You may have been asked to journal as a part of your therapy, or you may be considering it on your own. However, how to start journaling when you have never done so before? Before I start discussing how to start journaling, you need to understand what journaling is and its benefits. I have discussed how journaling can boost self-confidence.
If you are planning to start the journey of journaling regularly and are interested in reading more about how to maintain emotional wellness and boost mental health, please subscribe to Guilt Free Mind so I can send you notifications whenever there is a new blog post release. The videos of Guilt Free Mind will be released on the YouTube channel Shruti’s Art Studio. Please subscribe to Shruti’s Art Studio YouTube channel if you wish to watch the videos about motivation, inspiration, mental health, etc.
What is journaling?
In layman’s terms, journaling can be considered as an act of writing down your feelings and ideas. Journaling regularly is an excellent approach to boost your self-confidence, mental health, and emotional wellness. The benefits of journaling regularly are not only limited to psychological help. It is also extremely beneficial to your physical health. Our study was conducted in which rheumatoid arthritis and asthma patients were asked to write down their painful and stressful life experiences for 20 minutes a day, every day. After four months, these patients showed significant improvement compared to the others who were not engaged in journaling regularly.
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What are the benefits of journaling regularly?
Whether you are studying, have a job, are a stay-at-home person, suffering from any kind of illness, or just want to escape the pressures of everyday life, journaling regularly is a viable solution for everyone. There are many ways by which journaling regularly can help.
Journaling regularly reduces anxiety.
Regular journaling can help you feel less anxious. Whether your anxiousness stems from a traumatic past or you suffer from PTSD from an accident, journaling about your emotions has been connected to a reduction in the mental anguish that’s a result of past trauma. Researchers have also found that people suffering from illnesses and anxiety started to feel better if they wrote online every day for 15 minutes over a 12-week duration. During these 12 weeks, their mental health started to show significant improvement.
Journaling regularly helps with brooding.
We all have skeletons in our closets. This point cannot be emphasized enough. No one does not have problems in their life or is free of mental health issues. If you have had a traumatic past, writing about it can help break from that never-ending cycle of compulsively thinking and worrying over what happened and how it could have been different. However, the timing is crucial in this regard. As per some studies, if you write about your dramatic experience immediately after the occurrence of the same, it may make you feel worse.
Journaling regularly increases consciousness.
When you write every day about the challenges you face, the stress you struggle with, and the things you need to change in your life, you start to realize the work that you have to put in to boost self-confidence and make your mental health better. You also start building new perceptions regarding the same matter you felt very low about.
Journaling regularly helps regulate emotions.
Studies have observed that people who indulge in journaling regularly are more in control of their emotions than those who journal sporadically. Furthermore, the study also observed that people who wrote about their feelings and sentiments in the journal showed more control than those who wrote about neutral experiences. Other studies have shown that if people write about their feelings in an abstract manner, they experience more relaxation than writing about the experiences vividly.
Journaling regularly encourages opening-up
When people start to write about their traumatic past, it opens them up. Most people find it difficult to communicate their past trauma verbally. Thus, writing about it is a great way of getting all the thoughts, emotions, feelings, pent-up anger, and frustration out in the open and on a piece of paper. If you are consulting a therapist, you can show the journal or that specific writing snippet to your therapist to communicate your trauma instead of verbally discussing it.
|How to journal regularly to boost self-confidence?|
How to start journaling to boost self-esteem?
Though many people understand the benefits of journaling regularly, they are confused as to how to start journaling? It will take time and effort from your side, but it is a lovely practice that will not need you to put in a lot of work to stay regular at it. Here are a few tips to allow you to get you started on this journey. Once you are into journaling for a few months, it will become a habit, and you will not even have to think or set a timer to write in your journal.
Digital journal or paper journal?
The first step in how to start journaling is to decide the medium where you want to journal. Studies have observed that when you write by hand, it helps you process your thoughts. However, you can choose the format that is most comfortable for you. You can opt for a paper journal if you want to write by hand. If you want to type, you can opt for a word processor on any device. Alternatively, if you are someone like me who loves to write but does not like pen and paper, you can go for a digital mode of writing like tablet and pen. There are many note-taking apps available that can be used as a journal.
If you want to involve art, this can be done in both digitals and paper journals. If you are using Google Docs, it may be possible to access your digital journal from any device. You can get Google Docs for free from the App Store. Once you have logged into Google Docs from all your devices, it usually will be accessible on all devices. This will make it very easy to practice journaling regularly.
This is the first step you need to work on. However, if you are confused, you can journal on both modes and find out which one works better for you.
