Most girls grow up with a diary of some sort, writing about their elementary school crushes or their first time in a Justice. Then, at some point, we forgot about the diaries, and they became an artifact of our childhood days. But is writing diary entries really that irrelevant?
While most of us don’t keep diaries anymore, it is not so uncommon to hear of people using journals. Unlike a standard “Dear Diary” entry, these journals much more multifaceted. There is some creative freedom in modern day journaling. They can be filled with gratitude lists, all of the kinds of flowers you saw that day, poetry, polaroid photos, or journaling prompts. The beauty of these new-age diaries is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it, and since no one will see it except you, there’s no pressure for it to be perfect. My own journals (I have three, each with different purposes) are a conglomeration of poetry, polaroid photos, my favorite quotes, Bible verses, and the stories of my life. I think part of the wonder of your personal journal is how raw it is; it tells your story even if you aren’t actually telling it.
Finding a journal
If you’ve never journaled before, you’re probably wondering where to start. Getting something to write with and on would be the first step. Amazon has some great options, like this bumblebee notebook, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of shopping in-person. T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and Target also have good options, like this desert journal. I find that having an aesthetically pleasing notebook makes it a lot easier to be encouraged to write and to enjoy the process, which is why all of my own journals have pretty covers and entries written in pink pen. You can journal in an online format, too, but physical journaling has a charm that a laptop can’t recreate. Once you’ve secured your writing utensils, it’s time to start writing. There are many approaches to beginning your journal, so the following steps can be mixed up in whatever way works for you:
Step One: Your Favorite Quotes
This is how I personally start all of my journals. I go on a deep dive into Pinterest, Instagram, and Google searches to find a quote that really resonates with me. The quote length can vary and I have included short and sweet quotes as well as full poems. I don’t think the length matters as much as the quote having a meaning to you and being something that might encourage you to write in your journal. It can even be multiple quotes, and you fill up your whole first page with your favorite quotes. Another way to do it is by starting or separating every journal entry with a new quote (another one of my favorite methods). This method is often helpful if you need inspiration in finding a topic to write about. Quite a few of my journal entries are inspired by a poem or quote that I read so if you get stuck on what to write about, this might be something to keep in mind.
Step Two: Your Story
Of course, this article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the benefits of journaling. Having a place to vent and tell your story without any judgement or feedback from others can be very soothing. Your journal will never tell you that you were too sensitive about this situation or you’re dramatic for still thinking about that situation. It will listen to you no matter what the subject is, how little or big, how painful or pleasant, and it won’t mind hearing you talk about the same things over and over again. Writing about your life, your story, the things and people that have hurt you, and everything else under the sun is a wonderful way to use your journal and to give yourself some relief from the stress that comes with negative feelings.
Journaling is a great method for de-stressing and has been known to help ease symptoms of anxiety, according to Amanda Mercer, Elizabeth Warson, and Jenny Zhao’s study published in The Arts in Psychotherapy journal. Their study shows that journaling had an overall positive impact on the students’ stress levels, decreased anxiety levels and other negative effects. A little bit of journaling each day can help you get your emotions out and release some of the stress or anxiety you may feel.
If you aren’t sure where to start with writing about your life and your emotions, finding journal prompts will be helpful. You can find some good ones with a few Google searches or you can buy a journal that comes with prompts. Either way, having prompts will give you a starting point and help you find some guidance with your writing.
Step Three: Gratitude & the Little Things
Including daily or weekly gratitude logs can have a huge benefit on your mindset and well-being. Harvard Health Publishing writes in their medical publication how gratitude can make you a happier person. They note how frequent gratitude is a sign of emotional maturity, and those who are shown gratitude are able to perform better. Giving thanks to yourself and making note of the good things in your life allows us to remember that there is always good in life. If it feels like you have nothing to be grateful for right now, this article from Tiny Buddha can provide you with some ideas that most of us can all be grateful for.
You can also keep track of the little things that make you feel good this week. Maybe that’s getting through your full oral care routine (anyone else have a five-step oral care routine now thanks to TikTok?), the flowers you saw outside, your pet, a nice text from your boss, or an A on your last essay. The point of writing down happy little things is to remind yourself of the small joys of life. They don’t have to be things that would make anyone else happy except you, but having a list of those happy little things can be helpful to refer back to when you feel like life is knocking you down.
Journaling is not always easy. Sometimes you won’t want to write, you won’t know where to start or you just don’t want to confront for your feelings. No matter the reason for your roadblock, keep in mind that journaling is not out to get you. It is a tool to help you feel at peace and maintain a more positive mindset. That means you, as the writer, must make an active effort to develop a positive mindset. Not every day will be totally inspired, so just adding a good quote or some doodles to your journal is something. Being at peace with yourself is always going to be an uphill battle so we have to be consistent in finding ways to chase our peace. Journaling is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to do that, and I hope your new journal fills you with joy.