HOW TO START
There are many different kinds of journals and writing styles to choose from. I wrote a blog post about this here.
For the most part, I focus on two kinds of writing:
If you are not totally comfortable with journaling yet and find yourself staring at a blank page without any idea what to write then journal prompts are a great way to start.
A journal prompt is essentially a question or a statement that gets you to reflect and explore your thoughts and beliefs. There are lots of resources for journal prompts including Pinterest, blogs, podcasts, and books. I have a whole section of my blog dedicated to my favourite journal prompts that help you get to know yourself better, work through challenges, and achieve your goals.
Stream of Consciousness
Otherwise known as free writing or a brain dump, stream of consciousness is basically writing whatever is on your mind and just letting your words flow.
You start by setting a timer and just start writing whatever comes to your mind until the timer stops. You don’t have to write logically or clearly and it doesn’t have to be coherent. Whatever comes to your mind just write it down. This helps you understand your inner dialogue and reveals thoughts and beliefs you may not have even been consciously aware of.
It might feel a little bit challenging when you are first learning to express yourself in this way but you will get the hang of it! It just takes practice.
I usually do stream of consciousness when I have a lot on my mind to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper or after meditation.
If you are not comfortable writing down your most personal thoughts then start with a daily to-do’s, lists of goals and action plans, intention setting, or gratitude. Eventually you will fall in love with the way this makes you feel and you will start seeing the benefits. As you get used to writing in your journal it will get easier to write more intimately.
How to Stay Consistent
The most important thing is to get into the habit of writing and going to your journal as a way to practice mindfulness or organize your thoughts.
These tips helped me stay consistent with journaling:
KEEP IT MESSY!
As a perfectionist my biggest hurdle that I had to overcome is being okay with having a messy journal. It goes against every bone in my body but the sooner you can accept that your journal doesn’t need to be “pretty” the better. This is why I recommend not starting off with a bullet journal. Although it’s a fantastic creative outlet I wouldn’t recommend it for personal development work and expressive writing because it can really hold you back since it’s so precise and based around aesthetics. When I wrote in my bullet journal I was so worried about making it messy that I would write in pencil first and then go over it pen and would rip out pages if they didn’t look good. Who has time for that?! Have your pretty journal if you want but have a separate journal you can scribble in and write freely. Trust me, it is so liberating to not have to worry about what it looks like.
Give up the all-or nothing mentality
It’s important to be consistent with journaling to experience its benefits. But it’s better to be inconsistent than give it up all together. This goes for any new habit, really. But it’s especially true for journaling. Ideally, you will write in your journal every day or at least a few times a week, but if you forget about it for a while do NOT just give up entirely. Pick up where you left off. Once you get into the habit of writing as a tool for organizing your thoughts and managing stress and anxiety you won’t want to give it up!
Commit to a time
This blog is called the First Cup because I love journaling in the morning with a cup of coffee or in the evening with some herbal tea. It’s a great way to start or end your day.
I like to wake up and set my intention for the day, write in my gratitude journal and plan my day. When I go over my goals in the morning and commit to them I’m setting myself up for success and am more likely to get shit done. But maybe you prefer to do your reflection and planning in the evening… do what works for you!
Designating a specific time to write in your journal every day will help you get into a routine and stay consistent. At first it might be hard to find the time but if it’s important enough to you then you will make time.
DON’T CENSOR Yourself
Don’t worry about people reading your journal.
Keep it in a safe space in your room and if you are really concerned about leaving it somewhere don’t take it anywhere with you. It’s important to have a safe outlet where you can express your emotions and feelings without worrying about whether or not someone will invade your privacy. People generally don’t read other peoples journals either… it’s kind of a fucked up thing to do if I’m honest and probably isn’t all that likely to happen.
It’s also important to be honest with yourself when you are doing this work. There have been times where I have been writing and thought to myself, “I don’t know if I should write that” either because it’s too personal or I felt like maybe I shouldn’t be feeling that way.
Don’t worry about what you think you should be writing or how you think you should feel. Just write your little heart out and don’t censor anything!
How do you stay consistent with your journaling practice? I would love to hear from you!