After my Grandmother passed away a few years ago, we were going through her belongings when I came across a crumpled yet well-preserved piece of paper she had tucked away in one of her memory books. It turned out to be a little journal entry I had completed when I was maybe 5 or 6, and it described our itinerary of what my sister and I did with Grandma that day. Holding the paper almost 20 years later was surreal because I was able to re-live that snapshot in time – basically of one of my previous lives of being a child. Now, with daily journaling, you don’t typically go back and read through what you’ve written (at least I never do), but finding this piece of paper reminded me how important it is to take a small moment out of your day to write down what you appreciate, the things you enjoyed, or even the concerns or anxieties you faced. For me, my journal is a place where I can be open and honest, and I have found as an adult that journaling has had a massive impact on my mental health and helps me stimulate creativity, growth, and a positive mindset. However, integrating a new habit like journaling into your daily life can be challenging, which is why I have compiled some of my best techniques on how to make it easier for you. So, today let’s take a closer look at 5 ways to make journaling a part of your life so you may begin to mold yourself into your best version of yourself and ultimately live your best life.
1. Start with Under Five Minutes
Sometimes when we try to start a new healthy habit, we can feel overwhelmed by it and question how we will add it to our daily lives. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by journaling, try to start with less than five minutes a day and don’t worry about what comes out; just put pen to paper. Some people like to set a timer on their phone so they know when their time is up, but personally, I just sit down and get to journaling, whether it’s for two minutes or ten minutes. I suggest starting with five minutes because, realistically, we can all find five minutes in the day to devote to this type of self-care and reflection. Plus, for the average person, five minutes will be plenty of time to start exploring their initial ideas about journaling and confide about how their day went, including their triumphs or anxieties. Keep in mind that you don’t have to write pages and pages of content to begin to feel inspired by the positive effects of journaling. But, I will say, letting your thoughts flow organically onto the paper, even if they are in a nonsensical order, will help you begin to unravel and explore your true inner emotions and get closer to who you are at your core. Of course, the goal of journaling will ultimately be different for everyone, but devoting five minutes of your day to this new healthy habit is a great way for you to begin to fire your old self and make way for your new, best self.
2. Anchor it to Another Habit
If you’ve tried to start journaling for less than five minutes per day but are still struggling to fully integrate it into your daily routine, consider anchoring it to another habit. For example, after breakfast, my morning routine is to come upstairs, brush my teeth, take my vitamins, and then sit down for a quick journaling session. In this instance, I am anchoring my journaling to my current habits of teeth brushing and vitamins to ensure it gets accomplished each day. One big misconception around journaling is that you have to do it in the morning. This is simply not true! If it makes more sense for you to integrate your journaling time into your bedtime routine so you can reflect on your day and set the tone for tomorrow, you should do so. In this case, you could anchor journaling somewhere into your existing bedtime routine, or maybe it’s even the last thing you do before turning off the light for bed. Either way, it’s important to identify a time and schedule that works for your particular lifestyle and remember it may vary from day to day. Personally, I prefer journaling in the morning because it helps me set my goals for the day as well as discuss anything I might be lingering on from the past days, weeks, or even months. Ultimately, finding a time that works for you and learning to anchor journaling to another habit is a step in the right direction so that you can become the best version of yourself and love the life you live.
3. Try a Guided Journal
So, you’ve scheduled five minutes of your day and anchored journaling to another habit – you should be good to go now, right? Well, sometimes staring at a blank page can still be overwhelming and cause you to drop the habit altogether. In this case, you might consider trying a guided journal. While there are some extremely elaborate options out there, there are also more deliberate guided journals as well. For example, a great option is Five Minutes to a Mindful You: Guided Journal, available online or at Indigo. For those of us that may not have the budget (or who don’t want to spend extra money when they already have a perfectly good journal), you could create your own guided journal. While this will look different for everyone, I actually utilize this strategy because I prefer structured journaling over completely free-flowing journaling. I section my page into three parts and add the date at the top. Underneath the date, I give myself five bullet points to fill in – these are the things I am grateful for that day. I love filling in the gratitude section of my journal because even if I’m not having a good day, I force myself to identify five positive things in my life. Secondly, I have a section for my daily goals. Getting to cross off my daily to-do list as I move throughout my day is not only satisfying but very motivating, and it helps me stay on track and get everything done. Lastly, I leave room for free journaling at the bottom of my page. This area receives all my random thoughts, concerns, hopes, and dreams for the day or my life – a stream of consciousness for the moment, basically. So, if you are struggling to start journaling or you constantly find yourself staring at a blank page, think about integrating a way to make it more structured – whether that’s purchasing a guided journal or working to make your own structure. Once again, figuring out what works best for you when it comes to journaling is crucial so you can start to mold yourself into your best self and live your best life.
