A Complete Guide To Journaling
Here's everything you need to know to get started with journaling
Journaling is something I started doing while I was in college.
I find it to be a sort of active meditation in many ways. Like meditation, it’s particularly helpful when I have lots of thoughts crisscrossing in my mind.
These thoughts that are screaming for my attention somehow fade into the background or even disappear altogether when I acknowledge them and put them down on paper.
For most of my life, however, I considered the act of writing down one’s thoughts into a book to be silly and a childish thing to do. I assumed it was for people who were expressive or the kind who had a lot of drama in their lives as they would have enough material to fill up pages.
Having never been a very expressive person myself, I concluded it was not for me. And that was the case until I finally tried it out for myself.
As I began journaling, I was surprised to find that it could actually be an enjoyable experience. And strangely enough, it would often give me a sense of accomplishment on the days I wrote a few pages. And at times, it could feel comforting and calming even.
Over the years it has given me an outlet to express myself when I can't convey my thoughts and feelings in a relatable way to those in my life, especially regarding matters in my areas of interest like spirituality and metaphysics.
Here are some compelling reasons as to why you should try out journaling if you are not doing it already.
The Benefits of Journaling
Think better and reduce mental clutter
We think an astounding 50,000 thoughts a day on average if researchers are to be believed. Now I don’t know about the accuracy of that statistic but what I know for sure is that writing down your thoughts and having them on paper will help you to think better.
Unloading our thoughts on to paper helps us to free up our minds and reduce mental clutter rather than going through our day trying to organise our thoughts while involved in other tasks.
While our minds tend to wander, putting our thoughts onto paper makes it easier to focus and direct our thinking better. It also helps us to maintain our flow of thoughts, clarify our thinking and tune out distractions.
Learn from our own experiences
Journaling enables us to learn and grow from our own experiences as well as derive and retain valuable insights from our life, which may otherwise pass away unnoticed or be forgotten.
These insights may come during the process of journaling or perhaps weeks, months, or years later, while we are revisiting them with a renewed perspective. Therefore it’s always handy to keep the journals with you once you’re done writing in them.
As I look back on my journals, I can see that many of my desires have changed over time. Many things I once considered very important to my happiness, don’t have much, or any significance in my life right now. This realisation has helped me to take things less seriously and know that it’s okay when things don’t go the way I desire.
Journaling allows us to take a step back from the events and happenings in our lives and see things from a larger perspective.
It helps to view ourselves objectively, which can help us gain better insights into our personality, inclinations, motivations and desires.
In today’s day and age, people who set aside time to sit and think are in the minority. However, doing so helps us to slow down, pause and reflect in a world where our technological devices are hijacking our time and attention.
This time for reflection and self-analysis can help us go through our day more productively and make it easier to let go of habits and behaviours that don’t serve our best interests. Most importantly, it helps us to gain a better sense of what truly matters to us and prioritise more of our time and energies in those areas.
I have often found that writing about what’s bothering me is a great way to release and let go of negative thoughts and emotions and be at peace with myself. Something about having them on paper causes them to be less intimidating.
Along with meditation, I can’t think of a much better solution than journaling to help me stop overthinking in its tracks.
In fact, studies have also shown that maintaining a journal is great for our health as it can help to relieve stress and even improve our immune function. Expressive writing has been shown to particularly help those dealing with traumatic experiences.
How To start Journaling
Journaling simply involves putting down our thoughts, feelings, experiences and ideas onto paper.
With journaling there is no audience to please. Spelling and grammatical errors simply don’t matter when it comes to journaling. You don’t need to be a skilled writer to write, just as you don’t need to be a talented singer to sing. But nevertheless, the very process itself can be an enjoyable experience.
Make sure you keep your journal somewhere hidden so that you don’t need to filter what you write out of fear of others going through it.
What should you journal about?
If you are absolutely confused what in the world to write about, try your hand at free writing.
Free writing is about writing down whatever comes to your mind without lifting your hand off the page for a set period of time. It can be exciting and an interesting process as you never know the direction your writing may take or what insights you may uncover in the process.
While there are infinitely creative ways to go about this, here are few suggestions as to what you can write about :
You can write about the little things during the day that made you feel good
If you are feeling down, writing about pleasant memories can help to change your mood
You can make a list about what you are grateful for in your life
Write about your day
Things you would like to get done during the day
A subject in your life that you would like clarity in.
Something you read, watched or heard that had an impact on you and you want to revisit it later
How often should you journal?
While writing daily can be the most beneficial, it can be a difficult habit to maintain unless we make it into a priority.
Finding the motivation to sit and write, as I know from my personal experience can be difficult. But after I write, I usually end up feeling better and feel glad to have done it. If you are waiting to be motivated before you start journaling, the chances of that happening may be slim.
Perhaps you can use journaling as a space to unload your thoughts and emotions when something is bothering you or as a means to getting clarity about something that’s on your mind.
Like with all practices, the more often we do it, greater the benefits it will have on our lives.
A few tips to get the most out of Journaling
The key to getting the most out of this practice is to be completely honest and vulnerable with yourself. This I must admit does not come easy to me. But I believe I’ve gotten better at it over the years. Doing this enables us to release and let go of unwanted thoughts and emotions from our mind. And this can also help us in uncovering valuable insights.
It’s best to avoid using journaling as a tool to find meaning and make sense of everything. While I started journaling, I tended to overanalyse things and jump into various conclusion based on them. It took me a while before I finally realised that sometimes it’s best to let go of trying to analyse and find meaning in everything.
Make it a point to be easy on yourself instead of using it as a tool to be hard on yourself, which defeats the purpose of the whole practice.
Having maintained several journals over the past few years, sometimes it makes me wish I had started earlier. Like me, don’t let whatever preconceived notions you may have about journaling keep you from trying it out.
Keeping a journal makes for a fun and enjoyable read for the future, and I can guarantee that your future self will thank you for it.
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