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A Guide to Journaling; Tips for Beginners

I have to admit I never really saw the point in journaling. I saw it as a bit of an airy fairy thing to do. Afterall I know my feelings and thoughts, why would I need to write them down? But at the beginning of last year a lot was going on in my life and journaling was taking over the wellbeing industry, so I thought I’d give it a shot Fast-forward a year and here I am having done a complete 180. I now love journaling. Over the past year there has been so much going on globally, let alone in my own world, and journaling has helped me process, feel and understand everything so much better. My journal has become a pretty good substitute for coffee dates with friends that we’re all missing at the moment

So what’s stopping you from journaling?

There can be so many different resistances to starting journaling. Maybe you can’t quite move past the idea that it’s just writing a diary, which gives you memories of fluffy diaries, mini padlocks, pink bedrooms and bejewelled pens. Just so we’re clear if you want to go all out 90s child with your journal that is cool, but if you want a simple notebook that feels very sophisticated than you can do that too.

In all our excuses of why we don’t want to journal, for many of us the biggest thing holding us back is the fear of confronting and feeling our feelings. If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Urm yep obviously! Why would I want to dive into my thoughts and emotions!’, don’t worry you can start off simply using different methods and only deep dive if and when you want. Keep reading for my top tips when starting out.

Reasons to journal

Journaling can help with overthinking; I am definitely a natural overthinker. By writing down thoughts and feelings it can really help to show you what is true and what is just your own mental narrative. This not only helps with overthinking but also helps you let go of and process emotions. A journal can also act like a dreams and goals planner so it becomes a great space for figuring out your plans and dreams, without too much formality or finality. The longer you journal for the more you will notice patterns and themes emerging and this is when you can get a greater insight into yourself which you might have missed if you hadn’t been journaling. Simply put there are loads of reasons to journal and there’ll be a reason that resonates with you. Your reason for journaling may change day to day or over the months and this will help you to keep journaling relevant to your own life, rather than just doing it because everyone else is.

Types of journaling

As well different reasons for using journaling, there are different ways to journal. As with the reason, it all comes down to personal preference and what you want to get out of your journaling session.

Free writing – Free writing is where your write how and what you want. You can write paragraphs, sentences, or words. Anything that feels potent and important to you. You can write out whole thought processes or write a poem that sums up how you feel. Over time free writing might help you to explore your emotions and feelings more because you will end up creating a dialogue with yourself. In free writing you’ll often find you start with a sentence on a topic and finish with a whole page.

Brain Dump – A little like free writing you write anything that comes into your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense you don’t have to read it back, it is just a way of releasing from your mind. It’s great if your mind is very busy and jumping from place to place Mind Map – You probably remember these from your childhood, but actually they can play a useful part in adult life too. Using a mind map with a word or phrase in the middle can help you see how all your thoughts are linked, it doesn’t require you to analyse them at the time (or ever). This is a great way to plan and dream or to action something.

Affirmations – When you are feeling down or repeatedly struggling with something an affirmation can really help. A short simple sentence is all you need. Write it down and repeat it to yourself, and then think about it throughout the day or week. Affirmations can be something like, ‘I am happy’ or ‘I can act freely’ Affirmations are powerful on their own but you can also use affirmations as summaries after big journal entries. For example, if I have written a lot about a feeling or thought, I might write an affirmation as a way of ending on a positive note and to act as a bit of full stop.

Try an affirmation meditation to help you realise you are enough Intentions - Intentions are similar to affirmations but refer more to your actions, plans or the way you spend your time. For example, you might set an intention such as, ‘I will take time today for self-care’ or ‘I will find joy in the small things today’.

Prompts – Prompts are questions set by others or even by yourself that probe you to explore your feelings and emotions. These are a great way to start out. You can buy journals that have prompts in them or you can find plenty on social media. Scroll to the bottom of this post for 5 prompts to get you started.

Tips to help you start journaling

Tip 1 - Start with a prompt. It can be hard to start anything new. Using prompts is one of the best ways to start as you can pick prompts that you're comfortable answering. They'll also give you an idea of where to start with free writing and what works for you. In fact prompts were one of the main techniques I used when I started out.

Tip 2 - Write quotes. I write down inspiring quotes that come up during my week. This is a really great tip because quotes often make you realise or feel something that you can't put into your own words, therefore it is great for journaling newbies.

Tip 3 - Start with a key word. When starting journaling I liked to use key words that came into my head, and then write a sentence or two for each key word. An example of a key word could be: happy, stress, work or relax. You may not fully understand how or why (or even what) you are feeling so using a key word that is floating around your brain is a great way to start to connect with understanding what makes you feel certain things.

Tip 4 – Just go for it. Remember this is your space to write, feel and be, and in time it will become natural so keep going and explore what styles of journaling work for you.

5 journal prompts

I have used all these prompts in my own journal. Whether you answer them all in one sitting or take one and answer it a few times in a week, they will help you to see how you feel, know who you are, what makes you happy, and what is holding you back.

- What am I grateful for? - 3 Things that make me content?

- How did I feel today? - What can I let go off? - I am…..

I would love to know how you get on with your journaling. Follow me on Instagram and let me know!

Happy Journaling Friends


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