Mix a martini, don’t forget the olives, or pour yourself a tea, relax and enjoy!
There are no hard-set rules for keeping a journal. How often you write, the time you spend, and how rigorously you maintain a regular journaling schedule are matters of personal choice and circumstance. Therefore, it is important to find what works for you.
Allow me to provide nine guidelines I promote:
1. Having a regular journaling time builds routine and discipline. Journaling isn’t necessarily about what you write; it’s about just getting your thoughts out to build emotional balance. Find a time of day that feels good for you. Return at this time as often as possible even if you don’t think you have anything to say, you’re tired, or not quite awake. Start by just recording a quote you remembered or a mantra you’re currently using now for change. Maybe even a list of items you need to do that day or the next day. The process only requires a starting place. The rest will flow naturally. Everyone needs personal time to process his or her thinking. It builds emotional intelligence (EQ). Allow yourself, be gentle with yourself, and permit yourself to be emotionally balanced.
2. Set your space up for success. Would you prefer your environment to be quiet? Maybe you need hustle and bustle around you. Do you prefer specific music or certain writing materials? I like to have my favorite blanket around me when thinking through personal stuff. I like to write about business stuff in a noisy place. I like to write about marketing in McDonald’s with the smell of french fries and grease. Where are yours?
3. Develop a centering ritual. By associating journaling with another pleasurable habit, you can strengthen your journal practice and create an atmosphere of self-nurturing. The ritual can include a glass of wine, tea, or coffee. It can be after a phone with someone. It can begin with a certain piece of music. Maybe meditation, deep breathing exercises, or prayer centers you. I have a list of ways to center typed and taped in the front of each journal. I go down the list and start with the one that feels right at that time.
4. Begin with a prompt. Maybe you want to focus on a particular type of personal development change and a prompt brings you into that focus faster. Or maybe a general reflection prompt lights the spark plugs. For instance, “What am I feeling right now?” or “What’s been on mind?” Journaling author Anais Nin suggests asking, “What feels vivid, warm, or near to you at the moment?”
5. Write because you know there’s a big benefit for you to do so. Don’t allow journaling to become an obligation or a chore. Allow yourself to give to yourself. Be kind and gentle during this process. Allow the experience to always been seen as possible no matter what pours onto the page. Don’t demand more of yourself than you can give at the time. It’s perfect. If you miss a day or several days, accept that journaling, like life, is imperfect, and goes on. Begin again when do have a chance. Beating yourself up for not journaling isn’t going to help anyone, including you. No one is grading you. No one is measuring and tracking. Be kind to yourself. Remember, there are no rules.
6. Create a positive feedback loop. As you continue to use the journal as an opportunity to be with and learn about yourself, you will find that the practice gains momentum all on its own. Discovering your hidden depths piques your curiosity and stimulates you to continue, setting up a positive feedback loop between your conscious and unconscious mind. It opens the gaps that fall in-between space and time. It opens creativity, imagination, and possibilities.
7. Emphasize the process and not the product. An important purpose of journal writing is simply expressing and recording your thoughts and feelings. Focus on the thinking process. Keep the words flowing and stop being concerned about the result. If your journaling is about something specific, re-read. Allow room for editing if you choose. Be free to cross out words because you changed your mind and found a better one. Allow yourself to cross out paragraphs and rewrite them so they mean what you say. This is all part of the thinking process. Every time you rewrite your pose, your growth triples. Use your journal as the raw material processing for more polished thinking.
8. Learn from your experiences. Set up a time to re-read your entries. It’s good to see how far you’ve grown in your thinking. It re-enforces how you’ve changed and grown. It’s a wonderful, personal way to pat you on the back from life. When you reread your material, look for patterns and correlations. What improved? What stayed the same? Learning from you is much gentler on self-esteem. Use objectivity to see a new perspective or hindsight lesson.
Relax, have fun, and laugh! Journal writing is a reward. Once you get started, your journal will become a good friend. It’s available whenever you need it. Day, night, home, in the car, or a coffee shop. It’s a 24/7 friend and is always ready to love you back if you let it.
Your journal loves you for just being you.