There is no wrong or right way to journal, journaling is a personal process for your healing and self exploration and expression. Journaling means different things for different people and it is important to find your own way forward that fits your circumstances and personality.
However, below are a few pointers to help get you started.
Choose what you will write about. Have an idea of what areas of your life you wish to focus on. Is your journal going to be one for emotional expression, spiritual devotion eg gratitude journaling, for documenting activities and memories or a combination of these or more? Having some clarity about what you wish to use you journal for will help once you are ready to start writing.
Make your journaling a habit. This doesn’t mean you have to journal every day, but it should be a place you turn to on a regular basis. I have had times when I routinely journaled every day regardless of what was happening in my life, and other times when I only journaled when I had something I needed to pour out into the pages. However, if you are starting journaling for the very first time I do recommend being disciplined for a while (every day or regular days) until you get the hang of it.
Write at a time of day that works for you. Some people like to journal first thing in the morning, this can be a great way to capture your dreams and set the tone for the day ahead. Others like to write during the day or in the evening, capturing the moods, feelings and activities of the day just gone. Choose a time that is going to work best for the type of journal you wish to keep, and fits with the day to day rhythms of your life.
Create the write/right environment. Try to journal in the same location every time your write. This will help to create a habit of journaling and over time will make it easier to drop into the journaling frame of heart and mind. Ensure the space is as quiet and comfortable as possible, if needed you might try a pair of headphones or earbuds with gentle music to block out any external noise.
Go with the flow. Allow your words to come forth without censorship. It is easy to get trapped into thinking you have to have something to say before putting pen to paper. Trust your heart and give yourself permission to say what needs to be said without judgement. Try not to get hung up on spelling, grammar, it looking neat and tidy, or even on it making sense. When we are dealing with a flow of emotion these things tend to fall away and sentence structure can go out the window, so don’t let this stop you. Remember you can always rip up your words later if you feel you need to.
Review your journal. This is not to find spelling areas or to correct grammar, but to look for patterns and/or anomalies. Got back over your journaling every so often to see if you can find patterns of behaviour or feelings that might need to be explored in more depth. Questions you might like to ask yourself as you do this could be:
What have I/can I learn from this situation?
What do I have to do to move beyond this?
How can I improve this situation? [Or if you can't] What can I do to live with it better?
Did something positive come out of this situation?
How may the other people in this situation feel now?
Is there further action I need to take?
Is forgiveness needed, for myself or someone else?
Where are the patterns of feelings or behaviours? Who or what is the trigger?
Can I connect feelings that are happening now with what I have felt in the past?
Seek further help. Remember you are not alone, if you are feeling overwhelmed or concerned about what is arising in your journaling please talk with someone you trust to listen without judgement. This may be a friend or family member, a religious authority such as a minister or priest, a medical professional, therapist or counsellor. Your journal can be a signpost for the areas of your life that you need further work or support in, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Be kind to yourself. Handle yourself with kindness and without judgement as you journal. You are a precious being and your journal is a sacred space for you to be truly honest and authentic with yourself. Treat the person that emerges on the journaling page with the compassion and care you would have for a deeply loved and trusted friend.
By following these simple tips I hope you are feeling encouraged and supported in embarking on the wonderful and powerful tool of journaling. May your journeying be filled with insight, healing, and joy.