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Last Updated on December 22, 2020

Practical Journaling Tips For Beginners To Kickstart

Practical Journaling Tips For Beginners To Kickstart

Journaling is a practice as old as time. People have been recording their thoughts and feelings ever since forever. It is something that every culture has in common, and it has been used for different purposes—expressing yourself, coming up with new ideas, reflecting on a social issue, or just following your curiosity and wonder.

Journaling helps you reflect on your day and your life. When you journal, you are meeting your own needs. You tend to yourself in new ways, you listen to your inner voice, and you learn to follow your intuition. You also start to look at yourself with self-compassion. You start to become your own best friend and treat yourself kinder. You see your flaws and call yourself “flawsome.”

Journaling is not about being perfect. It’s not something you have to sell—you are not selling yourself to anyone. The mask is off. Vulnerability is a path to true perfection—you love yourself for who you are.

Benefits of Journaling

My first tip on journaling is to know its benefits. Journaling may help with stress relief, depression, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation. It’s a great tool for your mental health. [1]

Many people use it for simply recording events in their day and impacting their working memory. By analyzing your thoughts, you are also practicing mindfulness! This aids in overthinking and helps soothes you. Your communication and writing skills will also start to improve. Creativity will soar, problem-solving will be perfected, and you will find yourself functioning better overall.

You’ll also sleep soundly! After you get out all of your thoughts before you go to sleep, you feel relieved and relaxed. This helps you to calm racing thoughts and aids in insomnia reduction.

You just feel better. You may not always notice how journaling has helped you but over time, it opens you up more and more to its benefits. You find yourself living in the moment because you put all your thoughts somewhere, and they remain organized. When you journal, you put the weight of the world down and give your soul some rest.

Journaling does not replace therapy or medication for mental health. But it can serve alongside any treatment you may be partaking in.

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Why You Might Seek Journaling?

After a long hard day, you can either continue in defeat or find some meaning and purpose in it all. Journaling is a tool that can help you clear your mind and focus on what matters most. You don’t let emotions rule you anymore. You find some reprieve from negative thinking patterns. In other words, you take back control.

Whether you write out your goals, gratitude lists or free write your journal entries, it’s a gift you give yourself. It’s a type of self-care that anyone can use as well as a coping method. You don’t have to be a writer to put words down. You don’t have to know what you’re using it for to even get started! Journaling is a way of keeping your progress recorded somewhere, for any area of life.

You can look back on journals from the past and see how far you’ve come or just revel in the memories listed there. You can open it up anytime and read what you’ve done or overcome, or if there’s something you don’t like, you can throw it away! It’s completely up to you what you do with a journal.

It’s also up to you who sees your journal. You don’t have to give anyone your pages or passwords unless you want to. Taylor Swift recently took pages out of her past diaries to complement her special edition album version of “Lover.” This showcased her own take on life events, such as winning awards or even controversies like public fallouts. She used her diary to shed light on her side of the story.

While you don’t need to put out your diary with an album anytime soon, it goes to show that writing in a journal is a cathartic experience that can connect you to yourself and even to others if you share insights from it. If you want to share it with a therapist, that is something you can choose to do. Or you can choose to let a friend know the highlights of how you are doing.

Journaling may just help you organize what you want to say. It’s for prepping and practicing communication as well as a place to let your thoughts run free. You don’t owe anyone your inner thoughts. Remember—sharing is your choice.

What You Need to Get Started

Start journaling now to reap the rewards. Just follow journaling tips to help you kickstart. If you can fit into your busy schedule, you will find yourself achieving more rather than less. Even if you just write your mood for the day and one or two highlights, that’s better than nothing.

It’s up to you how often and how much to write—there is no one way to do it!

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5 Simple Steps

  1. Find your journal whether it be an app or a physical one.
  2. Set up your space—decide if you should journal in private, at school, morning, night, etc.
  3. Remove distractions.
  4. Just write. It doesn’t matter if you have a prompt or you do free writing or how much you write. Just get the words down.
  5. Stay consistent—write the same time every day or the same amount every day. If you write each day in some routine, you are more likely to do it. In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King discusses how he sets aside a certain time each day to write to train his brain to be productive at those times.

Different Types of Journaling

Another tip for journaling is to know the different types. Here are the different types of journaling. Choose one that best suits you.

