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Blog: how to start a journal

16 Nov 2018
Taking the time to keep a journal can improve your headspace

Keeping a journal can be good for organising your time and working things out. Research shows that ‘journaling’ can help us manage stress by understanding what’s going on in our minds.

Sometimes we feel anxious about things or we’re feeling upset and sad. Writing something down can be a healthy and intimate way to deal with your emotions.

Here are some ways to start a journal to help improve your headspace.

Why journal?

Journaling is a great way of focusing on your thoughts and feelings, and developing some proper structure around them. It can also help you notice your habits and patterns, set and achieve goals, and solve problems.

Notice your habits and patterns

Sometimes putting pen to paper can make us aware of what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling this way. If you keep feeling upset at a particular time, a journal could help you address the issue internally and work it out. It can be a great way to recognise our actions and then try and change them.

Set and achieve goals

Keeping a journal can help us achieve our goals and navigate life’s ups and downs.

Setting specific goals in writing can be a great way to measure progress over time. This might help manage your health conditions, find a new job, or join a community group. Writing these things down – and thinking back over how they went – can help you achieve more stuff in the long run.

Use problem solving

If you’ve got a challenge that’s wearing you down, journaling can help you approach the problem pro-actively. It can help you focus on what you can do instead on things that are out of your control. Journals are a great place to keep track of other things you're doing to build up your wellbeing.

How to journal

There are many ways to approach your journaling. Some people prefer to have something to fill out, like a colouring book or pre-written questions to answer. Others may prefer to jot things down (like incomplete sentences) or express their creativity by drawing stuff. There’s no ‘right’ way to starting a journal, as everyone will use them differently.

Here are two ways that some people journal that can make a big difference to your life:

  • Gratitude journaling: You can practice gratitude by writing down the things you’re grateful for on a daily basis. This can boost your mood from feeling ‘OK’ to feeling good more regularly. Also, it’s great when you flick back and see all the nice recordings you made as reminders for the things you appreciate in life.

  • Bullet journaling: This method is amazing for tracking feelings, tasks and events. It can help you to organise your thoughts into an easily trackable format, so you can keep tabs on your mood.

Use strategies to get started

Whether you want to use it to draw, or reflect on your thoughts and feelings, there are a number of strategies you can use to start journaling.

  • Do it regularly: Having a journal doesn’t mean you have to write in it every day. Start small. Even 5 minutes a day can help get you in habit of writing (which doesn’t come easy at first). Doing it regularly can help you blend it into your day.

  • Write it on a calendar: Instead of a blank notebook to journal in, get a date book or desk calendar and then start writing a sentence or two every day.

  • Make a template: Sticking to a structure, like bullet journaling or gratitude journaling, can make it easier to get started. Your template might include some gratitude journaling, like: ‘10 things I am grateful for’ or ‘4 things that are inspiring me today’.

  • Use an App: It doesn’t need to be in a physical diary or journal. Try an app where you can keep practising – it’s great to use on public transport or when you’re on the go.

Journaling can be self-soothing, and you can do it at any time of the day. Everyone will approach it differently – and it’s important to feel as though it’s helping you. 

Want to speak to someone about strategies to improve your mental health? Get in touch with your local headspace centre today.