Did you ever keep a diary as a kid? A secret place to write down crushes, rant against your sister, sob about your friend’s betrayal? I particularly remember a puffy pink diary with scented pages that came with a heart-shaped lock. It was glorious.
Journaling is the grown-up version of “dear diary.” It’s a safe place where I don’t have to perform or pretend, and I can muse, rant, confess or celebrate depending on the day. There’s no obligation to my journal, just a useful way to sort and process what’s all going on in my head. And I’m not the only one who sees the value in it.
The value of a journal
Journaling, according to the University of Rochester’s Medical Center, helps
- Manage anxiety
- Reduce stress
- Cope with depression
- Prioritize problems, fears or concerns
- Identify triggers
- Track your progress
- Let go of negative self-talk
- Establish a feeling of control or order when life is chaotic
- Improve your working memory
That’s a pretty impressive list.
It’s not the only one.
- Improve cognitive functioning
- Be used in therapeutic settings
- Strengthen immune systems
- Promote action
- Help with decision-making
- Reduce physical symptoms, health problems and anxiety in women
- Help overcome addiction
For real, this is a big deal.
What if it’s not for me?
But what if you hate journaling? What if sitting in a comfy chair with a cup of tea with time for reflection makes you break out into hives?
Listen, this doesn’t have to be hard. It’s not a life-sentence. In fact, one of the most popular journaling movements right now is called “The 5-minute journal.” 5 minutes. That’s it. Honestly, it takes longer to brush your teeth than journal at that rate.
Getting started in journaling
So how do you get started?
- get yourself a notebook. One that inspires you, please, but any notebook will do. I generally pay $3 for mine at the dollarstore, so it doesn’t have to break the bank. Avoid using tablets or computers for this practice – go old fashioned with paper & pen. I do recommend a notebook because it adds value to the process – being able to mark your progress, seeing where you’ve been and looking back to find patterns and triggers is a helpful aspect of journaling. Keeping all your journaling in one place really helps with this process.
- Alternatively, get yourself a printable journal, like our Biblical self-love journal. Print it out and put it in a binder or duo tang to make your own notebook. The benefit of printables is you can avoid a trip to the dollar store and it comes with journaling prompts to get you started if you don’t know what to write about.
- Set a time and a time limit. Adding journaling to your routine rather than hoping to make time at some point matters. Whether just before going to bed, on your lunch break or with your morning coffee, pick a time to journal. And don’t hesitate to actually set a timer and commit to 5 minutes, and only 5 minutes, to spend journaling.
- Keep it private. The primary benefit of journaling is to help you process. So once you’ve processed something, it’s up to you what you choose to share with others, but let the journal itself stay for your eyes only.
- Date every entry.
- Be authentic. The freedom of transparent honesty is so important in journaling. Don’t worry about messy writing or spelling mistakes – just show up. Whether you are responding to journaling prompts or free-flow writing, let yourself be real.
- End with reflection. Writing is often gut-level, and sometimes your head needs a moment to catch up. Let yourself consider what you’ve written before rushing off to the next thing.
See? That’s not so hard. I’ve even heard journaling called “the simplest & fastest way to become happier.”
The Bible talks about the value of evaluation, and it’s something most workplaces take seriously, but without taking time to reflect on your own life, we rarely evaluate the life we’re living. Journaling makes us pause and do just that. Gratitude journals help us celebrate life when it seems humdrum. Reflective journals help us identify patterns that need changing. Habit tracking journals help us stay on track when we’re trying to implement change. But even if your journal has no purpose other than a brain dump, it gives you a place to be intentional.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get journaling!