How to journal effectively
We all have different ways of untangling the thoughts in our mind. For some, there’s nothing better than talking it out with someone they trust. For others, a more reflective practice like journaling paves the way to clarity.
Journaling can take many different forms, but ultimately it’s about putting pen to paper, listening to yourself and recording the results. I’ve been using some form of journal since I was 13 when I wrote ‘Dear Diary’ before venting my frustrations, fears, hopes and dreams. Today I take a more structured approach, answering thoughtful prompts every morning and evening.
Regardless of the approach, journaling can offer the space you need to connect to yourself. Life Coach Deborah Chalk agrees, explaining that journaling helps us understand ourselves more and know what our own answers to life’s questions are.
“When you just listen to what the outside world is telling you, you can sometimes be led down a path that’s in the wrong direction for you. Journaling helps you be true to yourself and your values. You can listen to your heart and ask yourself the big and small questions that matter to you and that might go unnoticed without journalling or finding some other way to reflect.”
If journaling is something you feel called to do, Deborah reminds you not to get caught up in perfectionism, “You don’t have to be the editor of your journal, only the writer”. When you write, remind yourself that this is for you and for you only. No one else will be reading these words (unless you choose to show them) so keep your journal a judgement-free zone.
To encourage your habit, try to make the experience of journaling a positive one, “It helps to make a nice space to journal in and to journal at a time when you don’t feel rushed,” Deborah notes. Find a time in your schedule that lends itself well to journaling and make things easier for yourself by leaving your journal out as a visual prompt or setting a reminder on your phone.
The best way to journal is… whatever works best for you. Experiment with different times/regularities/places and find out what feels good to you. A practice many start with is ‘morning pages’ which comes from The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, a book Deborah said she found supportive when she first started journaling.
Morning pages encourage you to write three pages in the morning, writing anything and everything that comes to your mind. The aim of this is to clear your mind to make room for creativity – a beautiful way to try out this medium.
Journaling techniques to try
We’ve already mentioned one technique to try, morning pages, but if this doesn’t appeal or if you’re looking for additional ideas, don’t worry – there are plenty to choose from.
Deborah’s two favourite techniques are ‘the kind process’ and ‘pray rain’.
“The kind process was created by Abigail Steidley. You tune into your body feeling, then into your emotions. Then you notice what thoughts are coming up and in the final stage you listen to your inner wisdom and write down what it tells you. You ask it what you need to know that day, how you can be kind to yourself and what you need.
“Being kind to ourselves in this way helps to make space for being kind to others.
“I also like to do what the law of attraction coach, Jeannette Maw calls pray rain journaling. Here you write a journal entry about your life the way that you dream it could be and then write it in the present tense.”
Other techniques you may want to try include gratitude journaling (writing about what we’re grateful for can have a really positive effect on mindset), composing an unsent letter (where you write to someone you have unresolved feelings toward but don’t send the letter) and noting three things you’ve done well each day (this helps to build confidence and self-worth).