This is unlike an accountant’s, academic or scholarly journal.
A journal is a written, personal account, expression, creation, illustration, log, record, monitor, chart, chronicle, doodle, presentation, documentation, organization or diary of what’s going on in you.
How Your Journal Should Look
Keeping a chic journal surely inspires and motivates to start and pursue a journaling habit.
You may use a textured leather-bound classic journal or a spiral-bound floral-inspired and colorful one. You have plenty to choose from.
I have used simple, lined notebooks over the years, back when journals were not in vogue.
I do have the fancy ones but there’s something about how they look that stops me from journaling. Weird, I find pleasure in just looking at them.
Different folks, different strokes…
Your choice of journal is preferential.
Moreover, how your journal looks is really immaterial.
What gets written on your journal
How often or regular you write
How engaged and committed you are to journaling
How you experience the process of journaling
Those are the more substantial points in relation to keeping a personal journal.
Personal Journal: A Mirror of You
With everything that gets into its pages – the beautiful and ugly, good and bad, truths and half-truths and what not, your journal really is a mirror of you. It speaks tons of you.
Your journal is yours.
You own it.
It is yours to keep today, tomorrow and for years to come.
You decide what goes in, what comes out of it, and where it takes you.
Journaling is an adventure and your journal is your personal companion in this trip.
You’re the keeper of your journal but your journal is not always safe from prying eyes that could cause untoward circumstances.
Here are seven practices to keep your journal safe and private:
Journal privately. Find a place where you can write without being disturbed and bothering about people passing and peeking.
Close your journal pages when not in use. Don’t leave your journal open, even in a private place like your bedroom or office. You don’t want any of your family members – no matter how dear they are to you – to read what’s written on them.
Put your journal away as soon as you’re done. Never leave your journal anywhere public as this exposes your vulnerability. It would invite prying eyes, may be picked up inadvertently or worst, stolen intentionally.
Assert your privacy. Label it with something like “confidential,” personal property,” “please don’t touch,” “return to… if found,” or something to that effect.
Choose simple over flashy. Shun attention. If you can help it, do away with ones that arouse interest and curiosity. Keep away from intriguing journal covers like “Journal of My Sexcapades,” “Journal of People I Hate!” or “Journal of Dark Secrets.” Such titles are just too tempting for a thrilling read.
Camouflage. Put a simple, plain-looking or scruffy jacket to your journal. You may also put it among your other books on the shelf. If creating your own, use covers of vintage books.
Lock away your journal. Keep your journal in a safe place like a locked file drawer, desk drawer, safe box, or a secluded special place that others can’t easily access.
Taking these extra measures can protect you from being exposed to unnecessary risks and consequences.
Morning pages is a form of journal writing that you do upon waking up in the morning. How you do it is pretty simple.
3 Requirements of Morning Pages
While any form of journaling in the morning would work, the most widely known method of doing morning pages has three requirements:
Requirement #1 – Write as soon as you wake up.
It’s best to do your morning pages right when you wake up. It is when your mind is fully rested and relaxed enough to not overthink and rationalize. It’s also when you’re able to write honestly and from the inner depths of your mind.
Requirement #2 – Don't stop until you have done 3 pages.
This three-page requirement, which is roughly 750 words, is a good amount to come up with in-depth writing. If you stopped after one page, you’d only be scratching the surface with your journaling.
Write whatever comes to mind.
For the first half-page or page, you may find that you’re filling the page with blasé observations, but stick with it and you’ll likely end up with some gems in the rest of your writing. It’s all about being patient and committed.
While how long morning pages take depends on how quickly you write, people typically complete theirs within about half an hour. You’ll likely find that you get through yours a bit faster when you get used to writing them.
Requirement #3 – Write your morning pages by hand.
There is this thing with putting pen or pencil to paper that’s special.
Writing with your pen or pencil rather than using the computer creates a much stronger bond between yourself and writing.
Computers, on the other hand, can stifle that connection and creative flow.
It’s also much easier to jump into your morning pages when you wake up if you’re just grabbing a journal, not turning on your computer and loading your word processing program of choice.
Since morning pages are intended to be private, it’s best not to let anyone read yours. This makes it easier to write honestly because you don’t need to worry about being judged for what you write. In fact, you may not even want to reread yours later.
Flexibility with Morning Pages
Creating a habit with morning pages takes commitment and action. However, if these requirements constrain you, then go ahead – do journaling in the morning, your style.
