Find Out My Secret Journaling Technique
Managing your mental health and well-being is the only challenge you should be worried about
Journaling is such a valuable tool for my mental health (which has been a priority since my burnout a few months ago) and I honestly didn’t expect it to give me so much. In particular, journaling helps me a lot in dealing with mental and emotional overload. We are all exposed to constant over-information in our society where everything is going smoothly and this sometimes makes sorting data and taking a step back difficult. Setting up moments of disconnection, like writing in a journal for example (or puzzles), works really well for me!
How I got interested in journaling?
I had heard a lot about journaling before, but oddly enough I had never been more interested in it than that. I already had a well-established sports and meditation routine in the morning, and it seemed difficult to find the time to add one more element with journaling. I finally started in lockdown, having a little more time available.
I have always enjoyed writing, always had a notebook and a pencil next to my bed in order to jot down things and no longer have them in mind to fall asleep. Writing has always been something I felt comfortable with, so I wasn’t surprised to find myself immediately hooked on journaling!
How I practice journaling
Paper or digital newspaper?
Personally, I write in a paper journal because I really like the feel of the pen on the paper. We have less and less opportunity to practice handwriting these days and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity, when writing on a digital medium; it is too easy to erase and rewrite his text ad infinitum (especially for someone with a big perfectionist tendency like me) while by writing with a pen on paper; we edit our textless (because that means crossing out, nobody likes that, haha).
I feel freer in my writing on paper: I don’t waste my time looking for the ideal word or phrase, which I would do digitally knowing that I can go back and pick up every sentence.
Of course, this is a preference and some will prefer to keep a digital journal which I can totally understand since digital journaling also has its advantages: we can protect the content with a password, we always have your journal on yourself (if you write from your phone) and you can also do research in your writings by typing a keyword, if you ever want to come back to past thoughts or emotions, for example.
What time of day do you write in your journal?
It varies from day to day: I write in the morning or in the evening in my journal. In the morning, writing allows me to put things together for the day, while in the evening, writing in my journal allows me to unload all my emotions of the day on paper.
I have noticed that when I have periods of frustration, anxiety, or stress I tend to write more at night (in order to empty the content of my mind on paper) whereas when I am in a more serene period, I will write instead in the morning (to give an intention to my day.)
Do you write every day?
I don’t write every day, at least 2/3 times a week usually. I don’t want to make journaling a chore, so I avoid setting strict rules for myself. If I’m running out of time or don’t feel the need to write, then I don’t force myself to do it.
What do you write in your journal?
There are no rules on what to write in your journal, write what inspires you and what you feel like putting on paper. I try to keep writing free and intuitive: the first few words are rarely deep or interesting (but that doesn’t matter), but after a few lines of jotting down trivial things, you write deeper things.
I try to write at least 2/3 pages every time I open my journal, because above, above, the first few lines are rarely the ones you dig deep into your emotions (and this interests me personally in keeping a journal). In my journal, I recount my days focusing big on my emotions and my frustrations because it does me a lot of good to free myself from things that weigh on me by placing them on the pages of my journal.
Personally, I don’t use a primer (I’ll tell you more about it below, but it is possible to answer questions to guide your writing if you wish) and the words come to me naturally, certainly because I am very talkative. And that I always have plenty to say! I really focus on the words in my journal: I don’t draw there, nor do I collage or whatever (some do and I think it’s great to bring creativity to journaling).
I try more and more to incorporate gratitude into my writing. I am a naturally positive person, but, re-reading my past notes in my notebooks, I found I was pouring out a lot of my negative emotions on the paper (it is very liberating for me) and that I was not concentrating less on the positive things in my writing.
I also try to train myself to write about the things that brought me joy, pleasure and that went well, in particular by listing at least 3 things for which I am grateful to the moment T. It’s a way for me to remind myself that while negative emotions are inevitable (and important to feel, too), there are positive things and things to be thankful for every day!
Above, my reason for writing in a journal was to better understand my emotions, so I try to be very honest in my writing and I push myself to write things in a very free and “raw” way. By really digging into my feelings and perceptions, sometimes writing things you would spontaneously have trouble admitting to yourself.
It is really an excellent practice of vulnerability, which is also a subject that interests me a lot at the moment in order to explore and better understand my tendency to extreme perfectionism (and disabling) and my need for recognition from others on which I have been working a lot since the beginning of the year.
The benefits I got from journaling
It’s so different to write only for yourself when you know you will not be read: you leave behind the fear of being judged, misunderstood, or criticized (especially when, like me, we naturally fear the eyes of others as I told you about in this article) and the words are necessary all the more raw and honest.
Personally, I feel like I have a clearer picture after writing in my journal, a bit like after exercising, meditating (or tidying up). Writing in my journal is a real outlet that allows me to gain insight into the events of my life and the emotions that I can feel daily, which helps me a lot in my anxiety management.
Journaling allows me to free myself from my mental load and channel my thoughts, to better identify what weighs me down, what makes me happy, what drains me of my energy or on the contrary motivates me and, thus, better understand the triggers of my recurring emotions and thought patterns.
Writing helps me identify and externalize my negative emotions to break out loops of thought in my mind that are doing me harm. I have a natural tendency to imagine worst-case scenarios and know that I generate a lot of anxiety situations on my own. It’s pretty crazy to reread what we wrote in our diary a few days, weeks, or months before: some things that were undermining us no longer impact our lives, and we even sometimes have them. Completely forgotten! We then realize how fleeting certain emotions and frustrations are!
Finally, taking this writing time for myself helps me calm my mind, connect with myself in an honest and genuine way, and build mechanisms of thoughts and actions that are more beneficial to me. If there is one thing that I learned in 2020 it is that it’s important to make room in your life for what makes you feel good and that learning to know yourself is a wealth that is priceless!
How to get started in journaling?
Define your intentions
Why write in a journal? Is it to have more perspective on his emotions? Is it to boost your creativity? Is it to express your gratitude? Is it to keep track of a moment that you are experiencing? Personally, I wrote in a journal to take care of my mental health and take a step back from my emotions and my anxieties, in order to better understand what triggers them and what, to understand, calms them.
Don’t be afraid of the blank page!
You always feel impressed when you put the first lines in a newspaper and you often wonder how to start! Don’t be afraid (if all goes well you will be the only one reading this diary anyway), go for it! As in a physical conversation, the first words are often banalities to start the exchange, then things flow naturally.
Create a ritual or special moment
Ideally, use a time when you can have privacy and not be disturbed while you are writing. Remember to dedicate yourself fully to writing it doing nothing else at the same time.
Don’t put pressure on yourself
Nothing forces us to write in our journal every day! Once again, there is no rule, enjoy keeping your journal and writing in it when you want to. The idea is not to turn journaling into a chore or a check-off task; Enjoy this moment without forcing it. Keeping a journal may only take a few minutes each day or each week. It has to be adapted to you and your lifestyle.
Practice with questions
If you have trouble getting started and don’t know what to write in your journal at first, you can use primers or questions, for example:
- How am I feeling right now?
- What would make me happy now?
- What is positive in my life right now?
- What am I grateful for?
- What would I like to change in my life? Why?
- What did I learn today? This week?
- What are my priorities now?
- What brought me joy this week?