A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

For many of us, writing in a diary is a practice lost in the past. You may recall spilling your thoughts and feelings on paper when you were a child; as life becomes busier and the digital world an increasing part of our reality, this may have become a long-forgotten pastime. However, it is for exactly these reasons that journaling can be immensely helpful and healing for your mental health, now more than ever.

Why journaling?

When you put pen to paper, you can organise and clarify your thoughts and feelings, which in itself can be immensely therapeutic. However, this also allows you to separate yourself from them, to take a step back and evaluate your state of mind. This has been shown to help manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression. 

Not only does writing help clear your mind, but it also helps you to identify and prioritise any issues or fears you may be experiencing, and can give you the opportunity to find a path to overcome these. It also allows you to track your thoughts or symptoms over time, allowing you to pick up on patterns and find ways to combat negative feelings or self-talk.

What to write about

Your journal is completely personal – there are no rules or boundaries to what you can write. However, if you’re in need of some inspiration, here are some starting points:

  • What you’re grateful for: A positive note to begin your journal entry and put all other negative feelings and emotions in perspective.
  • Your stresses or problems: The goal here is not to dwell on or overthink these points. Quite the opposite! Journaling allows you to clear your mind of any worries so that you can achieve greater mental clarity and alleviate any tension these may be causing you.
  • Reminders and affirmations: Perhaps you need to remember to talk kindly to yourself – that you’re only human, that you are enough. After reflecting on your stresses and problems, draw your attention to positive reminders and affirmations that can help you shift to a more positive energy and mindset.
  • Your goals: Think about what you want to achieve: for today, this week, this year, or in the next five years… This gives you a tangible guide to follow and something to look back on to see how far you have come.
  • The highlight of your day: Reflecting on the good in your day (the good news, the good events, even the good food!) is a wonderful way to end your journal entry on a happy note and leave you feeling positive after your writing session. Anything negative tends to stand out more sharply to us (than the positive), so consciously searching for the good helps you to gain a balanced perspective of the day’s events. If you journal in the morning, you can reflect on the previous day or set yourself something to do throughout the day that you enjoy.

A beginner’s guide to journaling

Below are some tips to help you master journaling and inspire you to maintain it as a regular practice in your day-to-day life.

  1. Make it a part of your self-care routine – The first step you need to instil in order to reap maximum benefits from journaling is to make the commitment to write regularly. Whether it’s just 10 minutes each day, or half an hour a couple of times a week. Whatever suits you, simply treat it as another ritual in your daily routine, like a morning coffee or nighttime meditation.
  1. Keep it simple – You don’t need to write pages and pages of heartfelt notes – although you absolutely can if it feels right for you. If you’re not sure where to start, simply begin by jotting down some points about how you felt about the day and what’s been on your mind. As you become more comfortable with the process, you may find that you naturally want to express more in your journal.
  1. Let go of any boundaries – Your journal is your space to be as open, honest and messy as you like. There’s no need to hold yourself to any standards or have concern for what others may think. This gives you the freedom to release your true thoughts and feelings, which in turn gives you insight into how you can make changes for the better.

Telling ourselves that we’re too busy or tired, or that there are more pressing tasks at hand can become a habit and ultimately one of your greatest barriers to your optimal wellbeing. Your health and wellness tops all else and gives you the energy and clarity to perform better in every aspect of your life. So whether you set aside 10 minutes or an hour each day to journal, investing the time and effort in yourself will pay off tenfold in the long run, especially when it’s a part of a healthy and enriching self-care routine.