How to Start a Journaling Practice: Tips, Tricks, Rewards & Challenges

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For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to have a daily journaling practice. For some reason, this hobby has always held value to me. I’d envision myself curled up in the corner of a couch, writing in a beautiful journal, using a perfect pen that effortlessly highlighted the uniqueness of my penmanship, my thoughts would flow onto the page, over time notebooks would fill one after the other, and I would proudly display them on  a bookshelf somewhere. It’s a lovely thought, but in reality implementing a daily journaling practice is a little bit more…complicated. 

It took a long time but, finally, in 2015 I made my vision a reality: I began writing daily, and the notebooks and bullet journals did start filling up. I would like to share my journey to journaling in the hopes that it will help others cultivate their practice. So, keep reading! I’m about to share almost 20 years of tips and tricks, AND be totally honest about the rewards and challenges you’ll face along the way.

How to Start a Journaling Practice: Tips, Tricks, Rewards & Challenges

The Attempts

I attempted to become a diary keeper at least 10 times over my lifetime. The first few attempts were when I was a teenager, the majority of the attempts were when I was in my early twenties, and the last attempt (which was successful) was in my early thirties. Each attempt was met with a  brand new fancy notebook which would cost waaaay more than I am willing to admit  (I’ve had a fondness for fine stationery my entire life). 

As each day came to a close, I would write about it. I quickly realized that my day to day life wasn’t actually all that exciting. Exciting events accumulate over time, and an isolated daily page of writing doesn’t actually reveal all that much at the start.

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Remember: journaling implies handwritten. Truly getting into the details of your day using a handwritten medium is a time investment. Just filling one page, depending on the size of the notebook, can take upwards of 20-30 minutes.

The Realities of Keeping a Daily Journal

The First Reality: The Negativity Bias

Initially, starting a journaling habit is not nearly as rewarding as one would think. That is,  until you have a really bad day. Suddenly, you can’t wait to get home and write everything in your journal… to vent, to let it go, and have an audience that will always be on your side.

 On a bad day, I can remember picking up my pen and filling pages effortlessly. I’d write until my hand hurt and my letters became blurry from either exhausted penmanship or tears. 

When writing daily, there seems to be an involuntary pull to express the negative. Journaling is cathartic in this way. In my experience, I was always more likely to vent about a bad day than I was to brag about a good day. 

The Second Reality: The Joy is in the Writing, not the Reading

One of the beauties of journaling is that as you write you truly begin to get a sense that your thoughts are flowing freely onto the page. The pen that writes is the conduit to your innermost feelings. As you free write it feels like there could never be any errors. Unfortunately, re-reading entries will prove this feeling false. Hand written pages are not magically highlighted with spelling or grammar errors. I know I have a tendency to leave out words when I handwrite. Sometimes reading my entries can sometimes feel like putting together a puzzle.
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The joy in journaling is the writing, not the reading. I don’t suggest never reading your old  journals, but I would recommend allowing a few months to pass before venturing backwards into your experiences. Here is an excerpt from my journal regarding an experience I had re-reading an entry: 

 “Looking back, it amazes me how fragmented this is! At the time, I remember feeling like I was being so in depth. It probably took me well over an hour to write this [entry] ! Writing 6 pages felt like such an accomplishment, but now all I want to do is edit!”

Giving yourself time before reading will allow you to gain perspective and hindsight about what you were experiencing and feeling as you wrote.

How To Get Started: 3 Do’s & 3 Don’ts

Lets start with the Don’ts:

  1. Don’t use an expensive notebook. Investing in something fancy will put pressure on you to have a perfect journaling practice. You will feel like you need to write neater because you want to maintain the niceness of the notebook. Censoring your handwriting censors your thoughts. Get an ordinary notebook. Don’t be afraid to be messy, cross things out and carry it around with you. The more used and tattered your notebook looks at the end, the more successful your practice!
  2. Don’t let filling notebooks be your end goal. This was a trap for me. I was too future focused. I created an all or nothing statement in my mind that if I was filling notebooks I would then be an avid journaler. Writing is meant to be an activity that connects us with the present moment, which can only be measured in progress (not success or failure). My first filled notebook took about 8 months to complete!  
  3. Don’t write about your day. All of my ‘start and stop’ attempts at writing occurred when I was only filling my pages with daily events. Using a structured style of journaling can increase your dedication to the practice. I had much more success using journaling prompts to guide me (more about that below). 

And now the Do’s:

  • Do find a pen that you love. If you are going to be writing a lot you should love the way your pen feels and writes. Personally, I prefer finer tip pens (0.7 tip is my ideal). Finer tip pens are less likely to smudge because not as much ink is expelled with each pen stroke. Thicker tip pens and gel pens are prone smearing and bleeding through the pages of your notebook. This will annoy you, trust me!
  1. Do keep your journal in sight. You may have the urge to keep your journal hidden to protect your privacy, but if it’s too well hidden you won’t be reminded to write in it. Store your journal in a place where you will encounter it. I kept my journal in a bathroom cabinet for almost a year because I would see it every time I needed to get toothpaste.
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  2. Do use specific types of journaling. As mentioned earlier, writing about your day can be a trap. There are many types of journaling and all of them do reveal insight into your life over time, despite not documenting daily occurrences. Here are a few different styles of journaling to try:
  • Line a Day: Simply write one line a day everyday. Short, sweet and to the point.
  • Morning Pages: A writing practice that takes place first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Without happenings to dwell on, morning pages can reveal clarity about what you’d like to accomplish each day. Morning writing tends to also have a more positive tone should you choose to re-read your entries.  
  • Gratitude Journal: Write 1 to 5 things that you are grateful for everyday 
  • Journaling Prompts: Answering daily questions that may or may not have a theme to them. Pinterest is loaded with various types of journaling prompts. For 3 years I used the same monthly journaling prompts. It was fun comparing how I answered each question differently from year to year. This is my preferred method to journal.

