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  • Writer's pictureCarolina de Arriba

How to start journaling

Growing up, as a teenager, I wrote in a journal every night before going to bed. Mostly I wrote about the boy I had a crush on, the bully at school that ruined my day or how my parents didn't understand me.

A few months ago I started to hear more about journaling and I became curious but at the same time skeptive. In my mind journaling looked like what I used to do as a teenager, which didn't gave a sense of value add today where I am in my life. My curiosity though led me to learn more about the topic and I discovered how far away I was from understanding really what journaling is and how it could help me today.

We keep a lot of things in our heads, but we put less down on paper. All those thoughts and ideas bouncing around can sometimes feel overwhelming. We have to-do lists, hopes, dreams, secrets, failures, love, loss, ups and down A great way to keep your thoughts organized and clear your mind is to write them down in a journal. Writing is a great exercise for anyone and by expressing yourself in a personal place is a wonderful way to stay sane, and incrase self-awareness. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can also provide you some much needed clarity.

There are many sources out there that state that journal can also help you:

  • Improve memory

  • Boost mood

  • Reduce stress

  • Enhance your sense of well-being

  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety before an important event

  • Improve inmune functions

  • Improving emotional intelligence

  • Strengthen self-discipline, self-awareness and communication skills

How to start journaling?

Here are some of the things that have helped me get started and grow my journaling practice, that I thought I would share hoping it can help you too.

Pick a journal you really like.

You can journal in any notebook, but if you are like me, having one that looks nice and you love will pull you to write on it. Here is some inspiration.

Set a timer.

Whether it’s 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Whatever it, tell yourself that the only goal is to WRITE until the timer goes off. I recommend start small. Five minutes when you are just starting to journal can feel like five hours.

Decide when you are going to journal.

You want to turn your writing into a habit, so create a schedule. Pick a time and the days of the week you will want to write and create a timely calendar reminder, so you don't forget. Building journaling into an established routine is in my opinion the way to go. It's easier to stack up habits, meaning adding journaling right before or after a habit or routine you already have established.

Find the right place to write.

When you’re writing, it is helpful to be in a space where you can focus and concentrate. A quiet room with no distractions works best. Allow yourself to focus on your writing, without any interruptions. Adding e some background relaxing music can sometimes help create just the environment to focus and concentrate.

Decide what approach you will follow.

I feel there are two approaches to journaling:

  • Free writing: this is writing without direction, structure or motive. This means just take yourself to the page and go wild. Whenever an idea pops into your head, just write it down. It doesn't have to be cohesive or have a purpose. 

  • Prompt writing: This is, pick journal prompts in advance. What is a prompt? A journal prompt is a simple statement designed to inspire you or offer you an idea of what to write about, this can help specially at the beginning as you start your journaling practice. Facing a blank piece of paper can sometimes be intimidating. Basic journal prompts can be used by anyone to help get past a temporary block. The best journal prompts inspire you to look deep inside yourself for inspiration, and to discover and capitalize on some of the hidden thoughts and ideas you hadn't previously recognized or even considered.

Keep in mind that is possible to mix both approaches or switch between approaches, but just having a plan ahead of time and eliminate that mental / creative block. You are mrnore likely to actually journal and not procrastinate if you plan ahead.

Here are 20 prompts to help you get started:

  1. What was your favorite thing you did today? How can do you more of that?

  2. When do you feel the most light and free?

  3. If you could make money doing anything, what would that be?

  4. Write a letter to your past self or/and your future self.

  5. Where do you see yourself in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years.

  6. How does your ideal day looks like

  7. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been to and why?

  8. What do you love about yourself?

  9. What are you excited about?

  10. What are your grateful for?

  11. Where do you want to go on vacation? Describe how that vacation would look like as vividly as possible.

  12. What are your top 3 values and why?

  13. What failures did you experienced last year?

  14. What did you learned today?

  15. How do I show love to myself?

  16. What are you holding on to that you need to let go of?

  17. Who are the five people you admire most and why?

  18. What makes you happy? What makes you unhappy?

  19. If you could go back in time and spend 4 hours with your younger self what would you tell her/him?

  20. If you could have a super power, what super power would you pick and why?

Finally, here is a copy of a journal that I've call "The best You", designed to help you reflect on creating your and living an intentional life and become a better version of yourself.

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