  • Wreck Journals—These journals give you a task such as coloring, writing something specific, or even tearing out a page and throwing it away to get out your stress.[2]
  • Goal Checklist Journals—Track the progress of your goals and create deadlines for any area of your life.
  • Gratitude List Journals—These journals track what you are grateful for each day.
  • Bullet Journals—This is a way to organize your thoughts that uses a beginning index, page numbers, and structured pages of planning for different time periods that aid in time management. You don’t need to stick to one type of journaling for this.
  • Freewriting—This can be prompted or unprompted writing. It’s basically a stream of consciousness writing where you write anything you want, and you don’t edit your thoughts. You simply let it flow.
  • Planner Journal—It’s exactly as it sounds, a planner journal is a mix of planning and journaling. This may look like a regular planner but has sections of notes for you to write and reflect in.
  • Vision Journal—Much like a vision board, you write a vision of what you want to be doing and who you want to be in the entries. For them to work though, you can only “have one goal a day.”[3]
  • Morning Pages—This is a journaling stream of thought right when you wake up! It can be thoughts to guide your day like setting an intention, creating goals, or just freewriting. The key is to do it right away and see how it progresses!
  • 5- Year Journal—Where will you be in five years? How will you get there? What will you take with you? What will you let go of? Come up with prompts or find some online. It keeps you goal-oriented and focused.
  • Food Journal—Keep track of your food and calorie intake for personal fitness goals.
  • Workout Journal—Keep track of your fitness routines for personal fitness goals.
  • Reading Journal—This is great when you want to read a book and write some reflections alongside it.

Journaling Products and Apps

You don’t have to do anything fancy. All you need is paper and a pen to get started. Or you can try an online journal or an app.

There are apps everywhere, but here are a few just to get started:

These journals are filled with prompts or are done for a specific purpose:

There are plenty more to start with! It all depends on what you are searching for. Try one of these, all of these, or create your own! Journaling helps you create your own independent thoughts. It helps you take initiative with those thoughts. So, make sure your journal is as unique as you are! Find something that really speaks to you.

Prompts

Another journaling tip is to begin with writing prompts. Don’t know what to write about? That’s okay! There are many prompts to start with. You can write reflection-based writing where you express your thoughts and opinions about a subject.

You can use it for introspection where you analyze your inner life and learn more about yourself. You can write gratitude lists, unsent letters, worries, daily, weekly and monthly goals, memories made, challenges for problem-solving, and more.

Here are some starters:

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  • Dear past me…
  • Dear future me…
  • Dear __ (unsent letter)
  • I feel __ (labeling emotions and expressing them)
  • I worry about __ (worry journaling)
  • Today, I did/will do…
  • Week reflection
  • Capturing moments—what happened that you want to record and reflect on
  • What are my challenges?
  • Brainstorm solutions to any challenge
  • I am grateful for __.
  • Morning Pages—first thoughts in the morning
  • What are some things I like about myself?
  • Writing Sprint: For five minutes, write anything that comes to mind.
  • Bucket List
  • Life Inventory Assessment: Reflect on areas of life needing improvement.

Come up with your own or search the internet for more. Read more journal prompts. The possibilities are endless![4]

Use a Feelings Wheel

If you want something simpler for a prompt, find a feelings wheel,[5] and start by simply labeling what you feel. This is how you “Name it to Tame It,” a method used by therapists to help clients identify what they feel so they can heal. It helps to self-soothe through emotional distress if you can pinpoint what exactly you feel.

This is an easy exercise you can do in a journal at both the beginning or at the end of the day. Note how your emotions fluctuate. Note the patterns, and realize that you have something to say.

If you don’t know which prompt to use or if freewriting doesn’t come naturally, start by selecting an emotion and go from there. Why do you feel that way? When do you feel that way? Ask yourself questions. After all, this journaling experience is how you can get to know yourself.

Processing Pain

Journaling leads you to express emotions and also “acknowledge traumatic events.”[6] It’s natural for difficult emotions and events to come up. In fact, you should expect it. The best thing you can do is use your journal as a place you talk about it without judgment. This may also help you to tell others about it, too.

If you work through your feelings and hardships through journaling, you build resilience. Writing therapy is a real thing. You will find yourself doing the work to heal the moment you put your pen down. You can identify triggers for trauma to come up. You can express your needs somewhere, and give yourself support.[7]

Journaling may not always be light and easy. Sometimes, the hard stuff comes up. What you should do is to welcome it so you can recover.

