All Things Journaling
How to Journal
Throw out your grade-three spelling book and tape Miss Grammar Puss’s mouth shut. Write as fast as you can with no regard for style, structure, grammar, or spelling. Sentences are restrictive, let them go. No crossing out words or correcting, just keep the flow going. Not legible, not a problem. Allow the soul to lead and the pen to follow. Remember to breathe, unclench your jaw and relax your hand. The faster the better, the less chance your analytical brain will have to try to control the narrative.
Morning: If you are journaling for insight, purpose, memory retrieval, understanding, affirmations or for reasons of personal growth, the morning, before your analytical mind has shifted into gear, is the best time. Before caffeine, while the brain is still a blank sheet. For many, less effort is required to access their inner voice when they have just awoken. This means before the brain slides into decision-making mode.
Evening: If you are seeking reflection, to give thanks, to unburden daily stresses or chronicle thought processes, the evening is optimal. What spills out in the evening will be influenced by the emotional, intellectual, creative, and spiritual inspirations of the day.
Most importantly, pick a time you can observe daily and a time when you will not be disturbed. If you don’t have a place you can be alone, make sure everyone knows that this is your time and interruptions are not an option. It is essential to your practice that you choose a time that you can adhere to daily. Repetition breeds habits and habits breed success.
Atmosphere and space can be an integral part of your journaling practice. Choose somewhere private and quiet. Opt for somewhere comfortable with comforting surroundings. A big chair with a soft pillow will do, but so will the bottom of your clothes closet, in a pinch. Private and quiet is more crucial then comfort.
Pen and Paper?
There is a mystical connection between the soul and the hand that allows for an openness on the page. What type of notebook you choose (I use dollar-store composition books), or writing instrument (I like purple-ink pens that flow easily and don’t tire the hand) are personal choices, just know that your initial investment in journaling can be a scrap of paper and a gnawed pencil.
Many swear by the computer, finding it more legible, private (passwords), or convenient. However, it also lends itself to self editing which is a journaling no-no. Some believe that interrupting the soul-hand-paper connection weakens the connection to our higher-self and thus, the journaling process. You will have to determine this for yourself. Try it for a week, then try writing by hand and compare the processes and results. It won’t take long to determine which yields the best results.
In The Artists Way, Julia Cameron instructs three full pages every day, others say a minimum of 15 minutes. What is universally acknowledged is how often is more important than how long. Five minutes is better than none.
How long you journal is based on personal circumstances. Inevitably, the new journal writer will find that time is elastic. Fifteen minutes stretches into hours or hours simply flit by. Some people set a timer. I personally write until I hear a sigh. When writing, at some point my mind tells my body when we are done. Perhaps I have gained a particular insight, or am about to chase a wayward tangent, my body then will surprise me with a deep sigh and I know to put the pen down.
For some journal writers privacy is an issue. Don’t let this stop you. Rarely, have I ever reread my journals. Some writers do, some don’t. Dozens of my journals have been torn and trashed. So, if you don’t have a safe place to keep your journal or you don’t trust that others will respect your privacy, simply write and then shred, immediately. Notebooks with pull-out pages come in handy. Journaling is about the process more than the product. After you start journaling you can tackle whatever privacy issues you foresee.
Ritual can enhance a connection to the genuine you and imbue your practice with respect, intimacy, honour, and reverence. Ritual can also give you the illusion of control which can calm any anxiety associated with journaling. I light a tea-light candle and have soft piano music playing in the background. I start with a breathing exercise and most days I voice an intention. Some popular rituals: giving thanks, prayer, stretching, visualizations, mantras, affirmations, gemstones, incense.
There are several reasons dating journal entries (and recording the time of day) is highly recommended.
Helps identify patterns and cycles (do you only journal during times when life is difficult, or do you write when life is full of hope and opportunity?) The gaps in journaling can also be revealing.
Is easier to locate old entries --didn’t I write about the fight with my sister the day after I changed jobs?
The passage of time reinforces the idea that “this to shall pass”
Specific dates hold emotional triggers. Anniversaries of births, deaths, past traumas, losses, or impending dreaded dates often reverberate and reveal themselves in your journal writing.
Benefits of Journaling
Quotes about Journaling
Journaling is instrumental in helping us identify our negative automatic self-talk and get to the root of our anxiety.
Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time
We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.
C. Day Lewis
When understanding is reached and thoughts are organized into a coherent, cohesive narrative, insight and meaning are accessible
Writing is first and foremost an act of self-definition, and the shape it takes is part of that self-defining process.
Gabriele Lusser Rico