In part 1 we looked at why journalling can be good for you, what resources you'll need and what to write about. If you haven't read that one yet, you might like to start there. Here in part 2 we'll be thinking about different journalling techniques and finding a way(s) that works for you.
Once you've got an idea of why you'd like to journal and what you're hoping to get from it, it's time to try out a few different techniques and see which best fits how you want to journal. There’s no right on wrong way. Here’s some popular techniques to get you started.
Daily Log. The most well know type of journalling is just a written log of your day. What you got up to, what you did, how you felt etc. The classic 'Dear Diary' of old.
Free writing / stream of consciousness. Just write and see what comes out! You can set a time limit if that’s helpful, or keep going until it comes to a natural end. What you’re trying to do is get into flow and not think too much about what you’re writing.
Lists. Lists are great! It could be a list of things you’re grateful for (useful for gratitude journalling), a list of challenges you’re facing or a list of possible next steps that you need to work through.
Intentions. Intentions are things you will consciously try to do that will have a positive impact on your life. It’s less of a to-do list and more about how you’d like to be e.g. I’ll be kind to others / I will spend more time outdoors / I will build more exercise into my week.
Positive Affirmations. These are positive statements that aim to drive away negative or unhelpful thoughts. It could be something like: I choose to be happy; It is enough to do my best; All of my problems have solutions; I am strong and kind. This can be a nice thing to build into a morning journal entry.
Unsent letter. As you can probably guess, this one is about writing a letter to someone that you don’t intend to send - creating a space for you to express any worries, frustrations or emotions that have been building up. Things you’d like to say to someone, but can’t / wouldn't.
Goal Setting. You don't have to choose a totally life changing goal. It can just be something you'd like to aim for that has a few stumbling blocks in the way. Start by naming the thing you'd like to achieve and work backwards to find the things that need doing first for the rest of the plan to succeed. I find drawing it out like a flow chart useful, working backwards from the main goal.
Make it Visual. If you're not in the mood to write, try a daily doodle or get creative with sketching, poetry or song lyrics. The benefits of journalling come from the process too, so if you enjoy getting crafty try filling your journal pages with images, art and quotes. Great for food / travel / nature journalling or jazzing up a daily reflection.
- Create a routine and build it into your day.
- Write like no-one is going to read it. Don’t worry about handwriting, spelling or grammar.
- Try out the different techniques and see what works for you. You can mix & match the bits you like.
- Be realistic. A little every day is a great but if that's hard to fit in, start with a weekly reflection.
- Be kind to yourself if you forget. Forming new habits is hard!
- Don’t get frustrated if you can’t get into it right now. You can always revisit it further down the line.
Guided Journals and Prompts
If the thought of a blank notebook still fills you with fear then there are a number of guided journals which have sections for you to fill in, which can be helpful when starting out, and prompt cards on themes like practicing gratitude and positive affirmations. (Below left - The Positive Student Planner. Below Right - Small Pleasures card set)
Journal Entry Starters
Sometimes it's useful to have a little inspiration. If you're stuck for something to write about, try one of these prompts and see where it takes you.
- This week I feel grateful for
- Little things that bring me joy
- The best decision I’ve made
- Something I’m good at… What makes me good at it
- I feel happiest when
- My favourite season is… because
- My five favourite ways to relax
- What motivates me is
- Today I smiled when
- Right now I feel… because
- I feel in the moment when
- A goal I’d like to accomplish is… because
- Something I find hard to tolerate is… because
- Songs that make me feel happy