How to Start a Daily Journaling Practice
Newsflash: journaling is really, really good for you. But no matter how much we know this, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) on a daily basis can be challenge. I hear from so many of you who know a daily journaling practice could be useful but struggle to stick to a regular commitment.As with most things of this nature, the simplest advice is: just start. As humans, we have an astonishing capacity to overcomplicate things when the easiest way forward is just to do it. And not tomorrow, today. Right now, if possible. Here are a few things I’ve also found helpful in maintaining my own daily journaling practice, plus a year's worth of journaling prompts you can use to kickstart your journaling today:
Why do you want to journal right now? What are you hoping to get out of a regular practice? There is no “right” answer to this question and your intentions and desires will be personal to you. It’s helpful to think about this now though, because your intentions will inform the decisions you make regarding the following points.
Decide on a time for your daily journaling practice
I’ve found early in the morning is easiest because once it’s done it’s done and I don’t have to remember to do it later in the day. Things we leave until the evening tend to get bypassed in favour of other commitments, low energy and depleted willpower. But again, your intention will influence this. If you’re looking to improve your sleep hygiene and think journaling could help you clear your mind before bed, the evening will be ideal.
As well as a time, designate a journaling spot so you get used to writing in the same place at the same time each day. The more you can do this, the more routine it will become and the easier it will be to maintain a daily journaling practice. After enough repetition, our brains find it easier to switch from external focus to internal focus upon certain cues. Sitting down in the same place at approximately the same time each day to journal counts as two of those cues.
Decide on a structure
What are you going to write about? Play around with different kinds of journaling and decide in advance what your style du jour will be. If you need some inspiration, check out the 52 journaling prompts at the bottom of this post or read more about one of my favourite journaling techniques, morning pages. You don’t have to stick with the same structure day in, day out (I tend to switch depending on what feels most useful at the time), but choosing a set of prompts or a certain style before you start will make sitting down to write easier.
If you’re new to journaling, start by setting a timer for 10-15 minutes and writing. Week by week, work your way up from there. This isn’t a race or competition, there’s no rush, and you’re likely to find it a lot easier to stick to a daily journaling practice if you start slow and find your rhythm.
When you get clear on why you want to journal, you’ll already have some incentive. But some of us also find external motivation helpful. That’s why I periodically return to using 750words.com. I like the statistics, the badges, and the fact you can keep track of your streak. Reflect on what motivates you (perhaps this could make a fruitful journaling session). Is it something similar to the stats and badges I just mentioned? Public accountability? A buddy or partner you can check in with? Finding different ways to make it fun? Figure out your style and incorporate some of those elements into your practice.
Give yourself permission to be imperfect
Blank pages and screens are your friend, not your enemy. Let go of any expectations or ideals of how you “should” be journaling and just focus on starting. Remember there is no right or wrong way to journal. No one is going to come along and start grading you on grammar, spelling and style so it doesn’t matter if it’s good, bad, ugly or plain cringe-worthy.Our inner critics can be one of the biggest obstacles we face with a daily journaling practice. If yours pops up, use the opportunity to start a dialogue with this internal voice. Ask it: what’s on his or her mind? Why is it trying to get you to stop doing this? What is it afraid of? What is it trying to protect you from? Investigate these questions and you’ll have a better idea of what’s driving your inner critic, plus how you can negotiate with this part of your internal dialogue going forward.What have you found most helpful when maintaining a daily journaling practice? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!Further reading: The Ultimate Guide to Journaling & Journaling: getting in the zone
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