and they’re not reliant on software staying current in order to read them. Moreover, because I type fast, electronic journalling puts me in a bit of a panic. Writing things out by hand forces my thoughts to slow down and helps me focus on the truly important points I want to record. This is incredibly effective when dealing with negative events: it’s hard to brood when your hand is getting sore from too much writing.
- If you’re just starting out, don’t make it complicated. Just find some paper and start. You can always staple them in to a notebook later. If you let yourself get too carried away by finding the perfect notebook, the perfect pen, the perfect spot to write, you’ll likely never get started. Even if you do, you’ll likely have a hard time keeping it up. I keep my journal next to my bed, and if I wake up early enough to write in it, it’s right there, ready for me.
- Write whatever you want! You can write creative stories, ideas for work, thoughts about your day, spiritual thank-yous…the list is endless. The only rule is this: Make sure you’re not writing for someone else. What you write should be important to you.
Writing your thoughts, experiences, and ideas down can help off-load them from your mind. In addition, if you never learned any other art form or were too scared to try anything, then writing is definitely the place to start. If you have any tips for anyone interested in journalling, feel free to leave them in the comments section! But remember: you don’t need a journalling ritual to get started or to enjoy journalling. I’ve been doing it for almost 30 years and I’m still at it.
[This blog post was updated January 13, 2021. However, all dates refer to the original posting date.]