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How to Journal If You Don’t Like Journaling

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hamline chapter.

Keeping a diary isn’t for everyone. It can be time consuming, tedious and induce hand cramping. Though many people think journaling is only recounting the events of your day, it can actually be a creative and helpful practice that provides guidance throughout life. You may have heard of a bullet journal before. It’s a journal practice that involves using bullets to organize your day and clearly identify what you need to do and what is important to you.

I’ve found a practice that takes little time but makes a big impact. It’s similar to bullet journaling, but involves a bit more reflecting on emotional growth and self-worth. It’s a process of recording thoughts and events that is super easy. Even if you find “regular” journaling boring, this may help you get in touch with yourself and still find joy in keeping a journal. The great thing about discovering new, creative ways to journal is that you can tailor it to you! You can include whatever benefits you, reflective of where you are in life right now – and change what you include as you grow and learn. I journal twice daily, and I like to divide each page into two columns, one for morning and one for the evening. Feel free to take this as an idea, not a regimen.

Example journal. Photo by Emma Harrington.

Morning Journal.

1. Gratitude

The first section of my morning journal is devoted to what I am thankful for. It helps me begin my day in a positive and healthy mindset. Whether I think of my friends, my parents or simply that I have a bed to sleep in, being grateful reminds me of the aspects of my life I am lucky to enjoy. Instead of waking up and checking Instagram right away, where I tend to compare my life to others,’ I acknowledging the good in my life in my journal. It helps me see positive things throughout the day as well.

2. Affirmation

Secondly, I write down affirmations about myself. It took me a long time to realize that this practice is not self-indulgence, it’s self care. Affirmations are positive statements about yourself that usually start with “I am . . .” It may seem weird at first, but it’s really important to appreciate the positive things about yourself. It helps you gain self-confidence by identifying the way you impact the world for better. Throughout the day, come back to these affirmations from your morning journal. When you encounter stress or hardship, thinking back to your strengths can help you approach life in a courageous way. I really recommend this part of journaling. It only has to be a couple sentences, and it has helped me discover the parts of me I am proud of and the parts of me I love.

3. Intention

The last section of my morning journal prepares me for the rest of my day. I write “I intend to . . .” When I do this, I think about what I’ve been struggling with lately. If I feel like my life is passing by and I’m not in control, I write about being present and mindful. Sometimes I simply remind myself to listen and be kind. Setting positive intentions helps to guide thought patterns for the rest of the day.

Example journal. Photo by Emma Harrington.

Night Journal. 

1. Gratitude… again!

The first thing I do when journaling at night is to write down what I am thankful for. Usually I write about things that happened to me during the day. It helps me identify which parts of my day I appreciate. You’d be surprised… sometimes, without realizing it, we go through our day and fixate on the negative. Going through and identifying what I’m grateful for helps remind me why I do all the work I do.

2. Achievements

At night, I also like to write down what I did during the day. Even if it’s simply get out of bed and go to class, identifying clear actions that I completed helps remind me of the purpose behind them and keeps me on track for achieving more things the next day.

3. Goals

The last part of my journal is devoted to my goals, whether long-term or short term. Usually I aim for long term so I am thinking of the big picture as I head to sleep. It can be as easy as “Someday I will publish a book,” or “Someday I will graduate college.” Manifesting the goals in your head into writing is really important and it can help give you the motivation to do the monotonous school work every day. When I write down a goal for my future career in a nonprofit, I am reminded of the passion that lies within me that drives me to pursue an education in the first place.

Journaling has taught me a lot about believing in myself and staying true to my dreams and values. Even if you don’t like to write that much, a simple list similar to the one I explained can help you find a constant amidst the craziness of college life. It becomes a calming and refreshing routine.

If you don’t like the prompts that I use, there are other ones you can implement! Try any of these:

“I choose to . . . “,

“___ matters to me”,

“Today will be good because . . .”

“I am proud of myself for . . .”

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a lot of writing as long as it’s focused and inspiring. Happy journaling!

Emma Harrington is a first year at Hamline University studying English and Creative Writing. Besides writing, she enjoys singing in the A Capella Choir, dancing, running, and being outdoors.
Skyler Kane

Hamline '20

Creative Writing Major, Campus Coordinator for Her Campus, and former Editor and Chief for Fulcrum Journal at Hamline University