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Five Tips to Kickstart Your Journal Habit

You know you should do it, but where to begin? It sounds simple enough, keep a journal for the good of your mental health. But life is so busy—where do you fit it in? Is it really going to make a difference? And what do I write?

We all accept that an exercise routine is important for maintaining physical health and even so, for some of us, it’s still a chore that we do anything to avoid, even though we know that it needs to become a habit, a regular part of everyday life to maintain a healthy body.

Journaling is exercise for your mind. If you make it a regular habit, it can help you to maintain good mental fitness. And if the stuff of life happens and you are faced with trauma, then journaling is a key to assist in your recovery.

So how do you get this journaling habit started?

1. Jump in and start

This can be the hardest part. We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions, but statistics show that by the end of January, we’ve already gone back to our old ways. I find that people tend to stick to new habits when they realise the consequences of not doing it. Don’t wait until then, start today.

2. Set it up

I love beautiful stationery. Even though I love my laptop, for journaling, it feels luxurious to have a beautiful purpose made journal or special blank notebook. Nothing works better to entice me journal than that special stationery and a favourite pen. If you’re a techie, you may prefer typing or writing on a tablet. For me and many others, there is an intangible magic about writing your journal in long hand. I feel my worries move from my brain down my arm and out through the tip of my pen onto the paper. It’s cathartic, as if they are physically and emotionally removed from me so that I can look at them from a different perspective and gain clarity and relief.

3. Create the habit

If you can, decide on a specific time of the day to journal. I personally like to do it at the end of the day as this gives me the chance to reflect on what has happened over that last 24 hours, good and bad, and to relieve my mind of the burdens before I go to sleep. There are no rules for this, you choose what works for you. Write as little or as much as you want to—today it might be a quick bullet point, tomorrow you might feel like expressing something in detail. It might be a note about something you’re grateful for or a paragraph about an unresolved issue. What you write is in your total control. It’s private, and for no one’s eyes but yours so you are free to be absolutely honest and open. There’s no need to worry about what anyone else might think because this is yours and yours alone.

4. What to write

The greatest block to regular journaling is the question of what to write. Here are some ideas that you can use to spark your thoughts:

· Describe the best thing that happened today

· What emotion am I feeling right now?

· Did any issue arise today that is unresolved?

· What is worrying me right now?

· What do you need to feel fulfilled?

· What gives you joy?

· What gives you peace?

Don’t feel limited by any thoughts about what you should be writing. You can freely express anger at a situation or gratitude for the smallest gesture. Think about your day, walk through it again in your mind and take note of how you felt. This practice will help you process and calm your mind.

5. Reflect

Reading your journal helps you to understand your own thoughts from a different point of view. You can look at them in a more objective way. Imagine you are reading the words of a close friend and reflect on how you would help them. I find that most people are their own toughest critic and treat themselves in a much harsher way than they would a friend in the same situation. Looking at your situation from this perspective can help you see things more clearly, with kindness and compassion for self.

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