When I started journalling back in 1989 I never imagined I'd still be doing it today. Nor did I have any idea how life changing this practice would be.
In my mid 20s when I started psychotherapy to deal with my buried grief, my therapist suggested I start journaling. From that point on, a journal and a pen was my constant companion for decades. At that time, I was travelling for work and I always, always had a my notebook in my handbag or backpack. I journaled on trains, planes, in taxis, buses, and in hotel rooms. My journaling was one of the tools that saved me.
Being able to express myself in ways I wasn't able to verbally, writing became my solace. The aim was to get the emotion out. It felt good. It felt freeing. As I began to unburden myself from my own feelings, I started to see things more clearly. Slowly, I began to recognise my emotions for what they actually were, rather than what I had thought they were.
For me, this was a daily ritual. Sometimes I'd journal many times a day. Whenever I felt the need, I'd pick up my pen and paper.
These days I do still journal, but I've changed the way I do it. Now, I use a computer, because mostly I have one with me, I can type much faster than I can write, and I can then use what I have written in my books and in social media.
If you've been thinking about starting a journaling practice for a while, I urge you to start. I've put together a list of three things that will make it easier.
1. Start right now. Yes, I mean, right now. In this moment. Go and get a pen and a piece of paper, a computer or your phone and start journaling. Getting any new habit off the ground can be the hardest part. Congratulations, you have started. Your next goal is to do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. If setting an alarm on your phone to remind you, do that.
2. Knowing what to write. In the beginning, I'm not sure anyone knows what to write. One of the best ways I found was to simply write, I feel... then I'd check in with myself and write it down. An example might be, I feel happy. The next part is the because. I feel happy because I had such an amazing coaching session this afternoon. Then you can go on to write about how you felt about that session.
3. Have a no rules approach. Rather than setting strict rules to follow, simply allow yourself to write. Whether you write three words, three sentences or three pages, it doesn't matter. What matters is that you're showing up on the page to express yourself, that is what will make the difference to how you feel. Some days I write a lot in my journal, other days I write hardly anything.
4. Enjoy the process. When you are journaling, enjoy it. Make it a special time. Whether you're on the train commuting to work, sitting in a crowded venue or at the beach, be present on the page and in your writing. If you're at home you might like to light a candle, go outside in the summer sun or curl up by the fire in winter.
5. Record significant realisations. I like to easily find new understandings I have had so I mark these with a ®. This R in a circle indicates that I've had a major realisation I want to be able to find again later. When I was writing by hand, I'd put the same symbol and then I'd use a highlighter pen so I could find it again.
Do what works for you. If you want to incorporate doodling, sketching or drawing into your journal, do that. If you want to use coloured pens and make it a work of art, do that. This is your journaling process, you do you.
By committing to a regular journaling practice you are showing up for yourself. You are giving yourself the time and space to connect with yourself. And, with that daily ritual, you are loving yourself. Which of the tips did you find most useful?