If you prefer using your computer or tablet, do so. Nothing can stop you. There are even sites like 750words that are specifically designed for that purpose.
What happens when you engage in the journal writing?
How does it work?
These are relevant questions you need to ask yourself most especially now when journaling has become a really big thing.
Before being drawn into this craze, it’s best to have a look at nine benefits you may possibly get from journaling:
Solitude and freedom
Relief from stress
Self-esteem and confidence
Positive mindset and energy
Data, insights and applied learning
Feel free to identify your own as journal writing is really a personal thing and one is good to one may not be to you
Benefit #1: Solitude and Freedom
When you sit down to journal, the first thing you reap is solitude.
A desire for solitude may be misconstrued as loneliness, emptiness, isolation, seclusion, privacy, detachment, separation and solitariness.
Indeed, you may engage in journaling when feeling lonely or empty.
However, it could be more than that.
Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company. ~ Hara Estrof Marano, Psychology Today
More often than not, journaling is where you find:
Peace of mind
Sense of security
Peace of mind
It is in solitude where you let down your hair and become the person you truly are.
It’s enjoying the freedom to be oneself.
You lose yourself and claim it back, way better when you let it go.
The magic takes place in solitude
Benefit #2: Relief from Stress and Anxiety
To many, there is no place better than being alone journaling.
Journaling relieves stress and anxiety.
It’s calming, soothing and relaxing.
It is a powerful tool for self-expression.
When you write in your journal, you let go of thoughts and emotions that frustrating, troubling, stimulating, and even uplifting but stressful.
As a result, you gain clarity, self-understanding, focus, confidence, and strength.
Now you are able to face and solve problems with calm, grace and confidence.
You notice that your health condition improves. Ailments such as migraine, depression, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, and other forms of illness diminish or disappear.
Benefit #3: Creative Spark
Journaling sparks creativity.
It is a tool for creative expression.
It challenges you to think, feel and respond in familiar, strange, novel or untested ways.
If you are new to journaling, you probably may have asked:
How do you start journaling?
Is there a proper or right way to do it?
When can you start?
What materials do you need?
How can you succeed at journaling?
I started journal writing in my late teens over 30 years ago (yes, that’s how old I am) when journals weren’t in style and were called by a different name. Yes, diary! And guess what, I used plain old ballpoint pens and lined notebooks. My journaling practice included writing my thoughts and feelings, inspiring quotes, expenses, contact information, daily to-do list and accomplishments, sketches, stories, insights, class notes, outlines of things to write, relevant facts and figures, among other forgettable stuff.
My daughter started journaling at elementary some seven years ago with just a pen and paper. It was a lot of girlie stuff, love notes to me, doodles, and stories. She still does now that she’s at Grade 10 and oh, dear! She has become so much better. She does it every day non-stop. She loves art so her journals are full of it.
We both weren’t well aware that what we were doing was journal writing. We just started it.
We didn’t think if there was even a proper or right way to write our thoughts, feelings, and creations on paper. We just did it.
We started when we felt ready. We didn’t give a thought about when. We just did.
We used whatever was there. Nothing fancy. Just plain old paper and anything that writes on it.
You may do that, too.
Journaling is simple. It knows no rules. People make their own.
It is inspiring to use fancy journals and accessories such as:
various other embellishments.
You don’t have to.
It’s really up to you.
So about those questions, the answer is – Just start.
There is no right or wrong with journaling and how you do it is really up to you.
If writing long entries is what you enjoy or find helpful, do so.
Even the format is up to you.
You may jot down a few bullets or lines to serve as your memory aid.
However you do it, find a medium that’s comfortable.
Journaling or journal writing is putting pen to paper to write, express, illustrate, document, capture or record just about anything you want, need to or feel like.
In the past, journal writing was done using a simple lined notebook, blank book, slum book, or diary.
These days, you have all sorts of fancy, chic, colorful and handsome journals on just about any topic.
You may even create them yourself, by binding lined or blank sheets or through printshops.
Journaling with Shabby Sheets
But who says you need to spend a fortune for those commercial journals?
Well, you don’t!
You may use any writing material for your journals:
Clean, unused paper
Crumpled or torn paper
Bus, movie or event ticket
If there’s nothing else, your palm would do the trick. I use Google mail on my cell phone every day, these days.
Worry about posterity later. For the moment, capture whatever you must.
