People associate journaling with something teenagers do to express their angsty emotions, but those kids are on the right track. There are short-term and long-term mental health benefits for regularly writing about your days.
Writing in a journal can reduce stress, improve memory, boost your overall mood, and strengthen emotional functions. The benefits of journaling are abundant, but you may be wondering how to start or how to keep one going regularly.
If you’ve always liked the idea of writing every day, read along to learn the seven best tips for keeping a journal. Keep in mind that there is no right way to keep a journal—once you try out these tips, you can decide which works best for your routine.
Choose a Medium
The first step when starting any journal is deciding how you want to write. You are not limited to handwriting in a journal—you could write daily thoughts in an app on your phone or use documents on your computer. You’re probably used to using your phone and computer every day anyway, so that may be a more convenient method for journaling.
However, handwriting may help us express ourselves better, process concepts, understand emotions, and improve memory. Daily writing could be beneficial to your overall mental health.
Start Out Short
When you first start, only write a few sentences about what happened each day. Of course, you’re allowed to write whatever you want and however much you want. But don’t feel pressured to write long, thoughtful, important pieces of literature. Beginning to write every day is like learning any skill—it takes regular practice.
Writing short summaries can help you get in the habit of turning to your journal. It also may help to write at the same time every day—consider anchoring it to another daily routine you have, like when you drink coffee in the mornings or before you leave the office at night.
As long as you start picking up the pen or typing a little bit each day, it will become much more natural as time goes on.
Make Journaling Relaxing
In line with our suggestion about writing while you drink your morning coffee, it’s helpful to make journaling a relaxing activity. When you journal, you can light a candle, make a special cup of tea, or put on soft background music. Create a comfortable atmosphere around the activity, and you’ll become much more inclined to do it regularly.
Don’t pressure yourself about it becoming a habit, either. That is counterintuitive. The purpose of journaling is to help us unwind mentally, so it’s helpful to turn it into an enjoyable experience, not something you’re stressed about completing.
Look Up Writing Prompts
If there’s a day when you don’t feel like you have much to say or you don’t feel like writing about the events, look up writing prompts instead. They can give you different words or phrases to write about instead of daily personal stuff. Some are creative, some are thought-provoking and reflective, while others can be plain silly.
The key to keeping the journal is forming a habit of writing every day, so never stress about the content of the writing or if it’s good enough. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ journal—they are your thoughts and feelings, so they can’t be good or bad. They just are!
Keep a Journal in Your Bag
You are allowed to have more than one journal. Consider keeping a small one in your bag or purse that you can take out during lulls in the day—perhaps while you’re at the doctor’s office, waiting in the bank, or riding public transportation. You don’t have to write your most intimate thoughts and feelings. Instead, you could write observations or make bullet lists about things you need to do later.
Journaling is a much better activity than mindlessly scrolling on your phone, which is what people usually do while they’re waiting. It may help you relax more if you’re feeling anxious during the day, too. Keep a journal on hand, and you may start reaching for it more often than you expected to!
Keep It Private
If you’re journaling to get better at self-reflection, it’s essential to keep your words private. Sometimes the easiest way to be honest with ourselves is to think our thoughts are safe and protected. It becomes much more challenging to write truthfully if you are writing in fear of someone reading everything.
Do not write for an audience—write for yourself, and you’ll discover that surprising words may end up on the paper. When the writing flows, you never know what may come out.
If you need extra caution to keep your journal private, consider keeping it locked away somewhere.
Keep It Simple
It’s fun to look at Pinterest for journal ideas, like artistic layouts or pressed flowers on every page, but don’t feel like that’s what every journal needs to look like! The function of journaling is to get your thoughts out so you can process emotions and reflect on things.
It doesn’t matter how messy or organized it is. If it helps you to keep things neat and you enjoy carefully designing every entry, then, by all means, go for it! But don’t pressure yourself if not. Writing every day and maintaining good habits is the end goal here.
Try any of these tips out to figure out your own journaling routine. Perhaps you do it in the morning for 10 minutes, or at night before falling asleep. Maybe you enjoy scribbling randomly throughout the day.
There is no right way to get started—as long as you enjoy the activity, make an effort to form a habit, and stick to it, you’ll notice long-term benefits along the way.
Tell us how we can improve?