How to make journal writing part of your life
As we hit the middle of January, now seems like a good time to check in on how we’re all doing with our New Year’s resolutions. We have officially passed the date when most people give up on their resolutions (January 10 th ), so if you’re still managing to keep up with yours, then congratulations, you’re doing better than most of us!
Personally, I have never been particularly successful at keeping my resolutions, but, last year, I finally managed to complete one I’d been attempting since I was eleven years old: to keep a journal. On the face of it, this seems like a really simple resolution, which perhaps explains why it is also one of the most popular, but what exactly is all the fuss about? After all, one diarist famously wrote, ‘It seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else – will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old school girl.’
So, what exactly is the point of writing about your life in a book you never show anyone? Well, first of all, that famous diarist who never thought anyone would read her diary was Anne Frank, and she also wrote: ‘I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.’
As I’m sure happens a lot, it took psychologists another 60 years to figure out what a thirteen-year-old girl just knew, that journaling has a substantial positive impact on both your mental and physical wellbeing.
So, with all that in mind, here are a few tips to help you help yourself by keeping a journal.
Never leave home without it.
Oscar Wilde famously said, ‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train,’ and he was right; you never know when inspiration might strike you.
You don’t need to write an essay.
For some people, keeping a journal is an impossible task, because they can’t imagine being able to write pages and pages every single day, especially on Sundays! However, you don’t have to write a novel every time, and you don’t even have to write in it every day—just go with the flow.
Bullet points will do.
These days, one of the most popular forms of journaling is ‘bullet journaling’, a style that uses lists, or ‘bullet’ points, to record activities. You might have a page dedicated to the books you’ve read, and another for all the days you’ve been to the gym. If you’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm, that’ll keep it in one place. Use your journal in a way that helps you.
Mistakes are a fact of life.
Talking of bullet journaling, the moment I realised they weren’t for me was when I tried to start one, made a mistake on the first page, and never opened it again. So, if you’re like me, here’s another tip: skip the first page. You’re going to want the first page to be a level of unreachable perfection, so leave it blank and start on the next page.
The stream of consciousness
Sometimes you want to write about something, but don’t know where to start, what to include, and what to miss out. Instead of thinking about it so much, just write as it comes to you. This can be incredibly liberating and brings out raw emotions you might not have been able to capture otherwise.
Adjective (noun): a describing word.
Personally, I’m really bad at describing my feelings, and one way this manifests is in the repetitive use of words like ‘fine’, ‘good’, ‘perfect’, ‘bad’, etc. If you’re keeping a journal to help you explore your own self, try to be as descriptive as possible. Which words truly reflect how you feel?
Make it part of your routine.
If you struggle with remembering to journal, fit it into your daily routine alongside activities you do on a recurring basis. For me, this means journaling before bed; it’s the last thing I do before I turn off the light. For others, it is the first thing they do in the morning, or what keeps them occupied on the bus to work. Find a time that suits you and stick to it.
Try writing prompts.
If you do want to journal regularly, then you need to have something to write about each time, and unless you are insanely productive every single day, there are going to be times when you have nothing to say. So, try exploring topic ideas, or ‘prompts’. Some people fill a jar with prompts on scraps of paper, so they can just pick one out at random when they’re in need of an idea. Personally though, I find googling ‘writing prompts’ works just as well!
Don’t limit yourself to words.
If a word doesn’t do it justice, add a doodle, a photo, a memento, or even a quote, to help you sum it up. Your journal can even act as a scrapbook, somewhere for you to collate everything, from thoughts and emotions to letters and theatre tickets.
Written by Transcriber Lydia
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