Today’s discussion is journaling for beginners. Journaling is a powerful self-help tool that is gaining popularity.
Why? Because it works! If you want to change your life, get free from disempowering thoughts, or discover what you really want, try journaling.
I was slow to get on the journaling train and it took me 3 years to finish my first journal when I did decide to give it a try. But then I finished my second journal in about 5 months, so I made up for it. #journalnerd
You can purchase a variety of journals almost anywhere now and Costco regularly has a 2-pack for under 10 bucks. And don’t think journaling isn’t for you because “you’re not a writer”. As long as you have the ability to put pen (or pencil) to paper, you can journal.
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic.
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes. Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food and getting some sunshine is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life. You want a quality long life.
My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.
Why Journaling Helps
You may not have journaled since you were a kid. Or ever. I tried multiple times, but it didn’t stick until I figured out how to journal.
That sounds silly, but hear me out.
I was taking some mental health classes through a local government agency. I was desperate to feel better. My depression, anxiety, and panic symptoms were making me miserable and I was willing to get help in any way.
Part of the program had us do “free writing”.
The host gave us a spiral steno notebook and a pen and told us to write anything and we had 5 minutes.
We were told that if you can’t think of anything then write, you’re supposed to write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until something pops into your head.
I did write that and then another participant mentioned writing down “why you hate your job”.
So I wrote that and it opened the floodgates! Before I knew it, the time was up and I felt better! Like instantly.
Free-writing was my jam.
This is also referred to as a “brain dump”.
Makes sense right?
You are actually taking unfinished thoughts and finishing them before ejecting them from your mind. And by finishing them I mean you look at the words and decide if you need to take action in some way. Or that thought process may be complete and can be filed as “done”.
In my mind, I really did hate my job. Not that the job was bad in and of itself. I just knew, deep down, that my job was wrong for me.
So I was acknowledging the truth of my life and it was incredibly freeing.
It’s decluttering for your brain.
You will be amazed by all the unfinished stuff that you’ve been holding on to.
You may not want to quit your job, but maybe someone at work pushes your buttons.
So you write it out.
And maybe, while you’re writing, you will get some insight or clarity about the situation.
- Maybe you realize that you need to stand up for yourself.
- Perhaps you realize that your co-worker is clearly depressed and lashing out.
- Or, and this is gold, you finally realize their behaviour is really not about you. It’s about how they feel inside (and maybe they should try free-writing??)
The action of putting pen to paper is an extraordinarily beneficial way to improve your life.
The Mental Health Benefits of Journaling
When you can successfully ditch useless brain clutter, amazing things start to happen. Not only do you feel freer, but the ‘real you’ starts to show up more often, in the form of your intuition.
If you get in the habit of following your intuition, it will lead you to the path to success. No lie.
We are all unique beings and should not try to force ourselves onto a path that doesn’t serve us, like me and my job. Use a journal to help you discover your one true path.
1. Discover what’s important
When you free write, you end up writing about the things that are most important to you. For me, free writing made me look at my life and say “this is really not me”.
Looking back over your writings later will give you a strong inclination of what you find the most rewarding in your life. And what you need to escape from.
For example, if you find you are thinking “I want to live in a new town and sell fruit for money”, you should explore why. And yes, I did play Animal Crossing lol.
2. Track successes
We get used to living in a routine and frequently overlook the small actions we make that add up to beneficial changes in our lives over time.
Journaling helps us see all the successes we’ve had, even when life isn’t going the way we want it to. It is very important to acknowledge our ‘wins’…often.
In this world, we must be our own cheerleaders. Don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing things.
Using a journal as a form of tracking our successes can bring us a great deal of comfort when times are tough. Look back on your wins to realize how far you’ve come.
3. Let go of old emotional blocks
We can share our deepest fears and worries in a journal. When we feel down, we often need a sounding board more than we need advice, and journaling gives us that.
We can let out and then let go of past hurts and failures, our needs and wants, without having to tell anyone about them but ourselves.
- Hate your co-worker? Write it out.
- Got cut off in traffic? Yell at the page with writing.
- Got double billed by your insurance company? Journal your feelings before you call them.
Writing is cathartic and can help us release old emotions and beliefs that are no longer serving us. This is the kind of ‘junk’ that we normally dump on friends and family.
Journal and let it go.
4. Find the answers
People who journal often report that they find the answers to problems within themselves by using journaling to tap into their unconscious aka intuition.
Each of us has the answers to every problem already inside of us and journaling is a way to access those answers in a positive way.
It’s amazing how allowing ourselves to be honest and open to our struggles ends up making the answer we’ve been seeking so obvious – it’s all there in black and white.
5. Encourages creativity
Many people who journal find themselves writing poetry or drawing to express themselves. Bullet journaling is designed for this purpose.