Famous People Who Have Kept a Journal

Last but not the least, another journaling tip is to know the famous people who did journaling. Many famous people have kept journals, and they used it to reach greatness. Some of them include:

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  • Marco Polo
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Thomas Edison
  • Mark Twain
  • Albert Einstein
  • Marie Curie

And then there’s one of the most famous journals of all by Anne Frank, inspiring social change and efforts in human rights causes when it came to light after injustice. However, you don’t have to have any type of agenda when starting your own journal. You just have to look within and see what you want to say.

You may not want yours to ever become public, but it can also inspire thoughts that can change the world. Plenty of people (famous or not famous) keep journals. It’s simple and easy. So, why not you?

Final Thoughts

There are no real rules for journaling. Make it up as you go. You don’t have to know what you’re doing! It’s okay if you start and stop again, sometimes letting journaling go for a while, as long as you return to it.

It’s human to not always be on top of things. You don’t always have to be on top of your journaling. You don’t have to have it all together to get started. You just have to let yourself be free to say what you want in a safe space. Many do not always have a safe space, but in any situation, a journal can be that safe space for you. You can use it for peace of mind.

No matter how you do it or what you do it for, journaling is something worthwhile. You can discover yourself and create a dialogue with yourself that can change your life. You may find out you have more to give and more to be grateful for than you know.

Journaling can challenge you and also shape you into the person you want to be. You can become stronger and better each day just by putting words down. The good news is that you don’t need much to get started. You can start with these simple journaling tips!

More Journaling Tips

Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self

10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self

Discovering your true self is a lifelong journey. It doesn’t happen in one day or one revelation, but it is still worth the pursuit. When you find your true self through self-exploration, you know what you’re meant to do and are no longer afraid. Rising up with authenticity, you can overcome anything.

What is your true self? Is it the person you were as a child? When you felt the happiest? When you learned that important life lesson? When you achieved that goal? When you helped that stranger? Or when you acted according to your values regardless of others’ expectations?

The answer is all of these things make up your true self. The key isn’t discovering your true self. It’s remembering.

Here are some self-exploration practices to help you get started.

1. Act Authentically

When you act authentically, you are stepping into your true self. You are walking with wisdom, rather than worry. People come to you because they know you’re the real deal. You are flawed but fierce. You are enough as you, where you are, with what you have.

When you are authentic, you make choices that come from character. When you stay true to who you actually are, you learn that nothing can bring you down. That’s because you aren’t looking for external validation, and when you know what you have, you can do more with it.

When you act authentically, you are also acting in the best interests of everyone around you, because you care more about the right things. A better you means a better world.

2. Use Self-Affirmations

Say the following: “I am enough. I am strong. I am a victor, not a victim. I have what it takes. I will overcome. I will keep going, even when it seems impossible. I am not perfect, but I am human. I am allowed to rest, not to quit. I am not alone. I am good. I am grateful. I am at peace.”

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When you say these things, you accept them as true. You feel them, and you become them. You discover your true self in finding your power through self-exploration.

When you tell the world who you are, obstacles and opposition will move out of the way. When you are confident, you see opportunities, lessons, and wisdom. It makes you proactive, rather than reactive.

3. Confront Your Inner Critic

If all anyone did was listen to the negative voice in their head, nothing would ever get done. Einstein wouldn’t have discovered the Theory of Relativity and more if he listened to his teacher once tell him that he didn’t have what it took. The world would be robbed of that one person, who would change so many things.

The inner critic comes from fear of the unknown, of not being good enough, or of loss and lack. However, fear doesn’t have to decide what happens. You can overcome fear by not listening to your inner critic.

Instead, you can thank your inner critic and say, “I think what COULD happen…” and spin it into a positive sentiment. Fear can make sure you wear your seatbelt, practice before performing, make good choices, etc., but it doesn’t have to control you.

It may not go away completely, when you confront your inner critic, but you can reassure it and ultimately release it.

4. Don’t Hide Your Imperfections

It’s easy to wear a mask and say, “This is who I want people to think I am.” Instead, it’s more fulfilling to take off the mask and say, “This is who I actually am, and I am proud of that person.”

Through self-exploration, you can live freely by owning who you are. That will make you more responsible and more impactful. When you tell your story and say your truth, people will listen and be inspired to find their own truth. Self-discovery can then spread.

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5. Find Who You Are NOT

If you want to find out who you are, find out who you are NOT. What part of your past has defined your present? What about your culture, religion, family, friends, people around you, etc? What is truly you and what is them? You’ll never be finished discovering yourself, but you can use differentiation[1], where you separate yourself from what isn’t you by finding the sources of your views to become independent.

