A Guide to Journaling

Journaling is a way to express yourself, cope with your emotions, and make sense of events throughout your days. It is a form of therapy - though not a replacement for true therapy- that can help you understand yourself better. 

Some benefits of journaling include:

  • Coping with depression
  • Managing and reducing anxiety and stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Helping with decision making
  • Keeping track of personal growth
  • Healing emotional trauma
  • Gaining wider perspectives

With so many benefits, it is evident why this practice has become so popular. That is why I am here to help you get started with this wonderful practice!

How to journal

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Journaling is a habit that might take you a while to build. But it is a healthy habit that, as we’ve mentioned before, can have great benefits to your physical and mental health. As daunting as it may be to start this journey, I can assure you journaling is not that difficult. 

How do you start? Pen and paper. Or pencil. Or just typing on your computer. There is really no structure to journaling, which is the good news. All you need to start is the willingness to write down your thoughts. You may follow whatever format you choose. You may want to write poems, prose, bullet points, or drawing - the important part is to write whatever and however it feels right to you. 

When you’re journaling, there are some important points to keep in mind. First, write for yourself and yourself only. Your journal should be an open space, free of judgment, where you can write absolutely anything you are feeling and thinking. Don’t write as if other people will read it. That will keep you from being your truest self and staying honest. Second, make it personal. You may use online guides and blogs as a starting point, but with time you will find what works for you and what doesn’t. The most important thing is to allow yourself to be as free and creative as possible. Don’t feel constrained by any rules - because there aren’t any! Third and final, keep your journal handy. You may want to have a scheduled time every day to journal, but there’s no harm in keeping it with you throughout the day. That way, if anything arises that you want to quickly jot down so you won’t forget later - a feeling, thought, or occurrence - you can do just that.

Here's some other tips to keep in mind when starting your journaling journey.

You don’t need to write on paper

While writing on paper forces you to slow down and really ponder on your thoughts, some people might prefer to write on their phones or computer. Mobile devices give you the flexibility to easily write on the go, for whenever you are feeling in need of an emergency journaling session. The best suggestion is to try both methods and see whatever feels right to you!

Switch up your environment

Some people feel safe always writing in their journal laying in bed, on their desks, or sitting on their favorite chair, but there could be benefits to switching up your environment every now and then. New places can stir up different emotions, clear up your mind, or even provide refreshed inspiration.

Schedule your journaling time

Like any habit, journaling can benefit from being scheduled into your day. I, for example, like to journal every night before bed, as it helps me clear my mind and make sense of everything that happened throughout my day. The habit also formed as I tried to cope with my insomnia, which in part came from the anxious thoughts filling my head at bedtime. If you have a particular time of day you usually feel more stressed and need to vent, you may choose that. Or if you are always on the go and instead prefer to find those times where you usually have a second to breathe, that can work too. You may do it first thing in the morning when you wake up or at bedtime, like me. But scheduling your journaling time and keeping it consistent will surely help you make it a healthy (and feasible) habit.

Be positive

Surely it is easy to want to vent and write (in all caps) when you are feeling sad, stressed, or anxious. Most of us turn to journaling because we are looking for a way to make sense of the confusion inside our heads. But don’t forget to be positive sometimes! It can also be extremely therapeutic to reflect on the good things that happened in your day or simply to write down what you’re grateful for.

Use journaling prompts when feeling uninspired

You might not always know what to write about in your journal, especially if you’ve had a pretty normal, uneventful day. Yet that can break the habit, so keep some journaling prompts handy whenever you need a push in the right direction. 

Journaling prompts

Here are some great journaling prompts from when you are feeling uninspired (courtesy of Kate Arends):

  • What do I know to be true that I didn’t know a year ago?
  • What distractions get in the way of being my most productive?
  • When do I feel most in tune with myself?
  • If someone described me, what would they say?
  • What can wait until next week?
  • How does every part of my body feel at this moment?
  • What emotions am I holding on to?
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • How can I detach my emotions from the behavior of others?
  • Did I use healthy boundaries before I began feeling this way?
  • What hurts right now? How can I find relief?
  • When I look in the mirror, what do I see?
  • What happened before I felt a shift in my mood?
  • Write down an entire list of what you are worried about. Star the items that you know are 100% true and not solely a feeling.

Journaling can improve your overall mental and physical wellness, so why not give it a try?


By Larissa Aguiar  

Feature photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash