Journaling on a daily basis has a huge number of benefits. It can help you know yourself better, improve your relationships, improve your mental and physical* wellbeing, act as a therapeutic tool, increase feelings of joy and gratitude, increase organisation and planning and help you explore the subconscious to name just a few.
If you want to embark on a regular practice of writing, here are a few tips I have found very helpful:
I would suggest starting with 10 minutes a day and work up from there once it is fully ingrained in your life.
Buy a nice journal
Find/ buy/ create a nice journal (either digitally or physically) that entices you to write in it and maybe buy or use a special pen or pencil (Apparently some people recommend using pencil is preferable to pen for stream of consciousness writing as it flows out quicker and easier, but experiment with this yourself).
Find a time and space you enjoy writing.
Wherever and whenever you like can become a place to write, it doesn’t need to be at your desk first thing in the morning, although that is a very popular one. Some of my students enjoy writing on trains, others have a quiet corner of their dining room table, others like to do it in their local coffee shop before work, and some in bed just before they go to sleep.
Explore what works for you.
We are habitual creatures and we can use this to our advantage by creating the same time and space to write each day. If you find your life is more hectic or unpredictable, perhaps experiment with different places and have a smaller more portable journal to keep in your bag or with you and find ten minutes in the doctors waiting room, bus stop, hairdressers.
For those of you familiar with An Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron this is akin to ‘Morning Pages’. The difference here is that you set a timer for 10-minutes (instead of writing for 3 full pages) and you can do it at any time of day. If you do it first thing in the morning, you will have the benefits of a clearer mind all day, however some people (especially those who struggle to drift off at night due to rumination) enjoy doing their 'brain dump writing before bed. The instructions are incredibly simple, just write whatever comes to mind as stream of consciousness writing, don’t filter or edit it, just let whatever pops into your head flow out onto your page. If you want to go on past the timer you can run with it, but do not stop beforehand.
Here are 20 prompts to get you putting pen to paper. I like to use them to write stream of conscious writing, but I also sometimes like to take that writing and later create poetry from it. Play around with what works for you, there are no hard and fast rules with journalling, tailor it to how you enjoy writing. If we enjoy the experience, we are much more inclined to build it as a daily habit.
What does unconditional love look like for you?
Name what is 'enough' for you.
Using 10 words, describe yourself. (This can be 10 separate adjectives or a 10-word sentence, you decide)
When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is…
What do you love about life?
Write about your first love — whether a person, place or thing.
Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.
“Write about a moment experienced through your body. Making love, making breakfast, going to a party, having a fight, an experience you’ve had or you imagine for your character. Leave out thought and emotion, and let all information be conveyed through the body and senses.” (A prompt from Barbara Abercrombie’s creative book Kicking In The Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts and Quotes To Help You Break Through Your Blocks And Reach Your Writing Goals.)
What always brings tears to your eyes? (As Paulo Coelho has said, “Tears are words that need to be written.”)
What’s your secret desire?
The biggest lie I’ve ever told is ...
What is the dominant emotion in your life right now?
If you could change one thing about your present life, what would it be?
If you could live anywhere you wanted, where would you live?
If you could go back in time and change one thing from your past, what would it be?
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Who made you feel good this week?
What did you learn this week?
How did you procrastinate on important tasks this week?
The words I’d like to live by are…
Let me know in the comments what your favourite journaling prompts are if you can’t see them on here! Also, if you try any of these, I would love to hear how you find them.
*Pennebaker et al, 1997