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Beginner’s Guide: How To Journal

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When we cleaned out my parent’s basement last summer, I found a treasure trove of old journals.  There were nearly 3 boxes full!  Some embarrassing–boys I liked, teachers who were mean, random notes to my middle school friends. Some sweet–the world viewed through the eyes of 10 year old me.  

 It was clear I used journaling as an emotional outlet my entire life.  The journals laying before me showed that this practice had helped me my entire life.  And it is still helping me sort through and process different anxieties in my life.

Also, it was so fun to flip through the pages of old journals and see how God carried me through different seasons of life.  Journaling had helped me at the time and was blessing to me now!

Why Journal

Not only does journaling give you the ability to track progress and remember events in your life, it is a great tool for stress management.  It can help challenge your thoughts and allows you to observe unhealthy patterns that may be contributing to anxiety in your life.  

Part of having a Generalized Anxiety Disorder means I have always struggled with rumination.  Journaling has been a vital part of breaking those thought-spirals.  While therapy is equally important, journaling is free and without time restrictions.

Research has also shown that journaling can:  boost mood, enhance your quality of life, improve memory, and enhance self awareness.  Sign me up!  It can also aid in identifying emotional triggers (from there you can come up with a plan of action).  

But if journaling isn’t already a daily practice for you, how do you get started?

1.  Find a Journal You Love

I don’t know about you, but aesthetics and quality are important to me.  You will want to find a journal that inspires you and makes you excited to begin!  

You will need to discover the perfect journal for yourself, but here are a few of my favorite ones:

ruled-notebook-journal

Premium A6 Pocket Journal by Beechmore Books

Of all my favorites, this one is the best quality at the cheapest price!

green-journal

Lined Journal Notebook by Paperage

This journal is fun because of the bright colors and simple design!

hardcover-bound-journal

Small Pocket Notebook 3.5" x 5.5" Hardcover

If you think you want a smaller journal, this one is perfect!

2.  Find the journaling routine that works for you

Everyone is different.  You may need to trial-and-error what works best for you.  But remember, being consistent is what will bring the most benefits.

Some of you may need structure.  Set a time and place that you will journal every day.  Be specific!  Block it out on your calender.  You may even want to decide on an amount of time (15 minutes is usually a great starting point) and set a timer.

Using a journal prompt or a creative writing guide can help you get started.  

Here are a few great journal guides and prompts I love:

 

Or you can try my free journal prompts (I just added a free Sorting Through Stress prompt!)

If you need more spontaneity and/or less restrictions, find a small journal that will fit in a pocket or purse (like the one pictured in the section above).  Pull it out when inspiration hits…or when you feel stress begin to fill your mind.  Although the benefits of journaling are highest when done consistently, sporadic journaling still helps to relieve stress.  Don’t limit yourself to writing either–try drawing or doodling.  

Personally, I bounce around these different styles of journaling, depending on the season of life.  And that is okay too.

3.  Try different styles of journaling

The 4 most common types of journaling are:  Gratitude, Emotional Release, Bullet Journaling, and Free Expression Journaling (stream of consciousness).

Gratitude

Cultivating gratitude is vital to your mental health.  Cultivate, because it takes intention and practice.  Research shows practicing gratitude can help people sleep better, lower stress, and improve relationships.  

The easiest way to begin practicing gratitude journaling is:  List 3 things you are grateful for today.  Now, list 5 reasons why you are grateful for each of those things.  Simple, right?

You don’t have to have a fancy or specific journal for gratitude writing either.  But I do suggest you write in the same journal day after day, it will be so fun to have one place to re-read your entries.

Emotional Release Journaling

This type of journaling can be a bit more weighty.  Make sure you have the emotional bandwidth before beginning this type of writing.

You can begin by writing down specific events in your life that have shaped you, or that have been stressful and/or traumatic.  You could also write down specific things that cause anxiety in your life.  Explore the reasons why they make you anxious, reflect on coping strategies (healthy and unhealthy) you have been using.

To begin this type of journaling, it is easiest to:  list the stressors in your life.  Next to each stressor, brainstorm solutions (if rational) and counter them with truth or scripture (if irrational).  This has been so helpful in my life.

 

Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling is a method of journaling with bullet-points, lists, doodles, etc..  You can jot down your thoughts, to-do lists, or goals.  It is a great way to “word-vomit” or brainstorm.

It is more fun (and I would argue: effective!) to use bright colored markers and feel the freedom to doodle or write as you please.

If you have never done this type of journaling before, you may want to start with a kit like these:

 

Also, here is a wonderful blog that has tons of resources!:

Little Coffee Fox

Free Expression Journaling

This type of journaling has no limitations.  And can be done any way you like.  It is sometimes called stream of consciousness writing. 

You can draw, you can write about your day, you can jot down random poetry.  This type of journal activates the right side of your brain, which processes things in a more visual and intuitive way.

If you want to get your creative juices flowing, check out these outside-of-the-box journal guides:

I am so excited to share an outlet of mine that has been so beneficial to my mental health.  I hope you are excited to begin this journey and find this beginner’s guide helpful!

And if journaling is already a part of your mental health routine, share how it has helped you in the comments below!  I would love to hear from you.

Happy journaling!

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7 Comments

  1. Danielle McDonald July 11, 2020

    I love this girl! I’ve always loved to write in a journal too!

    Reply
  2. Kristin Zimmerman July 11, 2020

    Love this! Such a great post 💕💕

    Reply
  3. Elke Avellana July 12, 2020

    Love this! Such a helpful post

    Reply
  4. Kayla July 12, 2020

    What an awesome idea!! I’m definitely going to try this.

    Reply
  5. Elyse July 13, 2020

    I love that you take the time to open up and journal. I admire that about you and need to start doing something similar myself

    Reply
  6. Kourtnie July 21, 2020

    I’m so thankful for your post and will be saving this link to come back too for all the book/journal options. I love to journal but always forget to do so, then not always sure what to write. I love all your suggestions.

    Reply
  7. Emily July 23, 2020

    I love this! I’ve always loved wiritng and I think it’s a great way to share emotions. Thanks for all of your tips!
    xo Emily
    http://www.themonogrammedem.com

    Reply

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