Write every day
If you talk to anyone about the process of journaling, the first thing they will say is that it is a regular habit. You need to journal regularly; otherwise, you will not be able to reap its benefits. Thus, everyday journaling is a crucial part of how to start journaling itself. Initially, it may be hard for you to make time for your journal. Therefore, the next part of how to start journaling is to decide which time is most convenient to you. Set an alarm on your mobile so that at that specific moment, you know you have to work on your journal and not do anything else.
Journaling regularly should be a priority. Otherwise, this is not going to work. Every day, when your phone alarm goes off, you must take out your journal and write. Alternatively, you can choose to write either right after you get up or right before you go to bed. If you commute a lot, you can use the commuting time to indulge in the journaling process.
Set a timer
Initially, it will be hard to put down your feelings and thoughts because you are not used to them. Therefore, to help you get used to the process, you must set a timer for 20 minutes. The moment your alarm goes off, pick up your journal, set your timer for 20 minutes, and start writing. This way, the whole process will not feel very overwhelming. Twenty minutes is the minimum time you should give your journal.
Some days, you may have other tasks that are weighing down on your mind. In such a circumstance, you may reduce the 20 minutes time to 15 minutes or even 10 minutes. However, you should not spend less than 10 minutes on any day when you are getting into the journaling process itself.
When your timer is running, scribble whatever comes to your mind. It does not have to be perfect; it does not even have to make sense. Just keep writing. When you are starting out, the goal is not to write your deepest thoughts and feelings. The goal right now in the process of how to start journaling is to just get used to the idea of spending some time with your journal every day.
You write things like, ‘this does not make sense to me,’ ‘this is absolutely foolish,’ ‘why am I doing with this?’, ‘I’m simply wasting my time’ etc. The point is that you write whatever comes to your mind. During the initial days, the above-mentioned phrases will cross your mind. Eventually, you will get used to writing down what is important, and your brain will start figuring out what needs to be put down in the journal.
If you are writing something crucial and your timer goes off, it is okay if you keep writing and not stop. It is important to get all your thoughts and feelings down into your journal. I will emphasize again that the 20 minutes timer is just to get you used to the process. How long you spend with your journal depends entirely on you. As long as it is not less than 10 minutes, you are good.
Do not worry about grammar or spelling when journaling regularly.
It is okay to use WhatsApp language in your journal. It is your journal. No one will ever read it. Your spellings and sentences do not have to make sense to others as long as they make sense to you. Do not censor your thoughts when you are putting them down in your journal. If you are worried about your grammatical errors, you can always revisit your sentences and correct them. However, this is not a compulsory step. If you are in the process of learning a new language, you can use this time of journaling to write a few phrases in the new language. This way, you will not feel that you are wasting your time on journaling regularly.
If you do not like to write in full sentences, you can always get creative with the formatting process. There is no set format for writing in a journal. You can experiment with different styles and formats until you find the one that suits your style the most.
Here are specific ideas that you can use to express yourself in your journal
- Use your journal as a to-do list. Write down everything that you want to do and that you would like to focus on.
- Use it as a habit tracker. If you are trying to change something in yourself or trying to start a new hobby or habit, mention it in your journal and market it when you do it.
- Write your favorite songs or poems.
- Use images, smileys, etc., to convey what is in your mind.
Use the Internet therapist.
This is an excellent way of counseling yourself. If you are struggling with a specific problem or you want the help of a counselor but cannot visit one for some reason, you can use journal prompts from the Internet like the following:
- I feel I am doing my best when…
- I feel frustrated when…
- I do my best when…
- … makes me most unhappy
These are some examples of how to start journaling. You don’t have to leave these sentences in one line itself. If there are instances that you would like to elaborate on, you can use these journal prompts and continue to write for as long as you want or till the time when you feel that you have unburdened yourself on your journal.
Many people struggle to open themselves up to their journals. This is alright. It is challenging to unburden yourself on a piece of paper when you have never done so before. However, you need to remember that no one is ever going to see your journal. It is meant only for your eyes. Thus, it is okay to write whatever you want about anyone. Your journal is a judgment-free zone. It is not going to judge you or tell you what you did wrong.
The only way journaling regularly will help you is if you do not attach negative emotions to the journaling process like embarrassment, guilt, etc. Feeling a certain way or having specific thoughts does not make you a bad person. When you are writing in your journal, you should not judge yourself. Journaling will eventually help you resolve your inner conflicts. However, when you are starting, it may be a little hard not to judge yourself harshly.