Almost six years later, I am happy to say that I am still journaling. Sure, my practice ebbs and flows but ultimately I am committed to it. I’ve allowed my writing to evolve and I use different styles of journaling for variety. I have now filled 15 notebooks. Just as I envisioned, I display them proudly as I hope one day you will too. 

By: Cheryl Tobin

About the Author

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Cheryl is the author of the blog Spiritually Premeditated. She describes herself as a spiritual enthusiast, avid journaler and wannabe morning person. She relies heavily on coffee and oracle cards to get through the day. 

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Mood Bored; A Bipolar Story

– This one is a little raw, it’s honesty in the days of my life. This post is one about bipolar disorder and the effects, this post also touches on anxiety and depression. I don’t know if any of these will trigger anyone with a mental illness. –

If you’ve watched TV, Netflix, Hulu, or any other tv or tv app then chances are you’ve seen a bipolar medication commercial, these commercials talk about bipolar’s “extreme highs or lows” meaning  depression, mania, and hypomania.

I’ve spent 5 days in a state of mania and now I’m exhausted. I’ve barely slept, my brain has been firing non stop for the duration, and my emotions were all over the place.

Mood Bored; A Bipolar Story - a recent journey of a diagnosis

What is hard about this disorder is that you don’t know when any of it is going to happen, it could be weeks or it could be months but when it does the only thing you can do is hold on and trust it won’t last forever.
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It can be really hard on your family and friends too; canceling plans made well in advance that everyone is excited for, family get togethers, or just hanging out to watch tv or paint.

When the mind decides itself upon something there is no changing it, especially when it’s wired in so deep it can’t be found. I’ve made terrible financial decisions, relationship choices, not looking after my well being, and spending days feeling like I have to read 3 books, write a novel, paint 12 canvases, writer 15 business and 20 personal blog posts, talk to every friend I have for hours, and get my hair & nails done when I’m so confident I could touch the sky.

I’ve also got anxiety which can be brought through the roof sometimes. Large crowds I can’t be in because I’m worried something will happen to me or the ones I love, I’m claustrophobic even in my own clothes because my chest gets so tight I can’t breathe, and bring on the stress that bring on the panic attacks. That’s only to name a few.

See what I mean by just holding on, it’s really all you can do. I’ve picked up a few tools along the way. I’ve learned to still try to be mindful in these episodes and anxieties. It’s definitely not easy but you’ve got to push through to find something to grasp while waiting for the storm to pass.

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I’ve recently started going to a psychologist which was referred to by my psychiatrist, but I’m not exactly sure how it should go, I’ve only been once. I thought it was just talking about my feelings but I was told to talk about anything that pop up or anything I find during the week before another session to write things down, I’d like to cover.


I’ve had anxiety for most of my life and I’ve been misdiagnosed since I was a teenager, i was being treated for anxiety and depression but nothing was working; if anything it was making it worse. I was a little relieved when I got the bipolar diagnosis because now I know I’m not crazy and all over the place chalking it up to my personality.

Someone who knows where you’re at and what it’s like is always helpful. Other than my psychologist and psychiatrist I’m going at this alone myself. When I try to talk to friends or family members all I get is a “I don’t understand”, which sort of pisses me off in the case with my mother. I talk to her about everything, she’s my best friend yet for this particular subject she won’t take the time to read up on it or ways she could help.

If you too have this disorder and need someone to talk to, I keep conversations confidential but I’m in no way a psychologist but I am a good listener. Send me a message or email and we’ll chat as long as you need to.

 

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A New Piece Of The Puzzle

Hi, I’m Leslie Nichole! I’m a white chocolate mocha lovin, sangria sipping, big book reading, sarcastically witty, 30 something still trying to figure out my place. Yeah, it happens when there are bumps in the road. I wish it was smooth sailing but if that were the case then I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am today.

A New Piece Of The Puzzle

 

I started this new journey to share lifestyle topics, recipes, adventures, and to help diminish the stigma behind mental health. (bipolar 1 disorder right here 👈🏼)

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I’ve been a blogger but haven’t had a blog in about a year and a half. Life had gotten crazy and about a month ago I realized now is the perfect time to start a blog! I can find new people to connect with, I can read great content from others, and I might even make a little money.

I’ll usually be found networking for my Content writing business, let me tell ya freelancing is hard! I did it part time for 2 years but since I was let go from my job in late October (being bipolar is also hard) of this year I’ve decided to make it my full time. When I was doing it part time I had 3 consistent clients but when i started in accounting I gave them a referral so now I’m starting all over leaving me feeling like I’m all over the place. If you know anyone who’s looking for a blog post or web site content writer; please send them my way, I’ll give you 10% of the earning if they make a purchase! 👍🏼

 

I enjoy whipping up cakes or cupcakes when I need to relax and yoga or a walk down help. Baking is so relaxing to me it doesn’t matter if it’s cookies, cakes, or fudge I love playing in confectionery sugar. The dishwasher may not like it because I make a mess but my Kitchen-aid mixer and myself do.

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On a side note: I don’t want to offend anyone with my blog, since that seems to be happening lately. I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or doctor so what I share is from my own experiences through my eyes. Just know every time you leave I lose a little piece of me 😊
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Tell me something about yourself? Something quirky, those are fun!

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