Luckily, journal writing is pretty forgiving. You don’t have to be anyone other than who you are (and you don’t have to be an author or a teenage girl) to enjoy the benefits of the process. In any case, here are a few tried-and-true tips on how to keep a journal that’s most beneficial to you.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Albus Dumbledore
Nope, you don’t have to write in a pretty little notebook every single day for the rest of your life (unless you want to). You also don’t have to write about what happened to you that day in order for it to be considered a journal (unless you want to do that).
You can doodle in your journal or stick with words, write about positive moments, pinpoint problems, track your food and drink consumption, make lists or spill your heart out, or any or none of the aforementioned.
Your journal is something you write for yourself and nobody else, unless you want to publish it at some point. So, yeah, do whatever you want and need.
Basically, you can’t go wrong. What a relief to have something in life that can’t be wrong…
The One Rule of Journaling
No fancy notebook is needed. The only requirement is that you actually write. It doesn’t even matter what you write, how much you write, why you write, who you’re writing to, how long you write, when you write, where you write, what you write with, how often you write, or if you consider yourself good at writing.
Journaling—what a relief.
Journal in the morning, afternoon, or night. Pick any time you feel most calm, relaxed, focused, anxious, overwhelmed, energized, or confused. Experiment until you find the time of day that works best for you, but, in all honesty, you don’t have write at the same time every day (or every day!).
I think you get the point.
There’s no one right or wrong way to keep a journal. If you want to journal, all that’s really required of you is that you do keep it, one way or another.
There’s no proper word count, no perfect method, and no magical length of time that unlocks the benefits of journaling. Okay, okay—I know, I’m sure you get it.
Anyways, here are a few tips on journal writing to help you maintain this good habit and improve your life, one entry at a time.
How to Keep a Journal, However You Want to Keep One
Whether you’re an avid writer or you’re still a bit resistant to the idea, taking baby steps in the beginning is a solid piece of advice.
You can start with three days a week, once a week, or twice a month. Set aside five minutes each day to write. Build from that initial starting point.
Don’t give up, just give it your time—even if that’s five minutes every few days, or a meaningful sentence twice a month, it means you’re giving the habit a chance to stick around.
As it goes with the formation of any new habit, with consistency comes the call for patience.
Writing, especially if it’s not something we’re used to doing, can feel like a burdensome chore. It can also feel alien to us, uncomfortable, boring, uncool, and confusing. What should we write about? What if we have nothing to write about? What’s the point of this? Am I doing this right?
Writing can be uncomfortable because it reveals to us what we’re really thinking and feeling. It might seem uncool, but it tends to also be an enlightening process. We don’t have to “do it right” by anyone’s standards but our own, and our standards might just be that we do it.
Try to be patient with yourself and with the process. Don’t worry too much about what you’re supposed to be writing. Letting the words (or drawings) get out of you and onto the paper is healing in its own right.
Forget about perfection.
The beauty of a journal lies in its privacy, in that even if you want to make it public later, it’s private right now.
You don’t need outside approval; you’re the only one writing in and reading this journal right now. Grammatical errors have a free pass. Messy handwriting happens. Whatever flows through you that day, however playful or depressing it may be, is what needs to flow.
Be brutally, beautifully honest.
Be real, raw, and candid. There’s nobody to impress in between the pages.
Since we’re human, we have a tendency to over-analyze thoughts before they come out of us (and appear on paper); one way I circumvent this compulsion is by writing quickly. The result is an authenticity that sometimes shocks me (because I’ve actually allowed what’s hidden to see the light of day without being censored).
Release yourself from the notion that you need to be anything or anyone other than who you are. That release is so relieving, and it’ll probably give you a creative boost. The honest expression you allow to come forth into form just so happens to bring you back home.
Hold the space for all of your thoughts.
If you identify negative thoughts or destructive behaviors through journal writing, here is also where you can address them. You don’t need to add another layer of judgment to them; just observe them and hold the space. If you allow them to move, they’ll move through you, and more quickly with less consequence.
Try writing in the third person and communicating to the thought. Introduce a positive alternative—a truthful statement, an affirmation of your capacity to move forward, or a reason why this negative thought might not be true or worthy of more attention.
You might even thank the negative thought for its contribution, lesson, or insight. Journal writing has a way of opening our eyes to the things inside of us that were once obscured, lingering and affecting us in ways we never realized.
This is a habit that takes time to develop, but with enough practice you can learn to automatically identify, respect, dispute, dissolve, and transform undesirable patterns into an enlightened perspective, new energy, and another direction.
- Do you write in a journal? If so, what benefits have you experienced?
- Are there any other words of wisdom on the topic that you’d like to offer?
Please share your thoughts on journaling, any helpful insights you’ve picked up along the way, what you write about (if you’d like to share that), and any inspiring stories of personal transformation with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone who loves (or would love) to keep a journal.
Whatever is in your head, whatever is in your heart—get it out. Look at it. See that it is not you; you are the one looking at it.