Your goal is to seize the moment (and making sure to move your writing over to a more durable form afterward).
Believe me. I’m no newbie to this kind of journaling.
Journaling for Moms
Like any kid with a fertile imagination, my little ones whipped up just about anything – stories, poems, jokes, quotes, thoughts, doodles, songs, shapes, shades, textures.
Their creative stock came randomly, unplanned, and in splashes, bursts and roars. A mom has to be ready for these but many times, I wasn’t. I had to settle with what I had, including shabby, throwaway sheets.
I could tell lots of stories about this but that would be for another post.
Looking back, I find those moments precious and priceless. I can say with certainty now that they won’t happen the way they did… especially now that my kids have grown up.
I’m glad I took the pains of “catching those happy moments” even with shabby sheets, which I have kept, by the way.
Publishing: Journaling to Write a Book
For those glued to their screens like forever, rest assured that your computer doubles up as a journaling tool.
That’s how my youngest son’s book got created. I was sitting on a work table across him tapping (almost pounding) my laptop keys to capture his words, verbatim.
Blogging: Journaling with Your Computer
Those who are into blogging know how well they are able to chronicle their activities, take note of their experiences, thoughts, emotions, wisdom, even silliness. Call that online journaling or weblogging where you use a website as your diary or journal.
Journaling is for everyone and for various purposes. It may capitalize on writing materials that are readily on hand, including shabby sheets.
The purpose of journal writing is to capture ideas, emotions, memories, stories, poems, art, and practically anything you want to be written.
On unplanned moments, use shabby sheets and move them over to a form that would withstand the test of time.
Here’s your challenge: Do whatever it takes to write down what you must.
Journaling is an experiential process whose benefits go a long way.
Why not? Life is a blessing and every moment unnoticed and not celebrated is a waste.
If you imagine people never getting up from bed to see the light of day, you would realize just how lucky you are. Also, you don’t have to buy a bottle of canned oxygen to breathe fresh air, to scamper for food in a mountain of rubbish, nor to be subjected every day to the terrifying sound of bullets and real threat to life.
Life is great and there is just so much to be thankful for.
People who express gratitude, whether openly or in subtle or covert ways, radiate positivity and cheerfulness. They tend to be calm, peaceful, content, and joyful, knowing that blessings abound and are there for the taking.
God gave you 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “Thank You?” ~William A. Ward
So, why practice gratitude?
What do you think?
Get Yourself a Gratitude Journal
If saying “thanks” is an ordeal because you have so much to attend to, it’s a clear signal for you to stop what you’re doing.
Take a moment to breathe. It would unburden you of stress.
Be mindful of what’s happening in your surroundings and, more importantly, your life.
If you have a piece of paper or notebook, go on… write the things that you are grateful for, both big and small, important or not, Earth-shaking or trivial.
If you have a gratitude journal, all the better (though not necessary)! You could easily use the journaling prompts in it.
Keeping a gratitude journal is nothing complicated. It doesn’t have to be methodical or structured. Although it is more focused on practicing daily gratitude, it functions in the same way as most other journals.
The bottom line with keeping a gratitude journal is having a tool to express thankfulness.
5 Simple Steps to Practice Thankfulness Every Day
If starting a gratitude journal is something strange, here’s a brief on how to do it:
Step #1 – Ask Yourself: What are you grateful for today?
Think about events, people, challenges, learnings, or insights that have moved or enriched you.
Step #2 – Write down your thoughts on paper.
It doesn't matter what you use to write on - standard notebook, fancy journal, tablet, print paper, calendar, post-it notes, scratch paper, or receipt. Personally, I use my cell phone and save to draft. What is important is getting into the habit of expressing gratitude each day. Of course, there is nothing like keeping a journal that you can go back to time and again.
Step #3 – Keep a daily regular schedule.
Set a time each day to write on your gratitude journal. It may be on your work break, lunch, before bed... you decide. Your important keywords are daily, regular and schedule.
Step #3 – Express gratitude any way you want.
Draw, illustrate or color. You may even write a poem or song. If that's how you want to say thanks, do it.
Step #5 – Protect your privacy.
At the end of the day, keep your journal in a safe place. What you write in there is yours to keep. It's best to keep it private and secure.
Aren't those steps simple?
Go ahead – pause, breathe, reflect and write!
A piece of paper and pen along with a grateful heart are all it takes.