I recently watched a YouTube video by Matt D’avella about journaling for 30 days straight. While I’m always the first to encourage someone to journal as much as they can, there were a few points he made and approaches he took in his challenge that I didn’t really agree with. For one, he made journaling sound like exercise in the sense that you have to do it every single day to get the results you want otherwise you’re wasting your time. He also limited his journaling to only 10 minutes in order to be able to do it every day and I think that defeats the entire purpose of the practice. For today’s post I wanted to somewhat counteract the points he made while also offering some advice to those who want to start journaling regularly, but don’t really know where to start or feel too intimidated by the process.
You Don’t Need To Write By Hand
The first thing I had an issue with (and something that many people who journal recommend) is doing it by hand in a physical book. While I love curling up on the couch with my journal and spending a bit of time jotting down my thoughts, I can admit that it’s hard to do. You’re much slower at getting every thought you have down on paper and your hand will probably get tired making your writing messy as you rapidly scribble out what you want to remember.
One of my favourite ways to journal, especially when I feel like I have a lot to discuss with myself, is by doing it on my laptop in a Word Document. I am a much faster typer than I am a writer, so it’s so much easier to jot down every odd though that pops into my head without feeling the need to scribble out a misspelled word or try and keep my writing neat so I can read it in the future. I get it—you want to connect with yourself outside of the influence of technology, but at the end of the day, that’s the purpose of technology. To make processes more efficient, especially when you already find it hard to stick to.
Follow Your Mood
I really disagree with the notion that you have to journal every day to get the full effects of it. Of course, the more you do it the easier it becomes and the more attuned you are to your emotions, but every day seems like an arbitrary time frame that might make some people feel guilty when they can’t adhere to it. I tend to follow my mood when it comes to journaling. Life moves in ebbs and flows—some weeks you’ll feel content, and others like you want to lock yourself in your bedroom and never leave. If you don’t feel compelled to talk something out then why force yourself to when you are feeling perfectly fine.
I would suggest that a beginner start by journaling only when they are going through a tough time. This way you’ll have much more to write about and more of an urge to do it. After a while, you’ll become much more comfortable with the process and want to journal more frequently.
Take As Much Time As You Need
What’s the point of journaling every day if you’re only going to do it for 10 minutes? There’s so much that goes on in the human mind and when you start digging around in there you’ll find that a lot more than you expected will rear its head. By setting a time limit I feel like it would inhibit all these underlying emotions to rise to the surface because you know you only have a few minutes left in the process. A journaling session should be done when you know you aren’t rushing off somewhere or in the middle of other activities. It should be done in solitude with a warm beverage and preferably right before bed so that you can dump out all those negative thoughts for a good night’s rest.
Don’t Treat Your Journal Like A Friend
Something I used to do a lot as a child when I first started journaling was treat it as though I was talking to a friend. This led to me often apologizing for missing a few days (as Matt does in his video) and feeling the need to recap a bunch of unnecessary details which just makes the process boring. My journaling has become a lot more pointed now and is treated more as an extension of my mind.
Talking to myself (not out loud, of course), in a way, as you would when walking down the street, doing mundane tasks, or on a long car ride. Meditation will teach you how to shut out thoughts completely, whereas journaling will allow you to notice each and every one and decide which one makes the cut to go in the journal and be fleshed out a bit more.
Thinking of it as a friend creates a biased type of writing; one where you feel obligated to keep the other person entertained or engaged when your journal should be specifically and selfishly all about you. This should be a safe space to say whatever comes into your mind without feeling like whoever is on the receiving end will judge you for it.
How do you approach journaling?