When you differentiate, you do not discount or minimize the effect other things have had. You just become aware of it, and what you are aware of, you can bring into the light of acceptance, where you can do something to change it.

What are your unique goals, interests, values, and ideas? Once you figure out what you are not, start there. Self-exploration is a journey of understanding how you have been shaped and molded through life and by what.

It’s okay that things have influenced you, but have you ever asked yourself why? If you can answer that question, you can start to find out who you are and set yourself free from the things you aren’t.

6. Log Your Life

Journaling is a great tool for self-exploration. All you need to do is write down your thoughts, either as free writing or following prompts. If you can’t think of anything to write, start simply: Write down your mood and the date.

What causes you to feel better or worse? What are your triggers? What makes you triumph?

When you discover what makes you tick, you learn how to better manage yourself and your life. You have a safe space where you can be your true self, and only share entries if you feel comfortable. You can pour it out daily, or just check in.

You can also observe what’s around you, letting your mind go and flow. Focus on your feelings, and allow pauses and moments for reflection before resuming writing. Let the end of it come naturally, when you feel like you have nothing else to say.

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As long as you keep some sort of log, you can learn how your mind operates, and you can pick up unhealthy patterns, which will help you regain control of your life.

You can check out more benefits of journaling here.

7. Focus on What Is Right With You

Maybe your mind ruminates on what you don’t like about yourself and what you think others don’t like. Maybe you feel like opportunities pass you up because you are not worth it. If that is you, know that you’re not alone. Everyone has a negativity bias[2] where they tend to believe more in the bad at first then the good.

Recognizing your mind may lie to you is the first step in seeing the truth. When you focus on what is right for you, you counteract those thoughts telling you that you have nothing to offer. If you have control over what you think, you have greater control over your situation.

Have you ever given yourself a compliment? Why not try one now? You can personalize it, but you can say things along the lines of, “I like how you care for other people. You have a great attitude. You always rise when bad things happen. I love you.”

8. Find Solace in Solitude

Sometimes, unplugging and getting away is the best thing for self-exploration. If you step outside into nature and invest in yourself, then you will feel better and be better.

Use time to meditate and focus just on yourself, not the world around you. Listen to your own thoughts, not what others are saying. When you check in, you know yourself again.

Recharging may not change everything or stop that difficult circumstance, but it can help you develop the mindset and energy to face it through your inner strength.

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9. Practice Self-Care

Often, when people try to relax, they worry with guilt and anxiety. You may be on vacation, but your brain is still at work. If you give yourself permission to relax, you will see that you fight your battles even better and can really dive into self-exploration.

Breakthroughs will happen in self-care more than in self-sabotage. When you try some self-care, it’s not just about pampering yourself. It’s taking the time to do what you need to do in order to be who you need to be.

Self-care looks different to each person. For some, it may be using essential oils and taking a bath. For others, it may look like hiking into nature, away from your problems and troubles. Whatever self-care looks like for you, know that you deserve it.

10. Try Mindfulness

Being present and in the moment is a great way to discipline your mind into not catastrophizing. When you fail, you don’t say, “I’m a failure.” Mindfulness[3] helps you stop judging yourself by just observing your thoughts and stopping negative thought patterns.

Imagine your thoughts are like leaves flowing past you in the cool breeze. As each thought comes up, place it on a leaf and let it pass. You don’t have to be attached to each one. Instead, work on breathing deeply, which activates the Vagus nerve[4] and releases tension and stress. As you breathe out, notice those leaves getting farther and farther from you, until they are in the distance.

You can be mindful at work, when your boss is talking over you and you want to raise your voice. You can be mindful with your kids, when they are asking for their sibling’s toy and you just want to give in to make it stop. You can be mindful when you are in the most stressful situations, and it gives you a pause to reassess the situation.

Whatever the situation, you calm down so that you can act with a clearer head and make choices that will bring the best results.

Conclusion

Self-exploration looks different for each person, but authenticity always brings you back to yourself. When you are exploring who you are, you must start with what matters to you. You have to assess your values and that will give you the criteria for living.

Self-discovery is about self-love, most of all. When you love yourself, you have more to give, and you find happiness in the process.

More Tips for Self-Exploration

Featured photo credit: Jonas Svidras via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psych Alive:  Psychological Differentiation
[2] Very Well Mind: What Is the Negativity Bias?
[3] Psychology Today: Mindfulness
[4] Mayo Clinic: Vagus nerve stimulation

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