A journal is a safe place to be creative. There’s no judgment from others, just an open invitation to express ourselves in whatever way comes up.
Allowing this creativity to spring forth is another way that our problems get solved because we allow our minds to be in a different, creative space that is open to all possibilities.
The Different Types of Journals
When you think about journals, you may think of the blank leather covered books found in most bookstores and gift shops. The truth is, journals have changed a lot over the last few decades.
There are tons of different kinds of journals depending on your goal. The ‘basic’ kinds of journals are:
Standard ‘Vanilla’ Journal
The original book: either lined or plain pages.
This is my kind. Nothing written inside to distract me from off-loading my thoughts. These are available pretty much everywhere: drugstores, bookstores, mall kiosks, and of course Costco.
Seriously, it’s all I can do to not buy one every time I shop. It’s no lie for me to say that think I have about 10 blank journals waiting for their turn.
And I currently have 4 or 5 that I actively write in. #journaladdict
I write whatever, grabbing the nearest journal and just moving from page to page. I might get a moment of clarity from the past that I need to work through mentally. Next time I might be ranting. Another time I ponder the future. It’s freeing.
I rarely go back and re-read my ‘mind dump’ because I’ve moved on. Journaling helped me find my path, which is blogging. As I transition away from my current employer, I know that my life will only get better.
Or BuJo for short. Bullet journals are the sandbox of journaling because you can make it be anything you want it to be.
Bullet journals have dotted pages that allow you to be extra creative while planning or writing.
You use symbols ( like – > < x ) to differentiate tasks, notes, or events and it has it’s own world of fans. You can use colored pens, Sharpies, and stickers. If you’ve ever seen printable habit trackers online, you will understand the bujo logic.
You can use bullet journals for:
- bullet lists
- task lists
It is up to you to create your own masterpiece while writing out tasks and creating your goals.
These are journals with a specific task, like goal planning or weight loss.
They are designed to help people who are new to a task, like setting goals, create structure and ‘learn how’ in a methodical way. Great for beginners of all kinds.
Goal Planning Journals
Goal planning journals help you focus on your goals and stick to them through a series of prompts and checklists.
You can get 90-day or 365-day goal planning journals, depending on your style. There are also online goal planning journals.
Some goal planning journals are made by people who write books on goal planning, so you get their system in the planner. Todd Herman of 90 Day Year and Jack Canfield of The Chicken Soup books both have their own planners (Jack’s is a 365 day gratitude planner).
Devotional journals are one of the most popular selling journals. A variety of devotional journals are available for nearly every religion and offer a similar set-up across the board.
You will find a scripture, passage, or quote and then given the space to write about your thoughts related to the daily thought or passage.
This can help you memorize scripture, work through your spiritual issues or attain spiritual and religious goals you may have.
Weight Loss Journals
Weight loss journals are a bit different than most journals. Think habit tracker on a larger scale (ha! see what I did there?)
These are set up in a way where you can quickly jot down your weight loss goals and achievements for the day. Things like what you ate, how long you worked out, if you drank enough water, and your weight can all be noted for the day.
There are usually checklists for this and a small area for you to write down your thoughts for the day or regarding your workout.
Wreck journals are journals that give you tasks to do each day of the journal, so they are considered interactive. They help inspire people to think outside the box and do something inspired or creative.
Some of these are writing while others may be drawing, coloring, or even ripping out the page and throwing it away.
Want To Try Some Expressive Writing Therapy?
Expressive journals help tap into specific creative ways of thinking. Journaling like this can help you live more of your life in the moment, as you deal with your “stuff” in your journal.
Mix and match what you want when you want it.
There’s no better way to increase positive feelings in your life than with a gratitude journal.
I bought this one made made by Rhonda Byrne of The Secret. It’s available in book stores. It has daily prompts to help you get in the gratitude habit.
Each day, reflect on your experiences, what you’re thankful for, and lessons that you want to remember for the future.
Going along with a gratitude journal is practicing positivity. Each day, pick something positive that happened that really inspired you.
Or, at the end of the day, look back and decide what the best part of your day was, and write out why it was the best part.
Write about what happened, the people involved, and how it made you feel. This can help you see more positive things in life overall, and helps decrease negativity.
Creative Writing Journal
If you are considering professional writing as a side gig, test your skills with creative writing.
Challenge yourself to write longer and longer ‘short stories’, starting with 100 words and working up to 200, 500, or 1,000 words.
Sketchers and doodlers unite! Pull out your art journal and color us some pictures.
I am not creative in that way, and I prefer plain ole’ coloring for that part of my brain. But I have seen some amazing art on Pinterest. Just google ‘art journal’ and choose image results and just wow!
If getting better at art is your goal, try an art journal.
Do you remember your dreams? And do you like analyzing them? A dream journal may help you further your study.
Write what you remember and meditate on its significance.
