How to start an effective journaling practice – The Basics

I’ve been a compulsive journaler my entire life, filling countless lined pages with outpourings of inspirations, frustrations, hopes, heartbreaks, and extensive overanalysis. I wrote to understand myself, others and situations. I’ve also learned how to quiet my mind and simply let my pen move across the paper, channeling insights and messages that come from either my wiser subconscious or what you might call God, Spirit, or All That Is.

Journaling was a bit like my compulsive yet sporadic meditation practice; I did copious amounts of both before I figured out the reason why neither of them had been effective. When I made one small but significant change, I began to see real progress in my levels of mental peace and personal growth. I’ll get to that change after we first cover some basics.

Why to journal

A lot has been written about the benefits of journaling, including improved creativity, mental well-being, communication skills, mindfulness, and even IQ. You can click here for a top 10 list of benefits.

But there are many reasons why people journal, and knowing your why will help you stay committed to the practice. Do you want to figure yourself out? Enjoy some me time? Gain clarity? Solve problems? Find your voice? Learn how to stop censoring yourself? Grow as a human being? Express your emotions and feel heard, even if only by yourself? Develop your writing skills? Deepen your spirituality?

If you’re ready to start a journaling practice, spend some time here on your why.

When and where to journal

Keep your journal and a good pen wherever you consistently spend time. My journal is a permanent fixture on my nightstand, but you might have a favorite chair or desk that you use often. Or you can carry it with you so that you can write whenever inspiration strikes.

  • Before bed: At night you can have a bit more time to relax and reflect without the pressure of “gotta get to work.” You can also write down questions you want to solve and let your mind work on it while you sleep. And committing any problems or frustrations to paper can also settle your mind so that you’re able to fall sleep faster.
  • Waking up: In the morning your mind is fresh, clear and unburdened, which makes it an ideal time for free-flow writing, creativity and spiritual practice.
  • Bookends (morning and night). Set your daily intentions in the morning, and assess your day before you go to bed.
  • During the day: If your journal is on your desk, it’s an easy way to experience some self-care: step away from your computer, go for a walk with your journal, and download to paper any ideas, insights, frustrations, or solutions that want to be heard before you get back to the grind.
  • Weekends. I love marathon journaling sessions on lazy weekend mornings in my PJs while sipping my soy latte. I’ll combine it with a thought-provoking book that stimulates my creative juices, picking up my journal and pen when my reading sparks an idea.

What to journal

This, of course, depends on your why. Once I succeeded in figuring myself out and stopped overanalyzing, my focus has shifted to writing poetry, aligning myself with something bigger than myself, and ideating on my new venture (a guided journaling program, go figure!). The important thing to know is, there are no rules. Write whatever you feel like writing. This is a 2-way conversation with yourself and/or the Universe (or whatever you call Her), so you’re in charge.

How to journal

Ahh, now we’re at the heart of the matter. In order to reap all those benefits up in the Why section, there are a couple guiding principles to follow. It’s so important that I’m going to cover it a separate post. Click here to read about the how.

2 thoughts on “How to start an effective journaling practice – The Basics

Leave a Reply