Daily journaling — the practice of recording one’s thoughts and experiences each day — is seen by many who do it as an integral way they cope with, navigate, and understand themselves and the world around them. Some may be surprised to find that psychological studies have found that daily journaling can have positive impacts on overall mental and even physical health. According to Positive Psychology, journaling can be effective in reducing or helping to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, and can also be an effective tool in recovery from traumatic events, unhealthy habits, and disorders.
Though in the above situations daily journaling may be part of a mental or physical health plan, it can also have benefits for those who are practicing daily journaling independent of a medical journey. Far and wide, daily journaling is regarded as having the ability to reduce stress and anxiety and make emotions easier to handle, understand, and move forward from.
If you are considering beginning a daily journaling practice, consider the tips below to help foster a foundation in journaling that feels attainable.
Rome was not built in a day. Don’t expect to be able to flip a switch and suddenly be comfortable with sitting and reflecting on your own thoughts and emotions for thirty minutes a day. Setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves is one of the ways we set ourselves up for failure most often. Instead of picking an ideal scenario — writing for 30 minutes a day, or writing a certain threshold of words per day — scale it back. Way back. Can you write in a journal for two minutes today? Five? Really think about what feels not just achievable but easy.
The more you journal and get used to this form of writing and introspection, the easier it will become. Starting small now will let you reap those benefits later.
When will journaling work for you? Using an app like Diarly, you can access your journal from nearly anywhere through your phone or iPad. Do you take a lunch break at work every day? Do you sit on the train for a daily commute? Or is home a place where you are more likely to have some consistency? Some people who keep a daily journal write in their journal upon waking or just before bed. Others have a different ritual around it.
There is no right or wrong answer — the only answer is what works for you. Ask yourself: where and when am I most likely to actually engage in a daily journaling practice? Whatever answer you land on, give it a try for a few days (and do it every day). Be mindful of how it feels. Is this time and space working for you? If not, adjust it. The idea is to find something that will promote your ability to actually engage in this practice.
Give yourself a focus
Some people find the prospect of journaling too wide a concept. When we try to write about everything, sometimes it feels like we have nothing to say. If this is the case for you, it may be helpful to start with a smaller focus. For example, journal just about what you’ve cooked each day, or just about how your interactions with your partner or your children went that day. Or perhaps you’d like to reflect just on your life as a professional.
Chances are that even with a focus, other parts of your life will bleed into your reflection. If that’s the case, let it happen! The idea of picking a focus is to lift some of the intimidation around trying to sum up the entirety of your life, but you don’t have to limit yourself to it. Rather than a limiting factor, the focus should be a way in. Through that tunnel, you should find yourself able to unlock some aspects of your being.
Pick a goal
This is related to “starting small” listed above. Pick a goal for yourself to determine what you will consider a “successful” day of journaling. How can you feel like you showed up for the work and did what you set out to do?
Some people measure success in journaling by time spent. Others measure it by words or characters typed. Though it may seem arbitrary to pick a goal, it can be a really useful tool. There will be days when you sit down to journal and say, “Ugh, I have nothing to say today.” That doesn’t mean you should put down your computer, phone, or iPad just yet. You still have to meet your daily goal. So, write about nothing for two minutes, or type about nothing until you’ve met your word goal. Guess what? You probably just wrote about something, even if you told yourself it was inconsequential.
Don’t give up
If you skip a day, don’t throw the whole operation in the garbage bin. Journaling isn’t all or nothing. If your daily practice has to go on pause for a day or two, pick it back up. The benefits of it will come flowing back.