Those adorable stickers on my journal are by the amazingly talented @gladlydesigns. You can shop her Etsy shop here.
I used to be so completely obsessed with journaling that I was actually “known” for it, to some extent. It didn’t matter if I was at church or at a pool party… I always had my journal with me (yes, a little embarrassing, but I loved my journal too much to care, haha!). It was the place I kept everything… my thoughts, plans, goals, dreams, to-do lists, ticket stubs and other memorabilia, and most importantly, my angsty teenage rants about boys and friend drama. My journal almost felt as if it was an extension of me!
I’m speaking as if I only had ONE journal, but oh no, no, no. That definitely wasn’t the case. I had filled at least 20 journals by the time I turned 18. If not more. (If you don’t believe me, just check out that picture below. And forgive the blurriness due to my crappy 2015 phone.)
I wrote in my journal EVERY SINGLE DAY, throughout the day, for over half of my life. So… when, about two years ago, I started to lose interest in writing in my journal, it baffled me. Even though it was a slow decline, I was freaked out about it. I kept trying to force myself to write but it wasn’t making me happy anymore. And I couldn’t help but ask myself…
Why isn’t this enjoyable anymore? How could I have lost interest in something I was so passionate about for so many years? Is there something WRONG with me? Why does this feel like a chore now?
Even if you’ve never been a journal-writing maniac like I was, you’ve probably stopped doing something you used to do quite often, as well. I think it’s just a part of growing up. And one of those things may have been journaling, even if you only did it occasionally. Most people I’ve talked to about journaling say they used to journal in, ya know, like second grade… and then they stopped as they got older.
It may sound silly, but I had to really sit down and ask myself WHY I stopped. Here are a few of the reasons I came up with.
Why I Stopped Writing in My Journal
1. I started to feel happier about my life and myself, I didn’t feel as if I have a whole lot to write about. And although I still had and have my everyday struggles, they aren’t as “dramatic” and awful as they felt like they were when I was younger (and less mature).
2. I’m busier than I used to be. Because I’ve developed a lot of new hobbies, am now married, and am passionate about my job as a blogger, there’s just not a lot of time to sit down and write.
3. I was tired of feeling anxious when I wrote. When my anxiety started to kick in at the end of high school, I started to feel more anxious whenever I wrote in my journal. I’m a perfectionist (with a little OCD), so if I had to scribble something out or if the sizes of my writing varied from page to page, I’d have a little mental breakdown and start ripping pages out and rewriting things (aka: wasting lots of time perfecting things)
4. I started comparing my journal to other people’s, especially as I started using Pinterest more often. Writing in my journal stopped being something I liked doing and started to feel like something I wanted to be really good at. I wanted my pages to be filled with cute doodles, fancy writing, and creative page layouts.
What Happened Since I’ve Stopped Journaling?
I’ve written in my journal a total of 6 times in the past 2 years. The funny thing is that each of those 6 journal entries meant A LOT to me. Why? Because even though they were far and few between, these journal entries were written without expectations. They’re messy (I mean, literally, I can barely read a couple of them) and while some seem deep and inspired, others seem like a failed attempt to try to motivate myself to write. But that’s just part of the beauty of writing- being okay with that.
I wish I had the desire to write more of these types of entries because they really did help me. Each one of them felt like a mini-therapy session. They helped me clear my head, feel more self-aware of what I was doing well and what I could be doing better, and even heal some of my stress and anger. Imagine if I could write like this daily. I’d be living my BEST LIFE.
That really got me thinking… What if I really could write like this more often? Not daily… but more than 6 times in 2 years. What if I thought of journaling differently, so that I was more inclined to pull out my journal and write? And what if… perhaps… I actually started to enjoy writing more regularly again?
And that is when, my friends, this blog post idea was born. Because along with wanting to help you guys with this lil’ journal writing issue, I also want to help myself. Because journaling is just THAT important to me! But first, let’s talk about WHY journaling is important and helpful.