4. Consider other Mediums
Journaling doesn’t necessarily have to be putting pen to paper – even though that’s mostly what we have been discussing here. Some people prefer to keep a digital journal because they can type faster than they can write, which is why I recommend that if you’re struggling with ‘traditional’ journaling to consider other mediums. Although I typically like to write with my special pen on my carefully chosen journal with my deliberately thought-out structure, sometimes nothing compares to a good old word vomit on a word document. Personally, I can type way faster than I can write – I can almost type as fast as my thoughts on some days – so I find that digital journaling is perfect if I’m stressed or anxious about a situation and need to word dump about it. Furthermore, one of my favorite parts of doing a digital journal entry is that I can either keep it or not. I find great joy in elaborating on all my worries and concerns in a word document and then deleting it afterward. This is for a few reasons. For starters, I don’t like to re-read my journal entries anyway, and secondly, because it’s not about holding onto the things I’m writing but rather about letting go. Letting go can be one of the most challenging things to do, especially about things you have strong emotions towards; however, it’s one of the most important things in order for you to grow past your pain and become the person you are meant to be. In this way, journaling has helped shape who I am as a person while also being a safe place for me to land and honestly talk about the way I’m feeling without any judgment (or input, for that matter, LOL). So, if it’s a struggle to write down your journal entries try switching mediums so that you can still benefit from journaling and begin to fire your old self to make way for your new, best self.
5. Make it a Habit, Not a Hobby
If you are still having trouble with journaling after all of these strategies and tips, you might need to shift your mindset on how you’re approaching it. You need to make it a habit and not a hobby. What I mean by this is that a hobby is something you enjoy and choose to do, whereas a habit gets completed out of routine and has a positive daily purpose. Don’t give yourself the option to only journal on the days you’re ‘feeling it.’ Journal on the messy days, the beautiful days, the terrible days, and every day. This way, you will get the full benefits of journaling – in other words, exploring yourself and the life that you live out each day. By making it a habit and not a hobby, you are signaling to your body and mind that this exercise is important and that it should pay more attention. Then, when you write down what you’re grateful for, your body is more likely to take note. Once your mind subconsciously starts to take notes on what’s important to you, it can start showing you more signs of what to be grateful for or just general positivity in your everyday life. I must admit, sometimes I fall into the trap of only journaling when I feel like it; however, I have also integrated journaling into my routine long enough that I notice when I skip a day or two. Don’t be tough on yourself! Just get back into the swing of things as you can, and you’ll not only be able to see yourself grow, but you will also give yourself a chance to become the best version of yourself and have a new mindset on loving the life you live.
As you begin to integrate journaling into your life, remember to use it to explore your inner emotions, thoughts, and feelings to eventually come to a better understanding of who you are as a person and how you can grow from there. Just start small with only a few minutes a day but remember to anchor it to other habits so you don’t skip out on it. Or maybe try a guided journal or a different medium like your laptop to accomplish your daily journaling. Keep in mind it’s not about the amount you write but the experience of writing as well as the conclusions you can come to. Lastly, for someone serious about reaping the benefits of journaling, you should look at it more like a habit to be completed daily rather than a hobby to pick up when you feel like it. Life is like a rollercoaster, and the journal is there to catch you and help you through. As I write this, I have the journal entry from when I was a little girl with my Grandmother. If you were wondering about the itinerary, we walked downtown across one of her favorite things – covered bridges – stopped in at the bakery, swam in the water fountain, got the mail, and then went back to her place. Although I don’t typically re-read my entries, this one reminds me how far I have come and how far I can still go in this lifetime. So, ultimately, I invite you to experience this too by integrating journaling into your life so that you may fire your old self to create your new self while remembering Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!