THE HEALING POWER OF JOURNALING
HOW TO MAKE
JOURNALING THE BEST THING YOU DO FOR
The list of successful, wise and brilliant people who made time to journal is almost unbelievable: Oscar Wilde, Marcus Aurelius, John Quincy Adams, Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau… The list goes on. Why were they so dedicated to this daily practice?
Maybe because in a journal they were not only able to express themselves, but on those pages they were able to CREATE themselves.
There’s something truly liberating about a blank journal page, like a blank canvas you can paint in whichever way you want. Whether you sketch cartoons, note daily reminders, or pour your heart out - there are no rules, only tips and techniques to help you discover how a journal can become the best thing you do for yourself.
Keeping a journal is like having a new best friend. Someone who listens patiently, who gives advice, who dreams with you, and who frees your mind creatively so you can SHAPE THE LIFE YOU WANT.
If you tried to journal in the past but had trouble keeping it up, don’t despair. I totally get it. I know how good journaling is for me, but as soon as I’m travelling or things get chaotic it‘s always the first thing I let slip.
The irony is that these are precisely the times when you’ll see the benefits. Journaling when your life feels blissfully balanced is easy, but writing everything down when things get messy can feel rather overwhelming. Too much confusion and too pain to look at. Don’t turn away. DEAL WITH IT.
Your journal can become an invaluable source of insight and inspiration.
Let your innate wisdom speak and discover what your heart is truly longing for.
I hope that the following tips and best practices may be of help.
They certainly did it for me…
THE HEALING POWER OF JOURNALING
HOW TO MAKE
JOURNALING THE BEST THING YOU DO FOR
1. SET A TIME
The two best times for reflection are morning and/or evening. Prepare for the day ahead in the morning. Review the day at night.
Whether you spare a few minutes to do both, or choose either morning or evening doesn’t really matter - as long as you set a time and make a practice of it. If you just do it randomly whenever you feel like it, journaling will not become a habit and you won’t see any benefits.
At night, when already in bed, I like to rewind and reflect. Where was I running on autopilot? When did I waste time and procrastinated? What could I have done better? Was I kind enough to myself and to other people? Then I roughly plan the day ahead and prioritize. I finish with gratitude to end my private session on a positive note, and then it’s bedtime.
In the morning, when my monkey mind is still sleepy, my journaling is unstructured, free-flowing writing. Whatever comes to mind. You might be surprised how much is buried in the depth of the unconscious. This is where the creative, the heartfelt and the brutaly honest journaling happens.
2. MAKE TIME
I think it was on Tim Ferriss’ podcast that I heard Tony Robbins describing his morning routine, and saying that there is no excuse for him not to find ten minutes each morning to meditate and prepare himself for the day ahead. “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life,” was how he put it.
The issue is not whether you have time or not to journal. It’s whether you are willing to MAKE time for journaling. Is there anything more important than taking a few minutes each day to clear your mind, define what you truly want from life, how you want to act, and prepare yourself for the day ahead?
Instead of checking your phone, watching the news, or scrolling down Instagram, can you start writing for just three minutes tomorrow morning?
3. NO PRESSURE - JUST WRITE
I think we can safely assume that nobody will ever read the delightful messiness in our journals. I don’t even read it myself. It’s about getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
As Tim Ferriss has described it, journaling is really about trapping your worries and fears onto a page so you can get on with your day. Journaling helps you to see things clearly so that your worries don’t “bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.” Nicely put :)
4. KEEP IT CLOSE
As I write in bed I keep my journal on the bedside table. If you prefer writing in the kitchen with your cup of coffee keep it on the kitchen table. Make it as convenient for you as possible. When it’s right next to you there are no excuses and you will not forget.
5. DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN
This goes hand in hand with the previous point. JUST DO IT - success is a matter of momentum. Once you start one day after the other, it’s easier to keep going. Start journaling every day, build a chain and then work not to break it. Don’t ruin your streak.
On some days I’m so tired that I only manage to write one word: TIRED. On others I write page after page. It doesn’t matter how much you write, one word is better than no word. As long as you keep writing you will exercise that habit forming muscle.
6. START A VISION BOOK
Instead of a vision board turn your journal into a vision book and write down all the outrageous things you wish for. Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now? What is your heart really longing for? What are your wildest dreams you dare not tell anyone?
