by Brenda Bonin
I’ve been an off and on journal keeper for about twenty years. Last year, I got into a very good habit and enjoyed the process and the outcomes, but then again fell out of the habit. With the turn of yet another new year, I decided to pick it up again.
Why I Stopped Journaling
First, I asked myself why I stopped journaling this last time. It came down to two things: a) I filled up my journal and b) the weather changed. The journal in which I wrote was a beautiful leather-bound book. When I filled up the last page, I had nothing even remotely similar on hand to keep going. I suppose I could have easily bought a new journal at the bookstore or from Amazon, but I just didn’t. My routine was to journal first thing in the morning while enjoying a cup of coffee on my patio. This morning activity was perfect for a while. But then, some colder temperatures set in, and I just didn’t want to sit out in the chilly weather. These two disruptions caused me to stop journaling.
How I Restarted My Journaling Practice
After the holiday rush ended, I bought myself another journal and created a new routine for the winter. I returned to my daily morning routine with a few changes; this time inside the house sitting in my favorite chair. Coffee and my dog accompanied me again as I resumed my practice. I know now I need to keep a backup journal on hand, just as I keep a backup propane gas tank for grilling.
5 Benefits of Journaling
There are so many benefits of journaling, though the outcomes are varied, and very personal for each individual. I found myself missing the impact journaling made on my life during times when I wrote down my thoughts consistently. Here are the five top benefits of journaling for me.
To start the day with gratitude and intention
For me, a positive morning routine is important. Without one, it’s too easy to begin the day in reaction mode, instead of with intention and gratitude. Journaling puts me in the best positive mindset. It helps me begin each day mindful of what I am grateful for and what I intend to bring about each day.
To discover or re-discover what is important or forgotten
With free-flow writing, I often suddenly remember something important to me. Recently, as I wrote about my love of morning coffee, I recalled that I used to enjoy having coffee with a friend. This social experience disappeared during the pandemic, and I forgot how much joy this simple event could bring. I quickly reached out and scheduled some coffee dates. I so enjoyed catching up with a few friends in person, and sharing the warmth of a cup of coffee. And while my love of coffee spurred this idea, what is truly important to me is the connection with others.
Here’s another example of re-discovery. Years ago, a mentor of mine recommended playing baroque-style music while journaling. I didn’t remember this tip until one day I blanked on what to write. If you want to develop a practice of journaling, but don’t know what to write about, play some classical music to relax and stimulate the brain. It works for me.
To generate new ideas
My new journal includes writing prompts. Responding to the prompt “What are your wildest dreams and visions for your writing?”, I came up with an exciting idea for a book. Writing prompts can help get your creative juices flowing. I’m super excited about this idea which might not have come to me if not for my journal prompt.
Another idea came from writing about how grateful I am for my book club. I thought of a special way to celebrate our 15 years together by creating a cookbook of favorite meals we shared over the years.
To clear your head
When we have lots on our minds, it can be hard to hear what is in your heart. Everyday demands of work, family, appointments, bills, taxes and so much more can dominate our lives. Journaling can be the conduit to taking the time to clear our head, silencing the voice of responsibility, and just listening to your heart. I often can find answers to questions that plague me and clarify what is most important in situations when I journal.
Journaling also helps me organize my thoughts and get clear on a course of action. It’s a type of brain-storming exercise that gets clutter out of my head and onto the paper. I do my best problem-solving when I journal.
Many days I simply write about how I experience life. For example, I might journal about what I did the day before, who I talked to, and how I felt. As the words flow, I remember more clearly who I am and the gifts I have to share with others. This self-awareness helps me feel more genuine and confident. It encourages me to go into my day as my very best self.
People say the more you do something, the better you get at it. As I get better at expressing myself through journaling, I find I am better at communicating with others.
In contrast with communicating with others, my journal is just for me. It is the place where I deposit any thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams, annoyances, hurts, laughs, hopes, and fears, for my eyes only. This exercise helps me process my experiences and make a little more sense of this dynamic world we live in.
Are You Ready to Start Journaling?
If journaling feels like yet another chore, it might not be for you. For me, the benefits of journaling are many. This practice is a gift of expression and a practice of gratitude that makes each day a little brighter.
Do you journal? If yes, let us know how you feel it benefits you in the comment section below. If you don’t, let us know if you decide to try it! Do it the way that works best for you, whether it’s writing in a physical book or using a journaling app. Remember that it may seem difficult at the start but gets easier with practice.
FAQs About Journaling
Many people say they want to start to journal, but just don’t know where to start or how to go about it. Here are some commonly asked questions about journaling.
What is journaling?
Journaling is the practice of keeping a written record of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It can take the form of a diary, a personal journal, or even a digital journal.
What do I need to start journaling?
To start journaling, you’ll need a notebook or a digital device, and some dedicated time. You can use a physical journal, a computer, smartphone, or specific journaling apps.
Do I have to journal daily?
The frequency of journaling is a personal choice. Some people journal daily, while others do it weekly or whenever they feel the need to express themselves. There are no strict rules.
What and how to write in a journal?
You can write about your thoughts, emotions, experiences, goals, dreams, and even your daily activities. Some people also use prompts or structured journaling exercises to get started. There is no specific format required and journaling entries can be as structured or unstructured as you like. Some people use dates, headings, and sections, while others simply write without any organization.
What are some popular journaling techniques?
Some popular journaling techniques include gratitude journaling, bullet journaling, stream-of-consciousness writing, dream journaling, and art journaling.
What does a journal entry look like?
There is no right or wrong way to journal. It’s a highly personal practice, and you can make it your own. You can write in complete sentences or use bullet points, draw, or even use multimedia like photos and sketches.
How can I make journaling a habit?
To establish a journaling habit, set a specific time, create a comfortable writing environment, and start with manageable goals. You can also use reminders and incentives to stay motivated.
Can journaling help with mental health?
Yes, journaling can be a helpful tool for managing mental health. It provides a safe space to express emotions, track moods, and work through difficult experiences. Many therapists recommend journaling as part of therapy.