Did you keep a diary as a teenager? It was a place to record happenings, thoughts and feelings, to confess your struggles and fears without judgement. Getting thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper made the world seem clearer.
As an adult, journaling is a powerful way to uncover and clarify our emotions, concerns and reflections. Half-formed ideas can be shaped and developed. Negative thoughts can be weeded out and positive ones planted. We can observe patterns in our life and explore our hopes, dreams, and intentions.
Keeping a journal also creates order from chaos by helping you identify causes of stress and anxiety. You can then work on a plan to resolve the problems and reduce stress. Daily ‘gratitude’ journaling is a well-known aspect of mindfulness. Finding and acknowledging the positive things in our life is very uplifting and promotes good mental health – something we all need, especially in these uncertain times.
As we start a New Year fresh with promise and hope but also shrouded in mystery, journaling can be the tool we use to navigate through life calmly and clearly. If you aren’t already in the habit of journaling, NOW is a really great time to start!
The good news is that you don’t need to love writing to enjoy journaling. You can make it a joy, something uplifting to do, rather than a chore. Even if you currently journal or have journaled in the past, take a look at the following approaches and see what resonates.
Try some out, mix them up, or find a style you love and stick to it – it’s all up to you and what works best for you.
Here are some of the most powerful and effective journaling techniques:
One line a day journaling
Writing just a single line a day helps you get in the habit of writing every day. Jotting down just one sentence isn’t much of an ask, so you’re more likely to keep at it.
Capture the key moments and record what is on your mind. What seems ordinary now may soon be a memory you’ll love to reminisce about, or a key to a pattern in your life that you want to change.
Restricting yourself to one sentence helps you sort your priorities, preserve your memory, and sharpen your writing skills. And it’s fun!
Think about journaling things like:
- what’s the best thing that happened to you today?
- what are you thankful for today?
- what lesson did you learn today?
Free writing involves setting a timer and letting your thoughts flow, unedited and uninhibited, onto the page. It’s all about keeping your hand moving and not pausing to go back and compose a perfect phrase.
You simply keep writing whatever comes to mind. Whether that’s describing your surroundings, thinking about your shopping list, or brainstorming a new idea, free writing lets whatever is in your head flow onto the page without your inner critic silencing you.
Free writing helps make sense of mixed emotions or a confusing dilemma. It also helps unlock suppressed emotions you’d otherwise keep buried.
The more you free write, the more accepting you’ll become of your own thoughts and let them spill out without judgement.
Tips for Free Writing
- For an easy start, aim for a page a day or 10 minutes of continuous writing. You can increase this goal as free writing becomes a habit
- Write about how you are feeling. Jot down both your joys and struggles.
- What matters most is that you ARE writing, rather than WHAT you write.
Most of us are familiar with this concept - it is a great way to count your blessings and appreciate the little things in life as well as the big.
As a mindfulness tool, gratitude journaling puts us in the NOW, appreciating the present, rather than mulling over the past or worrying about the future. Studies prove that it makes you a happier and more productive person. It helps you fight depression and boosts your self-esteem.
Don’t rush the process – it’s a time to be savoured. Dive deep and uncover your feelings around those things you are most grateful for rather than listing the same things every day.
Here are a few ideas to explore:
- Inspirational quotes
- Your achievements for the day
- Random acts of kindness you give or receive
- Names of people who inspire you
- Observation of nature including the weather
- Anything that put a little glow in your heart
When you feel down, reading back over your gratitude journal can lift your spirits and remind you that life is good.
Bullet journaling is an organisation tool developed by digital designer Ryder Carroll in 2013. Ryder used it to manage his ADD and it is now a very popular way to have one convenient place that incorporates brainstorming, to-do lists, reminders and schedules.
It’s brilliant for keeping notes and staying organized. For work, it keeps track of multiple streams of tasks for example upcoming meetings, daily tasks, quarterly goals.
Any blank notebook will do though there are many bullet journals available with templates and accessories like washi tape and markers. A bullet journal can be minimal and practical or wildly colourful and creative – it’s up to you.
Here are some things you can include:
- Daily schedules
- Gratitude journal
- Goal or habit trackers
- Sleep trackers
- Mood trackers
- To-do lists
- Grocery lists
- The list goes on forever...
You can create your own set of shorthand symbols to make it quick and easy to use for example asterisk high-priority tasks.
A bullet journal keeps track of whatever’s important in your life – it’s a great way to monitor habits, reflect on what’s working, and plan for the future.
There aren’t many rules to art journaling and no right or wrong. Your art journal can be a mix of images, doodles and sketches along with writing, or it can be purely visual.
Your art journal helps you explore your creativity, keep track of ideas and work through challenges - whether that’s décor for your next dinner party or visual branding for your company.
We are all creative, and this method is very gratifying especially if you’ve always loved art but never considered yourself particularly artistic. Your art journal promotes flow of shapes, colours and ideas without fear of judgement. Use it to express your feelings, whether you had a terrible day or want to celebrate happy moments.
There’s plenty of evidence that dream journaling helps you understand your emotions.
Start by writing down whatever you remember from your dream – and do this as soon as you wake up as the memories will quickly fade. Write about and/or draw the images you saw. The more you journal, the better your memory will get.
It also provides you with new ideas or solutions – Einstein used his dreams to develop some of his formulas and theories.
Once you identify patterns or recurring dreams, you can reflect on their interpretation and meaning.
Recording your dreams helps you explore your subconscious, boosts your creativity, and exercises your brain.
Record a 5-minute check-in.
At the same time every day, record your thoughts and feelings, or musings or observations.
Your Smartphone has a voice recorder so use it to record what is bothering you, what makes you smile that day, how you are feeling emotionally or physically at that moment, or what thoughts are running through your head.
Speaking aloud helps clarify problems and expand on ideas.
The most important part about journaling is taking time out for yourself. To wonder, observe, reflect, dream, question, understand. Journaling gives the opportunity to see and hear yourself. That time is powerful – don’t deny yourself the gift of time.
How will you be journaling in 2022?
Check out the Benefits of Journaling