Write down all your crazy business ideas. Write down all the places you wish to see. Let your imagination run wild. On those deeply personal pages that nobody is ever going to read you can express anything you wish for. And who knows, maybe some of it might even come true…
7. BE GRATEFUL
For the good, the bad, and the ugly. One common journaling practice is to write down three things each day that you are grateful for. The candidates are usually pretty obvious: We are grateful for our friends, for our health, and that we live in a time of abundance.
But I like to take it a step further and express gratitude not only for the things that are easy to be grateful for, but also for the most trivial aspects that we take for granted. A meeting might have not gone down according to plan, but my car didn’t break down woohoo! How annoying would that have been. Or there was fresh organic broccoli in the store today (actually not to be taken for granted in Ibiza). Or I randomly ran into a lovely friend.
Can you even be grateful for the things that your mind quickly judges as bad? The Stoics saw gratitude as a kind of medicine, that saying THANK YOU for every experience was key to mental health. “Convince yourself that everything is a gift of the gods,” Marcus Aurelius said, “that things are good and always will be.”
No matter how poorly a situation went, try to find something positive about it. Even if it was just a massive learning curve that will further your personal growth.
8. MORNING PAGES
Unleash your creativity with MORNING PAGES. Back to the timing thing: Author Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way - great book) has become known in creative circles for her practice of MORNING PAGES: writing three stream-of-consciousness pages early in the morning.
Writer and producer Brian Koppelman has been one of the most vocal proponents of this practice and swears by it, saying he does it each morning. “Getting the creative juices flowing in a very free way” as he puts it. Other proponents include bestselling authors Oliver Burkeman (The Antidote - one of my favourite books) and Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Work Week).
9. EVENING PAGES
Clear your head with EVENING PAGES. If any worries are keeping you up at night, journaling before bed can be immensly helpful. Take a birds-eye view, let your conscious mind analyse, and narrow down the complexity to what is the most important question.
Release your anxiety on those pages and revisit the issue first thing in the morning, when creative solutions may find their way into your journal. Very often we blow things out of proportion and things aren’t quite as dramatic or as complicated as they appear.
10. THE UNSENT LETTER
When you had a tough day because someone really upset you, practice the art of the UNSENT ANGRY LETTER: write that person a letter without the intention of ever sending it. Let your journal become an outlet for your emotions, get the frustration out of your system, and put the letter aside until your feelings cooled down. Write down everything you dare not say in person, and let it go.
You may find that later on you’ll be much more capable of approaching them in a calm and confident manner. You’ll feel better, and your emotions won’t be taking up residence in your body and mind as toxic residue.
11. WRITE A LETTER TO YOURSELF
If there are issues you’re really struggling with - destructive habits, fears and worries you just cannot shake off - imagine yourself being 80 years old, writing a letter to your younger self now. What advice would that wise, old woman give you? This can go pretty deep so have some tissues prepared.
12. ASK YOURSELF THE TOUGH QUESTIONS
Journaling isn’t just about patting yourself on the back and listing all of your accomplishments - although this is extremely important too. But I also think we should face the big and sometimes uncomfortable questions:
Where am I standing in my own way? What’s the smallest step I can take today towards my big dream? Why do I care so much about other people’s opinion? What is the harder choice I am avoiding? Do I rule my fears, or do they rule me? How will today’s difficulties show my character?
13. DON’T MAKE IT PRETTY
Maybe it’s just me, but I always find that when I buy a particularly beautiful notebook I only want to write down pretty thoughts - and only in my most beautiful handwriting. I don’t want to mess it up. But of course journaling is precisely the time to get messy. Write down whatever comes to mind. The longer you write the more will come to surface.
I keep my pretty journal for the pretty things in life, like inspiring quotes, my dreams and my achievements. But for my daily journal it’s just a very basic A5 notebook.
14. JUST DO IT
People tend to intimidate themselves about journaling: What’s the best way to do it? What’s the best journal? What time? How much?
Forget all that. Silence your inner perfectionist. There simply is no right way to journal. JUST DO IT. What works for me might not work for you. Be open and experiment. You can write bullet points, letters to yourself, poetry, a gratitude journal, or just be free flowing about whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter. Just start. Get into a rhythm. Refine and improve as you go.
The best time to start journaling isn’t on the 1st of January, or when you’re relaxed on holiday, or when your life feels perfectly balanced. The best time to start is TODAY.