• Dr. Carolyn Frost

The Key to (Finally…..) Starting a Journaling Practice


“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.” – Jen Williamson


If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled to make journal writing a part of your daily life.

I always liked writing, and I wanted to journal, but it never stuck for more than a few days in a row. I have at least a dozen beautiful journals with the requisite one or two pages half-heartedly scribbled on (you know the ones...).


The blank pages staring back at me left me feeling uninspired and as though I was incapable of creating simple sentences, never mind anything that was inspiring, deep, or even remotely interesting.


I played around with Morning Pages (stream of consciousness writing) and had success for about a week writing with my daughter. We still do it together from time to time, but it never really materialized into much.


Then I found journals with prompts to answer a question(s) each day. Progress! I had THIS ONE that I found moderate success with. I would write in the morning, but skip the evening prompts and then I felt bad wasting half the book, so I just stopped writing in it all together.


BUT - I learned something valuable with that journal that stayed with me. I loved the prompts. They alleviated the overwhelm of a blank page, and helped me focus and get intentional about what I wanted my day to look like.


I just didn’t resonate with all of their prompts (especially the evening ones).


So I made my own journal and - for real - this changed everything.


I created a simple one page google doc with several prompts that I wanted to focus on each day. Of note, my ‘journal’ is far from fancy, it’s basically a bunch of printed one-pagers held together with a binder clip, but it works for me.


And with these humble binder-clipped pages, I have written every morning for 2+ years; rarely skipping a day and accomplishing what I could not in the likely hundreds of dollars I spent on proper journals.


This practice takes me about 10-20 minutes each morning depending on how much time I have and what is going on in my head.


Of note!! I kept it VERY simple initially as I worked to establish a new habit (Big Wins are the Sum of Small Successes!), and wrote for probably 2-3 minutes total. As I got more comfortable and it became more of a natural habit, I slowly started adding questions.


See below for my current prompts. These might change in a week, but for now they feel just right.


* Three things that are important for me to accomplish today


* Three things I feel grateful for right at this minute


* How I will show up today with the values I am working toward cultivating (courage, connection, contribution)

This is a new one and I LOVE it. We’ll talk more about choosing values for your future self next time!


* What am I thinking about right now? How does it feel to think this?


* I use the back of the page before (yesterday's page) for a Thought Purge where I get all the thoughts out of my head onto paper so I can see what on earth is going on in there. Truth? Sometimes (always!) it’s a little dicey. BUT, it’s endlessly helpful to see what’s going on in my brain from a different perspective, as a witness to the thoughts, as opposed to the one who is all wrapped up in them.


* I also do some purposeful Thought Work to see how I can shift my current thoughts to ones that are more helpful and supportive.


These 15 minutes each morning are probably the most productive of my whole day, helping me find clarity, intention, gratitude and purpose in the hours that follow.


This practice is the BEST thing I’ve done for my mental health and overall wellbeing. It is time very well spent.


--


See below for some benefits of journaling, ways to help the habit stick and tips for creating your own journal!



BENEFITS OF JOURNALING


* Collect and organize your thoughts


* Process thoughts - get them out of your head and onto paper where you can view them from a distance


* Have a way to look back on your life in a given period of time and see where you were - and compare to where you are


* Get in touch with your creative side - many of us don't even think we have one, find yours here!


* Reduce stress


* Encourage mindfulness


* Self-reflection can lead to a better understanding of yourself and what motivates/inspires/drives you


* Inspire and boost creativity


* Relive positive experiences


* Sort out thoughts about neutral or negative ones


* Remind yourself about things you are grateful for or feel good about


* Enhance writing skills


* Create focus and intention - helpful for setting and achieving goals


**Keystone habit: “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” - Charles Duhhig (The Power of Habit)

For me this is for sure the Keystone Habit that starts my day with focus, gratitude and intention.



WHAT GETS IN THE WAY…. AND SOME SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM!


Life! We get busy and lose sight of it


Keep it out front and center! On your nightstand, near the table where you drink your morning coffee. I keep mine in my desk drawer where I work each day.


We don’t make time for it


Start small! Set a timer for 2 minutes and just write whatever comes to mind. Increase the time as you start noticing that you have more to say.


We don’t know what to write


Again, start small! Doesn’t need to be a whole big thing. Start by writing 3 things you feel grateful for. Done! Or get a journal that has prompts. Or join me and create your own ;)


Hard to face the thoughts/emotions that come up


Yes…. this can be a toughie. Start with topics that are not so emotionally charged and build your way up to those that are a little more difficult to write about.


We don’t feel inspired


Another vote for making your own journal or at least getting one that has prompts.


It’s not physically front and center, so we forget about it


This is KEY! Especially as you are trying to establish the habit. Keep it out where you can see it. If you feel uncomfortable with that, write yourself a note on your desk or set up an alarm on your phone.



HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN JOURNAL


The absolute game-changer for me!


It is so easy to do and it’s a perfect solution if you are overwhelmed with the blank pages, don’t know what to write, or are not getting what you want from pre-printed journals.


Open a word or google doc and get typing! You'll probably want to include space for a date and perhaps an inspiring quote or phrase that you love. Add in some prompts and you're all set (see below!).

* Consider when you think you are most likely to write in it. If it’s the am, create questions that focus on what is to come in the day ahead. If it’s the evening, focus on what went on that day.


* What do you want to cultivate in your life? More acceptance, gratitude, happiness, intention... Go from there.


* Is there something you really want to focus on each day? Write it here.


* Browse THESE prompts for ideas. You could add in a different one every day. Or just leave blank space and look one up each morning or jot them down for the week ahead.


Some other ideas (many from my own trials!)


* Today’s focus is…….

* What do I have planned today……..

* Today I will make time for…….

* Today I will let go of…..

* What big goal am I working toward?

* What is one small step I can take today toward that goal

* How do I want to feel at the end of the day

* The 3 feelings i want to feel most often today are

* What I’m excited about today

* How will I make space for gratitude/happiness/confidence/strength etc.. today

* What am I thinking about right now? How does it feel?

* What worked well today

* One (or three…) great thing(s) that happened today

* What did I do to make a positive difference today

* What is something that made me laugh or smile today

* What inspired me today

* How did I move/nourish/connect today

* Say something kind to yourself

* Something I am proud of today

* What did I do for myself today

* A positive thought to carry me to sleep



LAST TIPS!


*** Keep your journal front and center - the more visible it is, the more likely you are to remember it


* Big wins are the sum of small successes. Commit to writing a single sentence (or to fill out one page etc...) each day for a week.


* Habit stacking - add journaling on to something you already do regularly (i.e. while you drink your morning coffee)


* Don’t stress grammar and spelling


* Make it visually appealing to you


* Your journal can be online or in print - whatever you are more likely to do


* Print out just a few days at a time - you’ll likely make modifications as you go



I can’t wait to hear how it goes!




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