Don’t overthink journaling – just get started.
Why You Should Start a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude is a gift that we give to ourselves. Using a gratitude journals is the best way to learn about who you really are and what you really want.
We get bogged down with magazines and television telling us what we should want. But do not take the time to decide if those things are right for us.
We live in a consumer driven society that wants us to always be buying something. So we do. And it doesn’t help.
Start writing down what you are thankful for and you will start to see patterns of what sparks joy in your life. Then go looking for more of that.
1. Benefits to Your Mental Health
One of the leading reasons you need to start a gratitude journal is to work through mental health issues you may have naturally.
You can start off by listing one thing a day you are thankful for.
You will notice that this helps you move out of depression and too much inward thinking. Try to move beyond the obvious things to be grateful for like friends and family; this takes practice, or at least it did for me.
Consider being grateful for:
- A roof over your head and a bed to sleep in. Lot’s of people don’t have that much these days.
- Good food. Maybe you can’t afford steak, but you’re not starving!
- A neighbor that watches your home when you’re not there. Maybe he/she is kinda nosy, but they will call the cops if someone is breaking in.
- A functioning vehicle. It may be beat up, but it gets you there.
- A job. Even if you hate going there, at least it is money coming in.
When you are having a rough day, read your gratitude journal to be reminded of how good you have it.
2. Benefits of Overall Health
When you first start a gratitude journal, you may not see how it could ever improve your overall health.
Start to look for the things that are good in your day. This will lead you to find more goodness and gratitude in others.
Eventually you will see that you are more active and happier which leads to reduced stress, reduced blood pressure, and a more positive outlook.
3. Increased Positivity
You may start with one thing you are grateful for. Then you write three things one day. And maybe you find five things the next day. Soon you notice that your outlook is more positive everyday.
Your positivity will affect those around you as well. Your family and friends will start being more receptive. People will offer to help more and you get a snowball-effect of benefits.
4. What Is Really Important To You.
Daily gratitude journaling helps us to see what is most important to us.
Patterns will emerge that show us what we should move towards, and what we need to move away from.
Journaling Prompts to Free Your Mind
I love the first Matrix movie, because it was all about Neo’s journey of self-discovery. As John Anderson, he was asleep. As Neo, he is woke. Journaling helps us to become ‘woke’ by freeing our mind.
Many of us are living life based on someone else’s opinions. Go to school, go to college, get married and have 2.5 kids and a dog.
We see people sailing around the world and think “that would be fun!” but we don’t know how to do it so we put it away.
Clearing clutter from our minds gives us brain-space to figure out how we too can “sail the world”.
You may have decided to start journaling for your health, weight loss journey, or simply to get you through a tough time in your life.
One way you can get started on the right foot is through journaling prompts. These are questions or ideas that you can begin writing to develop the routine of journaling.
Here are a few fun journaling prompts that can get anyone started.
1. How Do I Want To Feel Today?
This is a good one to help you get into the habit of creating the kind of day that you want. Why let life just happen to you? Instead create what you want to happen.
With this prompt, think of how great it will be if everything goes your way:
- You drive to work and it’s all green lights
- An excellent parking spot is waiting for you at the mall
- A friend shows up with a prepared meal on one of your super busy days
- There’s a rebate check in your mailbox
Write out the benefits of having the best day ever (hint: it’s ah.may.zing!)
2. The People In My Life Who Bring Me The Most Joy Are…
This prompt can help you understand how other people feed your soul. What is it about them that makes your life better?
As we figure out what makes us feel good we start to see what we can do to help others feel good (empathy). Helping others is the calling of everyone, because it brings us joy deep inside us.
By feeling joy, we connect more with who we are meant to be and we can start moving along that path.
3. What Would/Could You Do If…
“What would you do if…” is a perfect jumping off point to discover more about what you really want in this life.
What would you do if:
- Money were no object. How would you help the world if you didn’t need your job for income?
- You could go back to when you were 15 years old? What would you change in your life?
- Suddenly you became famous? And what do you think caused your fame?
- Someone tries to bully you? How would you deal with person?
You can use prompts once in awhile, weekly, or even daily. There are some prompts that are specific to your goals, or you can go with random journaling prompts. You may also want to consider journals that are nothing but prompts.
I hope that you enjoyed this introduction to journaling. If I hadn’t been introduced to free-writing I would probably still have deep mental health issues.
Don’t get me wrong…I still struggle with depression and anxiety. It just happens less frequently and I recognize it more easily. This allows me to take steps to mitigate the effects.
And that is what I want…to take two steps forward and maybe only half a step back instead of three.
Holistic approaches never just address symptoms of specific health problems, but instead aim to return or keep the patient in a state of balanced health between mind, body, and spirit. Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.
Please share this post with anyone who can benefit from it. Sharing is caring!
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Until next time, here’s to our health!