Tips on Starting a Journaling Habit

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March 21, 2014
At the beginning of February, I decided that I wanted to start a regular journaling habit. I've said it time and again: journaling is not for me. My brain thinks faster than I can write and I get impatient that I can't get on paper my true thoughts on things. But I've read over and over and over again how good journaling is for you, both mentally and (surprisingly) physically. And so I keep giving it another try. 

Over the last six weeks, I've miraculously found a habit for myself in journaling. For the first time ever, I actually enjoy journaling. I don't journal every day--maybe only 2-3 times a week. But now I see why it's such a valuable habit to invest in. Journaling helps me review my day and forgive my mistakes and celebrate my victories.

01. Don't reread your entries.

I used to write journal entries with the intention of 'sounding cool' in case I ever went back and read them later. I would pretend like I hadn't really messed up or that I didn't get embarrassed or like I had it all together. But I didn't (duh). Journaling should be a place where you can let out the feelings that you hide all day, not another place where you have to pretend to be someone you're not. If you find this is hard for you, try journaling on a scrap piece of paper and then ripping it up. Eventually, I learned that I can write anything.

02. Skip what you don't want to talk about.

On that same note, I felt like I had to mention every part of my day. Journaling is for documenting life, but it's more a cathartic experience. Don't try to make a scrapbook for your kids out of your journal. If something was boring, stressful, sad or uncomfortable about your day, you can choose to journal your feelings out or you can choose to ignore it. It's your choice.

03. Have a prompt.

Sometimes on less busy days, it was tempting to skip journaling because I felt I didn't have any 'news' to record. Turns out, those are the days I enjoyed journaling the most. When you don't have a lot to say, choose a prompt to center your entry around. I'll do a post on sample journal prompts soon, but some simple ideas are to talk about two good things and two bad things about your day, a mistake you made, or something that made you smile. For more ideas, I wrote a post a few weeks ago with 10 prompts for gratitude journaling.

04. Set a timer.

Journaling can be tiring; that's just a fact of the matter. Especially when it's a new activity, it can be easy to journal too much and get burnt out. If you find that happening, set a timer for 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Remember: you can stop whenever you want--even if you've only written one sentence or you're mid-story.

05. Set a time

If you're trying to set any habit, it's incredibly valuable to set a time every day or every week to do it. I journal right before I get in bed. I'll brush my teeth/floss/etc and hop in bed with my journal and my pen. Eventually, my mind starts to remind me when I hop in bed that it's time to journal. If you're just starting out, an alarm or a phone ping can be especially helpful!

Do you journal? What are your tips for starting a habit of journaling?

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