After a few years without a writing practice, I decided that 2020 was the right time for me to begin journaling again. But I didn’t know where to start!! I posted the question on Instagram and here is a collection of the beautiful advice I received and the approach I have decided to take.
The simplest advice I had was to use a journal firstly for dumping any feelings that came up whilst writing & secondly for noting down any feelings of gratitude. This is a great place to start as it helps us to observe our thoughts and feelings as well as letting go (or parking) anything that we don’t want to keep carrying around all day, whilst at the same time seeking out some positives from our day.
Someone reminded me that there are no bad feelings, just interesting information so I made a note of that in the front of my journal before I got started.
Other suggestions that I found helpful as ideas for journaling, included:
- writing down positive affirmations (did you know that even if you don’t actually believe them, writing or saying affirmations has an impact on how we feel; take though because this works if we tell ourselves negative affirmations too!)
- noting down visualisations for how we want to feel, even if we’re not there yet and not sure how to get there either
- adding some art – flowers, tickets, photos, doodles… whatever works for you (I really like this idea as I’m quite a visual person)
- setting intentions for the day/week/month/year/life…
And then someone gave me a brilliant list of suggested questions or prompts that we can use to shape/review our day – these can all be present or past tense depending on where you’re at in your day. There were lots but here are some favourites:
- what am I struggling with today?
- am I being true to my values?
- what do I need to take time with?
- what brings/brought me joy?
- what would I do if I wasn’t scared?
- what makes/made me laugh?
Interestingly, this list brought to mind a fabulous poem by John O’Donohue that I had recently found so I printed off a copy and stuck it in the front of my journal. The poem invites the reader to review their day – you can find it by clicking this link: At The End Of The Day – a mirror of questions
My journaling process:
I started my journal with two words for the year. I had been thinking about them for a few weeks, weighing them up and deciding if they were right for me. Having decided that they were, I wrote them on the second page (the first page was filled with my journaling ideas) as an intentional focal point. A benchmark I could come back to when I needed to.
I chose two words – ‘heart’ and ‘connect’ – and added notes about what they mean & why they matter for me.
My journaling practice so far has been split into two points in the day – when I wake up & when I go to bed. I keep the journal (and a purple pen) on the floor by my bed (because that’s how I roll!!) so it acts as a gentle prompt to connect when I’m in that space.
When I wake up:
I have been starting the day with some intentions and some positive affirmations as I find they give me a focus for the hours ahead. Some of them have a personal focus and some are business-related and I really just observe how I’m feeling about the day and note down things that I feel will guide me through it.
It feels really good to stop for a moment before the day gets going, which sounds a bit mad after doing nothing but sleep for a few hours, but I’m finding it really useful.
Some days I set myself defined goals for the day. Usually there’s a reminder about eating well or going to bed early because those are my weak areas…!
When I go to bed:
I have been ending each day with a review of achievements (checking-in with any goals I set myself that morning), things I’ve loved that day, moments that made me smile and how I’m feeling in myself (mentally and physically)
It is so easy to forget to celebrate ourselves and I find this process really helpful. I probably have a tendency to carry around or pick over things I didn’t do well and a few moments doing the opposite has proved really beneficial so far. I go to bed feeling much more positive about myself which funnily enough results in me waking up much more positive about myself – who knew!!
Some nights I also add in a focus for the next day too. For example, I have got into the habit of spending time on social media when I first wake up, which sometimes steals the time I need for a pre-work walk or a relaxed breakfast.
Last night my final journal entry reads as follows: “NO social media in the morning until I’m up, dressed fed and walked” And because I saw that first thing this morning, I got up and did some work, had a shower, ate my breakfast at the dining table and went to work without looking at social media… Proud moment right there!!
Thank you to everyone who gave me the inspiration to get started. If you’re new to journaling I hope some of these ideas help you to get started. & if you’re already journaling, I’d love to know what works for you Jx
Read my top five wellness tips here