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Contrary to what some people may believe, keeping a journal is not solely for young children. In fact, it could be argued that journaling is especially valuable to adults, as they endure many of the burdens and worries of life, making this calming exercise even more beneficial.
But what exactly does journaling entail, what are the benefits, and are there any tips that can help you get started? We thought you’d ask that. Below, we’ll go over all the essential information that will help you learn everything you need to know about how to journal.
What Is “Journaling”?
At the core of learning how to journal is understanding what journaling means. Journaling is the act of writing your thoughts, feelings, remarks, or observations of your everyday life in a journal (or notebook, notepad, etc.).
Doing this helps you become more aware of both your external and internal world. It brings clarity and insight and can calm an otherwise anxious mind.
There’s no right or wrong way to keep a journal. It can look like a detailed account of what happened that day, a summary of a specific and memorable moment, or simply a list of emotions you felt throughout the day. As we’ll elaborate further below, the journal is yours and yours only. You can write in it however you want.
How To Spell “Journal”
Keep in mind that the word journal can function as both a noun and a verb. Irrespective of its usage, it’s always spelled the same way: j-o-u-r-n-a-l.
As a noun, journal can mean “a newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject” or “a daily record of someone’s day-to-day life.”
- When I was younger, I wrote in my journal every day.
As a verb, to journal refers to “the act of writing down and recording one’s everyday life.” The present participle (or gerund) is journaling.
- I need to get home so I can journal; I don’t want to break my streak.
- Journaling has been a part of my daily life for about five years.
Tips on How To Journal
If you want to start journaling but don’t know how, the following tips will help you.1. There’s no wrong way to journal
Remember: The journal is only for you. No one else is supposed to be reading it. There should be absolutely no pressure when writing in a journal, as you aren’t turning it in or getting a grade on it. Knowing this should help ease your mind and allow you to write in it however you want to.
Also, journaling in a notebook that costs $1 is as effective and beneficial as writing in one that is expensive, elegant, and leather-bound. We hate to sound cliché, but how the journal looks on the outside doesn’t matter; it’s what’s written on the inside that will make all the difference.2. Start with realistic goals
Going from never writing to journaling every single day is quite the jump. The issue with setting such a high goal is that if you don’t reach it, you’ll feel discouraged.
Instead, start with smaller, easier-to-reach goals. For example, aim to write three or four days a week. Or, start with writing for just five or ten minutes a day. Once you get the hang of this, reaching your goal of journaling daily becomes more attainable.3. Habit stack if you need to
Habit stacking is when you pair a habit you want to incorporate with an existing one you’ve already established.
For example, let’s say every morning you sit at your breakfast table and have a cup of coffee. Because you already do this every day, you can also use this time to write in a journal. Eventually, the habit you want to add to your routine (journaling) becomes just as natural as the one you’ve paired it with (drinking coffee). Habit stacking is an effective and well-known way to add habits to your daily routine.4. Place your journal where you can see it
Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t see your journal, the likelihood of forgetting to write in it increases. Keep your journal somewhere you can easily see it so that you can easily remember to write in it.5. Be honest with yourself
Again, no one is going to read your journal but you. Write anything and everything that goes through your mind, regardless of how sad, strange, happy, or weird it is. The point of journaling is to make sense of the infinite number of thoughts that go through your brain. There’s also nothing more satisfying than reading an old entry and realizing how much you have grown and learned since then. So do yourself a favor by practicing honesty when journaling.6. Freewrite
Consider this the most important tip of all: freewrite! Freewriting is when you write without caring for grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. You basically transfer your stream of consciousness onto paper without making any edits. Doing so helps you write things in a more raw, honest, and vulnerable manner, enabling you to get to know yourself fully and deeply.
Freewriting is an especially great tactic when you have writer’s block and don’t know what to write about.
Numerous online prompts are available to guide you when writing in a journal. If you aren’t sure what to write about and don’t want to freewrite, try looking for a prompt.
Examples of journal prompts look like this:
- What are your goals for the next three years? Why do you want to accomplish them?
- What are you grateful for today? Make an effort to list at least five things, even if you’ve had a bad day.
- Have you recently made a mistake you’re ashamed of? What did you learn from it?
- If you could have a conversation with the younger version of yourself, what would you say?
- Are you proud of yourself? Why or why not? If you aren’t, what changes can you make so that a year from now you can look back with pride?
Benefits of Journaling
To some, writing in a journal might seem equivalent to doing additional homework—why would anyone want to do that? The fact is that there are numerous benefits to writing in a journal. Here are a few of the most important ones:1. It increases your sense of gratitude
Every so often, we get so busy that we forget to sit down and truly acknowledge everything we have to be grateful for. And if we don’t take any time to express gratitude, we tend to overlook some of the beautiful things in our lives.
Think of gratitude as a skill you can work on. Even on your worst days, there’s something, at least one thing, you can appreciate. Journaling helps you notice these things with greater ease and consequently shifts your perspective to one that is naturally more grateful.2. It strengthens your sense of self
Many of us go out of our way to learn more about a friend or significant other, but we don’t spend nearly as much time getting to know ourselves. We take it as a given that we know everything about ourselves, but that isn’t always the case. When you journal, you become more introspective and start asking questions that you will subsequently explore and answer. Think of journaling as a way of dating and getting to know yourself.3. It improves your writing skills
The simple truth is that if you spend a significant amount of time writing, even if it’s in a journal, your writing skills will improve. Yes, you read that right. Even if your journal contains error-ridden freewriting, you are still fine-tuning your skills. You’re also honing the ability to follow your thoughts and get them onto paper, which is a skill every writer needs.
There’s Another Way To Strengthen Your Writing Skills
Yes, journaling can help you strengthen your writing skills, but there’s something else that can help even more—LanguageTool. As an advanced, multilingual writing assistant, LanguageTool corrects various types of errors and can help refine your style and voice. You can even use LanguageTool to take a picture of your journal entry to identify any mistakes. The best part about it? It’s free! Give it a try today.
Journaling Helps Improve Your Wellbeing
As we mentioned before, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you find yourself in life, journaling has invaluable benefits that can help in many areas of your life. No one is too good, too happy, too sad, or too smart to start journaling. Start journaling today to see how it improves your life.
If you’re seriously struggling with mental illness, in addition to reaching out to someone, also make sure to contact a professional. Mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed about, and there are specially trained people available to assist you.