The Benefits of Journaling
Journaling helps you:
- celebrate the little things
- solve problems more effectively to improve relationships
- vent to clarify your thoughts and feelings
- unlock your creativity
- come to helpful conclusions about issues
- practice gratitude (notice more of the little things in life that make you happy)
- remember who you are and what you want (away from all the distracting voices telling you what you should do or be)
- set goals and track them
- heal through emotional release
- reduce stress and depression symptoms
- heighten your IQ and improve your memory
- understand and empathize with people better (you’re able to see their side better when you’re reflecting on the issue)
- be more mindful (in fact, journaling is a form of meditation)
There are SO many reasons it’s important to journal, but I’ve realized that it’s only beneficial for me if I change some of the ways I think about it. If I continue to think of journaling as something I should be doing (and something I should be doing perfectly), my journal entries will continue to be few and far between because I just won’t be as motivated to write. Although I’ll still benefit from it, I won’t benefit as much as I could.
SOOOO… I’m going to let you in on a few of the ways I’m changing the way I think of journaling! Hopefully, these tips + tricks can help you journal more and do it more effectively, as well!
8 Ways to Change the Way You think of Journaling So That You’ll Actually Benefit From It (& Actually Do It!)
Most of these principles also apply to blogging, freelance writing, other hobbies and tasks, and pretty much anything you want to do in your life.
1. Let go of all expectations:
The main reason I stopped enjoying writing in my journal was that I had too many expectations.
I had the expectation that I HAD to write daily, or at least every few days.
I had the expectation that I shouldn’t have to “force it,” so when I felt like I was forcing the words onto the page, I was bummed.
I had the expectation that things had to look perfectly straight, aligned, pretty, and perfect, so when they didn’t, I became anxious and thought it ruined my writing experience.
I had the expectation that I should be writing something someone unique, wise, deep, witty, and remarkable, so when the words came out “boring” or unremarkable in any way, I felt like I was a horrible writer and like I shouldn’t even be writing at all (this can be applied to any kind of writing- blogging, freelance work, etc.)
When you realize that it’s okay to feel like you’re forcing it sometimes, it’s okay for each page not to look perfect, it’s okay to go a month without writing, and it’s okay if your writing is horrendously boring some days… then you can finally start enjoying the writing process.
2. When you let go of the expectation to not force your writing, you’ll actually start feeling more inspired to write.
This sounds CRAZY, I know. But while reading one of my new favorite books, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I learned about the “do something” principle. Most of us feel like we need to feel inspired and motivated in order to take action. That’s the way I usually think and I can attest to the fact that it’s a really GREAT way to get hardly ANYTHING done.
Instead, we should… JUST TAKE ACTION. Why? Because then this magically wonderful thing happens where we’ll naturally start feeling more inspired and motivated. (If you don’t believe me, just TRY IT or think back to a time when you didn’t want to do a homework assignment or write a blog post, but then once you started, you actually kinda started getting into it. You may have even decided to keep being productive afterward… even when you didn’t really HAVE to.)
If you’re really intent on writing in your journal more (so you can benefit from it in all the various ways I mentioned!) then some days you’ll just have to START writing, even if you’re not feeling motivated or inspired to. Just keep in mind that some of the entries you write might have been a little forced, but that’s OKAY!
3. Decide how often you want to write (or decide that you don’t want to decide that.)
Pick a number of times per week or month (or year) that you want to write in your journal. Don’t tie yourself down to exact dates, but give yourself a little structure. Often, that can be motivating in and of itself. Keep in mind that when you’re first getting started, telling yourself you’ll write EVERY DAY isn’t very realistic (that’s what drove me away from continuing to journal). Keep your goals realistic so that you can actually achieve them! And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet all of your goals.
Another option is to decide that you won’t commit to a certain amount of times per week, month, or year. Instead of committing yourself to a certain amount of times, you could just make sure to leave your journal out where you’ll see it more often or put a sticky note on your planner that has all the benefits of writing in your journal on it. Or you could just try it every once and awhile to see if it’s something you could potentially enjoy doing! Remember, no pressure.
4. Stop comparing your journal to other people’s:
This sounds silly, I know. Why would someone compare their JOURNAL to someone else’s, out of ALL things? But for us creative folks, it’s actually a real thing! Because bullet journals, regular journals, vision boards, blogs, and other creative projects are all the rage right now, it’s really easy to compare our creative work with the work of others.