Suppose you were in a fight and said harsh words. When you write this instance down in your journal, your mind would be compelled to judge you for your wrongdoings and your actions. However, you will have to put a lid on it. When you’re journaling, that is not the time to judge yourself. All you are allowed to do is put down your thoughts, feelings, and emotions and leave it at that. You are not allowed to criticize yourself for what you’ve done. Instead, you should applaud yourself for successfully putting down your thoughts and emotions in your journal.
Once a few months have passed, you can revisit your behavior, analyze it, find out what went wrong and work to improve that part of your behavior.
Dealing with feelings and emotions
If you had a bad morning or if you were already sad when your alarm went off, maybe the first thing you will write in your journal will be the reasons behind your sadness and frustration. It is perfectly okay to have your opening lines as ‘I am very sad today because….’
As I mentioned before, you can write down whatever you want. The best part about journaling regularly is that you do not have to worry about asking your journal, ‘hi how are you,’ ‘are you doing alright?’ etc. Your journal is only there to absorb your thoughts and emotions, not give you anything back. Thus, just unburden yourself and tell your journal whatever you’re feeling, whatever concerns you may have, the guilt you carry, etc. Keep writing till you start feeling better or until your timer goes off.
Here is an example of how you may start writing in your journal about a bad day
‘Today, I’m terribly upset because I fell. I had all my plans for the evening sorted out. I wanted to go out and do some shopping, but I could not because I was bruised and battered all over. This is making me feel so frustrated. I don’t know how to be rid of this frustration that’s looming in my mind….’
Focus on the stream of consciousness
The human mind is a very complex environment. There are at least three levels of the human mind that have been identified. These are conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. You are only aware of those thoughts and feelings that are in the conscious realm of your mind. You are never aware of what is in your subconscious or unconscious. Therefore, what you are feeling or experiencing may not make sense to you.
When you write in your journal, things may come into your mind that doesn’t particularly make sense to you but write them down. What may not make sense to you now may make sense later. An example of a conscious type entry would be: I am sad. I don’t know why. It’s a feeling I woke up with today. The sun is shining bright outside, but I am gloomy inside. I don’t know what’s causing frustration in me. Maybe it is because I’m feeling cooped up. I have so much work that I cannot go out, but I am also not being able to work to my full potential…
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Release your negative emotions
Negative emotions like rage, despair, anger, guilt, sadness, frustration, etc., are part of our daily lives nowadays. Almost everyone has to experience disagreements, failures, etc., as a part of their lives. Sometimes, it may become difficult to move past the negative emotion that has taken up residence in your mind. Fortunately, you can use your journal and your habit of journaling regularly to explore these feelings and find out what to do to get rid of them.
Studies have shown that when people talk about their problems, they feel better. If you do not have a friend to talk to about your problems or if the problem is with the friend that you usually talk to, you can use your journal to talk about your problems. Your journal will not judge you, not talk back to you, or scold you. It is a completely safe space where you can put down any and everything and about whoever. You can go on ranting about everything wrong in your life, or you can write about who hurt you and how.
When you start writing about your feelings, you will soon realize that the process of writing helps you relax and find the words that you need to communicate to others what you are going through and feeling. Once you are feeling a little better or more logical, you can revisit the journal entry that you wrote when you were depressed. Find out what can be changed and whether you were in the wrong or was it someone else’s doing.
Keep track of your moods.
With the stress levels that we face in our everyday lives, it is hardly ever that we are in a good mood. Thus, if you can track your moods through your journal, it will not only help boost your self-confidence it will also help you in keeping track of your emotions. If there is a trigger that is leading to an emotional outburst, you can identify that by using your journal. Every day, before and after you finish journaling, write down levels of different emotions like anger, guilt, sadness, happiness, etc. On a scale of 1 to 10. You can add all emotions that you want to track. These will assist you in making positive changes in your life that will improve your overall attitude. When you rank your mood, ensure that one means light mood today and light mood one year later.
Reflect on what has been written
A crucial aspect of journaling regularly is to go back and read what you wrote previously and identify what could have been different. When you revisit your journal entry from a time when you had a fight with your friend /spouse or a disagreement with your parents, you will notice a difference between what you were feeling then and what you are feeling now. You may feel that your feelings have changed over time. Maybe you overreacted just a little bit? Perhaps what you said could have been framed in a better way.
Alternatively, you may find out that you were not at all in the wrong and it was your parent’s mistake. Unfortunately, we live in a wierd world where we are taught to see our parents with tinted glass. This does not mean that all parents are bad. Sometimes, parents can be in the wrong too. Journaling regularly can help you figure out exactly who was wrong when. If your parent/spouse/friend were wrong, you need to confront them and tell them that a change in their attitude is required. When you and your parents or better half or friend work together to solve a problem, it becomes much more manageable.
