No Rules to Journaling
These days my journaling has no rhyme or reason, but it doesn’t really matter because everytime I sit down in the quiet, open my journal and write, I feel better. The fact that my strategy and topics are all over the place is irrelevant.
For years, I followed a method called bullet journaling. I even amassed a number of followers on Pinterest who were solely interested in my “how-to” blogs about bullet journaling. If you’ve never heard of bullet journaling, it’s a format that allows you to easily track things in a highly visual and organized manner. The method helps you explore your creative side. Doodling, sketching, color-coded notes, mind maps, vision boards and other brainstorming activities are incorporated into your personalized journal.
What I found is that the method sometimes took away from the organic nature of journaling. It’s a great format when a person is attempting to start a new project or goal-set one’s way into a new career. It helped me get more organized to a degree and also develop new daily habits.
Ultimately, however, I still prefer good ol-fashioned journaling where I sit down and write about my feelings, thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, sorrows and struggles. Something about simply getting it out into the universe makes me feel lighter. Once my internal dialogue is out in the world in written form, I can better reflect and problem solve.
I also enjoy using my journal as a place to record quotes, lyrics and inspirational mantras or thoughts. I try to always have it with me so if I hear something on a podcast, read an excerpt in a book or see something in a movie, I can jot it down. If I don’t have my journal, I’ll put the quote, lyric or line in the notes app on my phone then write it in my journal later.
The best thing about journaling is there are no rules. You can use the journal for whatever you want. Let it be your own little guidebook with all the things that make you feel better and more joyful. If you’re having trouble getting started, I offer these three tips:
1. Set a timer for five minutes (incrementally increase this time) and make yourself write down whatever comes to mind. Eventually, this act of writing will become easier and more fluid, to the point where you won’t even need a timer.
2. Begin with a prompt. If you’re having trouble free writing, find some prompts to help you get started. Promt examples are ‘What kind of day are you having, and why?’ or ‘When and where do you feel most at peace. Why?’ or ‘What is something that’s bothering you?’ You can find hundreds of prompts via books and online resources.
3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. So much of human behavior is affected by how we feel others perceive us. Your journal is a place where you can fully be yourself. In fact, that’s the whole point.
Sometimes the actual world is just too much. Many people already have some type of quiet time or journaling practice. If you don’t, I suggest finding one that works for you. It’s an inexpensive and relatively simple life change that can offer a huge impact.
- Susanna Shetley
I still have my personal journals dating back to third grade. My very first one was a Lisa Frank (https://shop.lisafrank.com/) diary with brightly colored horses and rainbows. I love going back and reading my 8-year-old thoughts on life, school, friends and boys.
My journaling came to a halt in college and it’s not something I started doing again consistently until two years ago when I was on my weight loss journey. A health coach recommended writing what I ate every day but also writing down my feelings (instead of eating them). Now that I’m back in the swing of it, it’s less about weight loss and more about organizing my thoughts, venting my frustrations, and basically coaching myself through life.
First thing in the morning, I make my coffee, settle into my curated meditation/yoga space, and pull a tarot card for the day. The card typically acts as a journaling prompt, almost like a message from the universe about where I’m at, what I need to focus on, and what I need to watch out for in the future.
It’s sometimes eerie how close to home a card will hit, and I’m always surprised how it allows me to pull emotions and thoughts from my subconscious and into my conscious brain. It’s often things I’ve suppressed, trying to convince myself it’s not bothering me or that it’s not important enough to care about or that it’s in the past.
Sometimes I’m frustrated by the message for the day, but I always feel better after I get it all out on paper. The health coach I listen to calls this a “brain dump” and that feels so true. You’d be amazed how much relief can come just from writing out your thoughts without any judgment or worrying about who else will read it. Once you get it all out, it’s so much easier to move on with your day without all the mental baggage weighing you down.
Tips for getting started:
1. On days when I’m depressed or angry, it always helps to make a list in my journal of things that went right that day.
2. Before you go to bed, journal about three things you’re grateful for that day.
3. Challenge yourself to make a list of 25 things about yourself — not your favorite color or food, but REAL things about yourself!
4. When you’re beating yourself up for something you’re not doing, journal about one thing you can do the next day to move you toward your goal.
- Jessi Stone
I used to journal incessantly. As a child, preteen and teen, journaling was a great form of reflection and entertainment. It was a blank space that almost always sparked creativity. Before I had a cellphone, before we were allowed to watch TV without restriction, journaling was a regular passtime. I would explain my days in grave detail, spending excessive time and energy describing the woes of middle class, middle school life.
That enthusiasm slowly faded and by the time I left college, journaling sessions were few and far between. Inevitably entries would only take place a few weeks after some major event, when I would recount and reflect on big changes — exciting, or heartbreaking.
Lately, I have found a renewed interest in journaling, thanks to a more creative, no-strings-attached sort of method. These days I spend more time taping playbills or ticket stubs into its pages, rather than recounting monotonous daily schedules. My journal has become what my junk drawer used to be. It holds birthday cards and thank you notes, museum pamphlets and festival flyers. They all get cut down to size, taped in and become surrounded by brief explanatory scribblings.
Long form journaling still has its place, but the act of putting physical things into my journal helps me open it far more often.
I also write down a ton of recipes. Sometimes I’ll open my journal and only write down what I ate that day. Or, what I made for dinner. For someone who loves food and loves to cook, this is another easy way for me to look forward to opening my journal.
Another valuable tool for journaling is writing down the things that inspire you. Whenever I read a book I always pencil in pages with particularly poignant or moving quotes. When the book is over, it’s a treat to go back through the pages marked and write down those words that caught your attention.
I’ve become attached to the idea of allowing my journal to be a more open, free space. It helps me come back to it more regularly, and I’m finding it is once again a tool for sparking creativity.
- Hannah McLeod