The truth is that there’s a fine line between getting inspired by others work and copying it completely. I honestly have a really hard time looking at people’s creative work without it taking over my own creativity. That’s why it’s important to occasionally spend time alone with your own thoughts… with nothing to distract you or influence you. You’ll be amazed at how creative your own brain is if you just LET IT BE and stop feeding it inspiration from everyone else’s work.
This all comes back to the fact that it’s important to take action FIRST. Then you’ll become inspired. If you look for inspiration first, you *might* become inspired, or you might end up copying someone’s work a little bit too much or just feel like a failure with a crummy looking journal (or blog, or whatever it is).
It’s okay to get inspiration sometimes (I wouldn’t have even known HOW to start a blog if I hadn’t looked for inspiration), but keep in mind how remarkable your OWN brain is. It really does have the power to create awesome things out of nothing.
5. We all have stuff to write about.
I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons I stopped journaling so much was because I didn’t have as much sad stuff to write about. If you took a peek into any one of my teen/college journals (which probs should have been burned to the ground by now), you’ll see how much I vented in those things. I think it’s safe to say that each one’s packed with about 80% negativity.
As I’ve gotten older, I would say I’m happier in general (so I do have less negative stuff to write), but I also bottle stuff up more. I don’t call up my friends at midnight to tell them about some horrible thing someone said to me that made me cry anymore. I’ve grown up a bit and matured (HALLELUJAH!) But… that doesn’t mean I don’t have stuff I could be writing about- emotions I should probably be processing. Things I should stop bottling up.
6. Don’t be afraid to vent.
I think I’m partly fearful about writing in my journal because I don’t want to become that negative person that I was in my teen years. But I’ve gotta realize… I’m a different person now. I’m not a hormone raging filled teen. I’m allowed to vent sometimes without suddenly mutating into a negative nelly miserable-to-be-around person. I can and should write out my innermost feelings, whether negative or positive, more often. That’s an important part of being an emotionally stable and happy person.
Instead of starting AND ending on a bad note in a journal entry, I try to end on a positive note if I began the entry fuming. I try to continue writing until I’ve processed the feelings long enough to get to a point where I’ve learned something, or know how I’m going to take action, or can see a silver lining in all the chaos.
7. It’s okay to write about happy things!
It’s also important to remember that it’s okay to write when you’re happy! When you’re happy it can be hard to remember to write because you’re so in the moment that to stop and write down how you feel seems like a major inconvenience (unless you’re in a “writey” mood or something).
While a picture is worth a thousand words, words are just as, if not more important than pictures. You can’t tell what you were thinking or feeling in a picture. There might be a smile plastered on your face (or a frown, if you were caught in a B-face moment), but there’s always a lot more than meets the eye. Sitting down and writing about a happy moment is something you’ll be glad you did in the future!
8. Do it for you.
This last one is important. In middle school and part of high school, I didn’t give a FLYING HOOT about who could potentially stumble upon my journal (well, except for my parents or current crush)… but I definitely wasn’t thinking about which future generations were going to read it or anything like that.
As I got older, I started thinking more about the future and actually started writing my journals with my future generations in mind. As cute and sweet as this sounds, it turned into a nightmare. I overanalyzed every sentence (Oh, does this sound good enough? I want my grandchildren to think highly of me…). My journal turned into more of a glorified scrapbook than a place where I could find solace.
If you’re journaling for the benefits than you’ve got to do it for you. It’s gotta be unfiltered, 100% you (emotional, PMSing, boring one day, witty the next… YOU). If you like the idea of writing for future generations, start a blog or designate a different journal for that. But make sure you have at least one journal where you can COMPLETELY be yourself. Where you can write all the things that go on in your pretty (and sometimes miserable) little soul!
You’ve Got This
Journaling is hard to keep up with at first. But the more you do it, the more you’ll become self-disciplined about doing it (and even start loving it!) You’re going to find out SO much about yourself, figure out tons of problems you thought were “unfigureoutable”, think of amazing new ideas, become less stressed, and become a far better version of yourself overall! I’m SO excited for you and can’t wait for you to begin! I hope these tips will be helpful to you, but the most important thing to remember is to JUST DO YOU. Scrap the rules you don’t think will work for you and just be yourself! That’s where real power comes from!
Let me know which tips you found helpful and if you’re into journaling or want to be into it in the comments below! I can’t wait to hear from you!