One of the questions I am asked most often in workshops is: “How do I get the journal habit to stick?” As a way to boost your resolve this coming year, I offer the following reflections:
1. Get clear on your “why.”
One of the reasons we don’t do the things we know would be beneficial is because we have a vague, general sense that “we should.” Sure, it’s good to exercise and cut down on red meat and maybe eliminate dairy or gluten…It’s the “dot dot dot” that gets us into trouble.
Once you’re clear about why you want to keep a journal, you will be much more inclined to do so. Here are a few reasons to consider:
– Journal writing is a kind of meditation on paper, an opportunity to have an open and honest conversation with the least judgmental thing you know: your soul, God, the Universe, Spirit…whatever you want to call it. Once you have a taste of it, you’ll want more.
– It provides clarity. Period.
– It’s good for your health. Study after study proves it: it lowers your blood pressure, increases your immune system functioning, it reduces stress and helps with sleep. Not too shabby.
– It is a safe and inexpensive release of pent up feelings and emotions. Who else can you swear and rant and rave at who will absorb it without comment?
– It is a way to know yourself. Deeply.
– Journal writing is to your spirit what exercise and nutrition are to your body.
– Taking the time to journal tells everyone including You and the Universe that you care about how you live your life.
2. Commit. Seriously.
Once you know why you want to journal, commit to the practice. Like with diet or exercice, there is no magic pill besides just doing it. If you’re clear about its benefits for you, you will make the time. As Tony Robbins said (and I paraphrase), if you don’t have 10 minutes to do the important stuff, you don’t have much of a life. Get a notebook or dollar store journal and a pen you like. Find a time of the day that works for you and do your best to honour that commitment to yourself. Some days, your journal writing might be around why you don’t feel like doing it; that’s okay. It will open the door to other thoughts and concerns. If you need some inspiration, google “journaling prompts” and be prepared to be amazed at how many questions there are for you to consider. A few of my favourites:
Who or what am I avoiding?
The most important thing to do right now is…
What am I worried about?
What do I really want?
If I could wave a magic wand, what would I change?
What am I afraid of?
3. Write. Just write.
Forget about grammar school and rules of punctuation. Forget about what you “should” or “should not” write about. Just write. Let the pen take you where it will without standing in your own way. When you hear that little voice in your head start to criticize, say “thank you” and release it. It’s only there to keep you in the land of the known. Growth often happens when we step a little bit outside our comfort zone. Ideally, we wish to be willing to look at what’s working and what’s not. After all, who knows you better than you? Who can speak your truth more deeply and clearly? Try not to be afraid of your own truth: it is there to help guide you towards your own fulfillment. A word of caution: once you get the hang of this journal writing business, you won’t be able to keep yourself from doing it for long. You will soon understand the wisdom in Joan Didion’s words: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
I wish you hours of pleasure, insight and soulfulness on your journal writing journey.