Journal writing is something I’ve done for many years. It is not something I have done as regularly as I feel I should, but I know this is a very powerful tool for me to maintain my positivity and mental health. It is one of my favorite topics to discuss with the patients I work with. The most common question I hear about journal writing is “Where do I even start?” Starting is overwhelming, so keep it simple.
(#1) Chose Your Medium
First things first, you’ll need to decide your medium. I prefer handwritten journals. Always have, always will. My handwriting is part of my being. Someday, someone will look at these pieces of me I leave behind. I think of some writings Grandma Jean mailed to me in Alaska when she was battling cancer. Part of the beauty is picturing her in a moment, her frail hand holding a pen, and leaving me her written words behind. This is my personal preference. With journal writing, there is no right or wrong.
I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts I use sketchbooks for journals. My favorite pens are the Pentel EnerGel pens or the Bic ecolutions ball point pens. This wasn’t always the case. I’ve used spiral notebooks and all different types of journals like the ones found at Barnes and Noble. It’s whatever you are most comfortable using. If you prefer typing and like Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac, go for it.
(#2) Make Time
I prefer to journal before bed. It’s a good way to unplug and reflect on the day. Some prefer to journal in the morning. Some journal throughout the day. Again, there is no right or wrong way to journal, so there is no right or wrong time to do it either. Setting aside just a few minutes each day is plenty to get started.
(#3) Start Writing
This seems to be the most intimidating part of starting a journal. Start where you are at in a moment. I like to start with the date for every entry. A friend of our family used to keep a very simple journal everyday. She wrote her entries in a monthly calendar. She documented the weather and a few things she did throughout the day. That was it. This was her journal.
If you’re stuck and have no clue what you want to write about, define your purpose for your journal. For me, my journal serves many purposes. It’s my time to reflect on the day I’m putting behind me. It’s my place to capture moments I’ve lived, observations, express gratitude, write my goals, and share my dreams.
Sometimes I view my journal as a friend. Sometimes I think of it as a letter to myself. My journals have evolved over the years to colorful scrapbooks of photographs, drawings, and whatever else I want to put in it.
If you still find yourself stuck, try writing prompts for inspiration. There are thousands of them out there for you to find on Google.
Here a few ideas to get you started:
What is something you are struggling with now?
How did you take care of yourself today?
What is a goal you want to accomplish this week?
Outline the steps you need to take to reach the goal
Write down something that made you laugh today
Write down three things you are grateful for
Reflect on your favorite song lyrics
Make lists of some of your favorite things
Favorite movies, quotes, songs, places to travel
Three Journal Writing Tips to Remember
- Don’t worry about spelling and grammar
- Keep it in a safe place — especially if you are worried about privacy
- Don’t let it stress you out — take a break if you have to
Melissa’s journaling recommendations: