Whether this meant six pages worth of thoughts jotted down in a “Bank of America 2006” diary you were given as a freebie at an expo, or stacks of journals recording every day of your life. Maybe it was a practice recommended by a therapist to see you through challenging times, or an exercise in discipline as a budding writer to get your ideas onto paper. Or maybe (and you dare not admit it out loud) it was during those formative teen years where you just needed to unload the burdens of adolescence.
Regardless of the reason, at some point, you just stopped. It could be that you never developed the habit in the first place, or if you had the habit, life interfered and broke it.
What many of us share who have journaled at some point in our lives, is the feeling that it really helped. Extracting your thoughts and seeing them unravel before you on paper is a cathartic exercise. That’s why therapists recommend journaling. It allows you to get out of your head and see things from a different perspective, enabling you to process emotions as your write. But the benefits of journaling reach far beyond just that. It can act as a channel for creativity, learning and growth.
To reap the benefits, however, practice is needed. This is where many people struggle. Like physical workouts, it’s consistency that produces results. You can have rest days, and you can sometimes ease off for extended periods, but you’ve got to come back again. At times life will be so bursting with experience you can’t help but put pen to paper. During other seasons, you might feel so uninspired with nothing to say. This is the natural ebb and flow of life.
Whether you’ve never journaled before, or you’re looking for that spark to restart, here are eight ways you can ignite, or reignite, your journaling practice.
#1) Journal Prompts
This is an easy way to start a new habit or to overcome initial writer’s block. These can be as simple as “one thing I found funny/learned/hoped for today…” Prompts can help flex your mind muscles and you’ll start to realise you have a lot more to say than you thought.
#2) Make Your Journal Personal
As with any practice, like yoga or weight training, certain tools are needed to set you up for success. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your journal, so investing in something that makes you feel connected and inspired to write. A soft, leather journal, like a Moleskine will add more pleasure to the process. Or treat yourself to a personalized journal set or a fancy luxury pen.
#3) Use It As A Scrap Book
Writing doesn’t have to be the only part of your practice. Visually driven people will love mixing these mediums, and it’s a great excuse to practice your photography as well. De-digitise your photo collection. Be creative and glue, staple or draw images from daily life. Sketch your feelings. Include a tangible item from that day to remind you of a place or situation.
#4) Change of Scenery
Set yourself up in a contemplative setting without distractions. Whether it’s a chair by the fire, out in the garden, or your local coffee shop where you can sit in the corner and observe your surroundings. So long as you’re alone with your thoughts (it’s not as scary as it sounds). Notice the smells, sounds and people interacting around you. You may find your environment igniting something within you to influence your writing.
#5) Do Something Exciting/Challenging/Fun/Out of The Ordinary
Feel like you have nothing exciting to write about? Then find ways to experience something new, not matter how big or small, so you have something to write about! Lets face it, it’s more fun to write about the good times. Journaling doesn’t always have to be about unloading the heavy, burdensome feelings. Lighten the load occasionally and record your fun adventures and quality time with friends and family. Use journaling as an excuse to be more curious about the world and getting out there to experience life’s rewards.
#6) Set Yourself A Themed Challenge For Self-Exploration
Take a leaf from Oprah’s book and start a gratitude list. This type of vision board is a habit-within-a-habit. By writing about things you’re grateful for, you’ll actually start rewiring your mind to see the good in things. Negative thoughts can sometimes be simply habitual and cyclical. It’s a good way to engage more with your journal and feel positive about taking control of your life.
#7) Write Your Expectations of Something New Before You Do It
You’ll never get to experience something for the first time again. Skydiving? Write what you think it’s going to feel like, how scared you are, your imagination of your thoughts before you jump. Then look back on it later and see how right or wrong you were. Often we find that our anticipation is worse than the reality. It’s a fun way to laugh at your own naivety and give your journal a lighthearted feel; when it doesn’t feel like a chore, you’ll keep coming back.
#8) Keep It Simple
Sometimes as humans, we tend to over-complicate things. We have minds that are incredibly capable of comprehending and solving very complex problems. As a result, we also tend to over-think events that really just call for our observation and awareness. Refrain from picking apart every thought that makes it to paper. Sometimes the point of journaling isn’t to elevate yourself to some greater level of existential greatness. The use of bullet points may be substantive enough rather than lengthy sentences and paragraphs. This can be a quick way to get on with your day by getting rid of the negative thoughts stewing inside you. Don’t stress about how you’re format, getting bogged down in by the details is a surefire way to squash the motivation to journal.
Lastly, remember you don’t need to be Anne Frank reincarnated to have a journaling practice. No one needs to read what you write, nor do you have anything to prove to yourself or others. It’s a private exercise in emotional release and self-care, creativity and inspiration, observation and exploration.