How and why I keep a journal! A 101 journaling guide
You might have heard about journaling; you might have even practiced journaling before you’ve even known you were doing it.
Journaling is nothing more than the simple act of writing your thoughts in a notebook (or a journal). Particularly, I’ve been doing this forever: I had an old “dear diary” when I was a child and would fill the pages with things that happened during the day, at school, at home, just to keep them accountable and be able to go back and read them. My memory has always been fragile, therefore journaling has become my tool to remember.
The years passed by and I changed my strategies to journal, going from having one dear diary to fill A4 university notebooks with stories and collages, to finally decide to share my thoughts online and keep journals IRL on the side.
The three journals
Nowadays, you can call me crazy yet I have a total of 7 or 8 notebooks that I use regularly and two of them are my journals. One is the famous “thoughts journal” and the other an “artsy journal”
On one hand, my “Thought Journal”, the one I’d treat as basically a “dear diary”: it’s mostly filled up with words describing thoughts, situations, reflections and everything that comes to mind at the moment. Sometimes I’d doodle something or write lists, but it’s primarily a Pensive (Potterheads will get it): a place where I deposit my thoughts to free space from my mind and can pick them up later if I need them. Journaling in this way has helped me a lot during the years to understand better what’s going on in my life and have a different perspective to approach my reality; it’s definitely therapeutic and a great tool of mindfulness, if you want to call that way.
On the other hand, I recently adopted the “Artsy journal”, on which I started with a rule: there are no rules on how to fill it. It’s actually a space where I allow myself to play and experiment with different techniques, materials and ideas, being the whole point to recreate from the everyday life and create a place to ignore creative limits. I find this way of journaling could be more appealing when you’re not really in the mood for writing and reflecting on things (I admit sometimes you just don’t want to go there).
As a bonus, this year I went back to my “Gratitude Journal”, which is basically a 5-minute journal you can complete easily in the mornings by writing three things you’re grateful for and some goals for the day. It really helps to start the day with a good vibe and be more aware of the things you already have in your life.
The benefits of journaling
In this section, I just want to quickly highlight some of the best things that come with a regular journaling practice. And this is not just me, it’s also backed up by some articles I’ve found online.
–It makes you write more. I firmly believe that writing does to the mind what exercising does to the body: according to this study, we could say that writing “ can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information… it promotes the brain’s attentive focus … boosts long-term memory, illuminates patterns, gives the brain time for reflection, and when well-guided, is a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.” Word friend.
–It organizes your thoughts. In your mind, things tend to get a little bit messy. On paper, you have the chance to reorganize them to give them the structure they need in order to make sense; once it’s all down on paper, you can see it clearly. Your perspective towards the situations you’ve narrated, the stories you’ve described, your approach to the different ideas in your head is completely changed by the simple act by writing them down.
–It makes you happier. Journaling does indeed make me happier and it could make you happier too. You see, journaling means time to reflect, a form of meditation, time off to review what’s been going on in your life, with your body, with your thoughts, with your surroundings. Writing your story, telling it to yourself actually makes you (according to this article) shift your perspective and find a new meaning to every situation you’ve experienced.
A little guide to start journaling
Grab pen & paper. Writing thoughts by hand has a calming effect on your mind and body, among many, many other things. Particularly, I’ve been keeping my thoughts on this specific brand of notebooks and write with this pen.
Create a ritual to make it a habit. I am an all-time fan of rituals and think there’s no better way to make something stick to your life than giving it the importance it deserves. Figure out a time during the day, perhaps early morning or late night before bed to start. Maybe you need an object that makes you stick to it, like a totem to keep with yourself at all times to remind you that you have to write. Or simply making yourself a cup of tea and lighting a candle can be inspiring enough to start journaling.
Start. We all have different approaches to get inspired, but ultimately sitting down and write is what we want to do. So now that we are here, let me give you some ideas to fill your journal.
Some journaling ideas
-Ask yourself some personal questions. Write a paragraph about who you are, what interests you, dreams, fears, favorite foods…
-Tell your journal about your day. Write about situations that happened throughout your day and describe how they made you feel and what you think can be improved.
-Make a collage. This is my type of artsy journal practice, yet making a collage from things like magazines, stickers, colorful papers and photos can relieve your stress and keep your mind focused on it. Plus, it’s fun and great if you don’t feel like writing.
-Search for prompts. I’m a big fan of Keri Smith’s 100 ideas. Escribirme has good prompts too if you speak Spanish. I’m pretty sure you can find many on the Internet these days by simply googling “journaling prompts”
So I encourage you to give it a chance to journaling, because it can surely change your life.
One page at a time.
Wan Raitelli loves documenting her life and sharing what she learns from her creative journey, be it words, pictures, drawings or videos.