Do’s and Don’ts of Establishing a Journaling Practice

The last time I visited my parents’ house, my mom sent me home with two storage totes full of “Alyssa’s Things.” My mom saves just about everything, so these totes were a hodge-podge of school projects, finger paintings and oh-so-many journals. From the time I was old enough to hold a pen, I’ve loved journaling. I found notebooks from my earliest days with Mickey Mouse’s face on them and “stories” that I could barely read. Then there were notebooks with flowers and butterflies that held entries about my friends; and notebooks from the teenage years with entries about crushes and high school drama. However most of these journals were only half full – some with only a few pages filled out.  It wasn’t until my early twenties that I had filled an entire notebook and established a regular journaling practice. In fact, when reflecting on my successes of 2020 at the end of the year, keeping a regular journal was one of my biggest accomplishments (let’s be honest, there wasn’t much else to do during 2020). 

Follow these do’s and don’ts to establish a journaling practice that you’ll actually stick with!

  1. DON’T make it feel like a homework assignment. There isn’t a deadline when keeping a journal. You won’t be graded based on what you write. While it’s important to establish a plan to meet your goals, journaling only works if you actually feel like doing it – and making it feel like homework is going to turn you off from wanting to journal (let’s be honest, no one likes doing homework).
  2. DO carve out time in your day to sit down with your notebook and pen. Pick a time in your day to sit with your journal. Maybe you add it to your morning routine. There’s something very healing about journaling while enjoying a cup of coffee. Or maybe you keep your journal next to your bed and crack it open before turning the lights out. But instead of forcing yourself to journal at a certain time, check in with yourself to decide if it’s the right time. If it’s not, let the moment pass and try again tomorrow. Some moments may feel more inspired than others, and that’s okay.
  3. DON’T set rules or expectations for your journal. There is no wrong way to journal! So don’t limit your journaling experience by focusing on a certain “theme” for your journal. Don’t write – unless it feels right!
  4. DO write whatever comes to your mind. Is your mind feeling a little cluttered? Try Bullet Journaling. Is there an emotion weighing heavy on your heart? Write it out. Did you come across a quote that inspired you? Document it in your journal. Your journal is a collection of you – so don’t limit yourself!

The most important thing to remember is to be mindful of how you’re feeling in your mind, heart and body. If you’re feeling off, cluttered or overwhelmed, it’s probably time to sit with your notebook and pen. Other times, you might feel like you should sit down with your notebook, but nothing’s coming up. That’s okay! Again, this isn’t a homework assignment. It’s a practice for you to use when it feels right and necessary for your growth.

Some additional tips:

  • Think of what you want from a journal (lined pages or open pages, spiral or composite, etc.) and purchase a notebook that fits your criteria
  • Treat yourself to a new set of pens or markers (the good stuff) to motivate you to write. 
  • It’s 2021 – journaling does not have to be limited to a pen and paper. Feeling some inspiration while at the grocery store? Write it down in the notes app on your phone. Or write things out on your laptop – some people prefer the quick and easy act of typing over writing.
  • Sign up for eNewsletters that will send you journaling prompts. My favorites come from Alex Elle and, if you’re enneagram-obsessed like I am, Stephanie at Nine Types Co.

Getting started is the hardest part! So just make it happen and let the rest come from your soul!

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