Whether you’re completely new to journaling or returning after a long hiatus, try these tips for building a sustainable habit.
Take a micro-step
At the start, try not to bite off more than you can chew. Small steps are less likely to be rejected by the brain, whereas large sweeping changes can feel unsafe, and we may give up.
Setting a timer for just one or two minutes a day for your journaling session will help for a small start.
Pick the simplest tools
Since everyone is different, start with whatever method is easiest to incorporate into your routine like:
- writing in a blank doc on your laptop
- using a note-taking app on your phone
- putting pen to paper
Try free writing
Start by taking several deep breaths, noticing your immediate surroundings, and writing whatever comes to mind.
Let it all out
Write whatever thoughts and feelings arise, without censoring yourself. It’s your journal, so you can be as petty, blunt, and honest as you wish.
To resist the temptation to edit, try writing as fast as possible, she adds.
Anchor your journaling
If you like structure, journal at the same time every day. For example, write your thoughts when you first wake up or process the day before bedtime. You can also anchor your journaling to a well-established habit to make it more likely you’ll stick with it. For example, journal:
- before or after a nightly prayer
- when you’re in the car rider line
- during a commercial break on TV
Connect the dots
To sharpen your self-awareness, you can jot down your feelings around a specific situation, day to day. For example, you might simply write:
- This is what happened today.
- I’m experiencing these feelings about it.
- I’m thinking these thoughts.
Explore a prompt
Prompts are a powerful way to get to know yourself better. They’re also great when you aren’t sure what to journal about.
Try these ideas:
- Write your favorite memories from childhood or your children’s lives.
- Go out into nature, and write about the experience.
- Describe something you fear doing and why.
- Describe something you love doing and why.
- Describe yourself, including your personality and roles at work and home. Then describe yourself from the perspective of a close friend or family member.
- If you wake up tomorrow having everything you want, what does this look like? Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing with your time?
If you’re journaling about a disagreement, try writing with empathy. Consider the other person’s perspective and motives behind some of their actions, says Romanoff.
Putting yourself in their shoes may help you gain clarity on the situation, reduce resentment, and possibly even find a solution.