Why You Should Keep A Journal And How To Get Started

Journaling is a creative technique that encourages us to pour out our thoughts onto paper, instead of holding them down or letting them out effusively. Sometimes, we believe (consciously or not) that what we feel and think is not worth sharing – so we either hide them and restrict them or reject them and release the energy effusively through any other distracting method and/or behavior. Not all of us have the emotional and interpersonal intelligence or training to express what we feel without judgment – and without letting others’ judgment affect us. Journaling is a way to express our emotions and thoughts as they are, without having much time and space to edit or overanalyze them.

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Journaling has helped me to:

  • Recognize my patterns (e.g. what am I thinking about when I usually worry?)
  • Vent my feelings and thoughts as they come.
  • Realize how I overestimate smaller things / obstacles
  • Center and calm down
  • Understand the ‘root’ of that certain thought or feeling.

For all of us, journaling can bring up or mean different things – but what can be taken as a fact is that journaling is one of the most widely used coping skills; as it is one of the few that involves dealing with our thoughts and emotions in present the moment, without judgment, and – if judgment comes – it stays there so we can later read them and understand how and when we tend to judge our emotions and thoughts.

And yes, it’s easier said than done. Journaling can be tedious, boring, moving, scary, and even hard just to begin with. After many journals and many years of this practice I can tell you:

  • To begin journaling – first and foremost – Get a journal you absolutely love. Mine is a red Moleskine.
  • No, you do not have to start “Dear Diary” and no, there is no correct way to do it!
  • Write down whatever comes out of your heart / mind.. Don’t mind type-o’s, forget about coherence, just pay attention to what you are thinking and put it down on paper.
  • You may want to keep your journal with you, it’s yours and you share it only if you want to.
  • Begin by setting aside 5 minutes of your day to write. I liked to call it my “5 Minute worry” (or 5-minute anger, depression, or whatever I felt). So whenever I got a negative emotion, feeling, or sensation, I would just come back to the present, finish what I was doing at the moment, and knew I would have at least 5 minutes to rant about my feelings in a place that I would not have confrontations, walls, or fears. I knew that my journal was open and ready to listen!
  • If you cannot come up with anything to write about you can follow these amazing journaling prompts that are likely to get you up and running for 5 minutes (or more!):
    1. What is the (true) issue?
    2. What is it that I’m really feeling (Physically & Mentally)?
    3. What is my aim/ goal or life’s purpose?
    4. Is this relationship healthy for me?
    5. What are the next steps I have to take to accomplish my goal?
    6. Ten things I love to do (Read them and examine… Are you doing them?)
    7. For what five things would I stay up all night for?
    8. List the personality traits that you admire (Check how or where are those traits present in yourself? If not, how could you incorporate them?)
  • And most importantly, be true to yourself, write down what you feel, what you think, what you think about how you feel… doodle, tear pages, cry. Everything that you write down in your journal is yours and do not be afraid of it.

Ready. Set. Journal!

Further reading: 5 Journal Prompts to Inspire You in Your Recovery


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