Remember to revisit your old entries every three to four months so that you can track your mental health progress.
Improve and boost self-confidence
Journaling is not only meant for keeping track of your emotions. You can also use it to keep track of your hobbies, habits, positive behaviors, etc. You can set your goals. When you accomplish them, you can keep track of these through your journal. When you notice your accomplishments over time and see how much you’ve grown as a person, it will help boost self-confidence.
If there are any specific steps you are taking to work on your emotional wellness or boost self-confidence, track it through your journal.
Use your habit of journaling for self-improvement.
A journal can also be used as a self-improvement tracker. If there is a specific part of your personality that you wish to change, like, if you want to stop procrastination and focus on work, you can mention this in your journal. Following this, on an everyday basis, you must write down the time you thought you procrastinated. This way, when you notice that the procrastination time is reducing, it will help boost self-confidence and further propel the habit of not procrastinating.
If you want to start meditation, you can mention in your journal at what time you plan to do so and keep track of how long you were able to meditate and how it makes you feel. On other days, you can work on your hobbies or symptoms and understand if the treatment that you are using is working for you or not. If you are struggling to drink enough water, you can also use your journal to track the same.
If you suffer from a mental health issue, you can track your symptoms through your journal. Every time an episode occurs, write down what you’re feeling and what was the trigger point. This way, you can either work on your trigger and desensitize yourself towards it, or you can ask the people who are close to you not to behave in a way that may act as a trigger.
Help make decisions
Decision-making is a challenging task that all of us have to indulge in. Sometimes making a decision is one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. However, having a journal can help you with this as well. Suppose you have some time before making your decision. In that case, you can write down in your journal what you are feeling about that specific task every day,. On the day you’ve decided to take the decision, review all your thoughts, feelings and determine. Alternatively, you can use your journal to make a pros and cons list and figure out if you should say yes or you should say no.
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How to start journaling: some additional pointers
Keep your journal close to you.
If you are starting to journal, you may want to journal at specific times or when your alarm goes off. Either way, it is an excellent idea to have your journal with you all the time so that you can journal whenever you feel like it. This way on, all your thoughts and feelings would be in one place, and it would be much easier to track your personal progress.
Go to your journal whenever life seems complicated.
While keeping a timer and writing every day is a beautiful habit, there may be times when you feel the urge to journal. For example, if you were in a fight with your better half or your friend, writing down the entire event, your thoughts, and your emotions will help you analyze the situation logically. You may find out who or what needs to change. The writing process will also help you calm down and soothe your anger.
Remind yourself that your journal is your safe place
This is the part that everyone struggles with. Preparing yourself for journaling regularly is winning half the battle of how to start journaling. Most of the time, people write things in their journal that does not even make sense to them. They write because they have been asked to and not because they want to. The reason people write things that don’t make sense to them or anyone else is that they are afraid that the journal will be discovered, someone will read it, and there will be repercussions.
The first thing that you need to focus on is telling yourself that your journal is a safe place. No one will ever read it. If you use a digital journal, you can easily put a password on it so that it stays protected. Alternatively, if you are using a paper journal, you can go for diaries that have locks. You can lock up the diary so that no one is ever able to read what’s inside.
However, if you’re living in a family where there is still a risk that someone may try to have a sneak peek at your journal, there is something wrong. All the family members need to have a chat about boundaries and how to respect them. If there is one member who has a habit of sneak peek, that member needs therapy. They are probably having self-doubts, low self-confidence, and suffer from an inferiority complex. This is the reason they would want to sneak and find out what others are thinking about them in their minds.
First, tell yourself that journaling is your safe space. Your journal is your best friend who is never going to judge you and not tell you what went wrong with your life. Journaling regularly will help you reduce your stress anxiety, work to alleviate your depression symptoms, etc. You can also use your journal as a habit tracker, track your achievements, etc. When you see your growth as a person, it will help boost self-confidence. You can also journal about your past traumas and anything and everything that comes to your mind.
If you’re worried about how to start journaling, set the alarm and write for 20 minutes every day. Alternatively, you can write for as long as you want as long as it is not less than 10 minutes of time. Remember, you keep your journal close by so you can have access to it whenever you want and wherever you want.
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Do you journal? Does it help with your everyday stress? Did journaling help you overcome a traumatic past? We all have skeletons that we need to deal with regularly. How do you deal with yours? Do you have an alternative to journaling? Please mention your experience in the comments section below. Your experience may inspire others to start journaling and boost self-confidence.
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