Activities That Calm the Mind, Part 2: Journaling
Getting Started in Journaling
We’ve all heard the wonders of journaling and how it can help with mental health. We know we want to try it… The problem is, how do we get started? For some of us, journaling isn’t as easy as it seems. It can be a challenge to figure out how to get those first ideas on paper! That’s why we’re talking all about journaling this month in our second part of Activities that Calm the Mind series.
As an individual who went from using a fuzzy, purple diary as a child in order to primarily write about my crushes, to an adult using a leather-bound, engraved journal to write about my feelings and thoughts about life, journaling has always made me feel safe and heard. So I’m going to share with you how I (and a lot of other people) get started in journaling. But before we dive in…
Let’s pause. This may feel silly, but I want you to take a minute and envision yourself as a writer. Envision yourself as an author, editor, artist, and creator. Envision yourself using this journal to help yourself grow. Recall the youthful feeling you once had for your journal or diary, if you had one. Once you have this vision in your heart and mind, you’re ready to plunge
headfirst into the calm, refreshing waters of journaling.
It may seem obvious, but the first step is to find the right journal and the right pen. Finding a journal that speaks to you can help when you feel unmotivated to share your feelings. Set an intention when you’re shopping for your journal. What do you want it to look like? What do you want it to feel like? Imagine yourself holding your journal. Imagine writing in this journal. This may seem overwhelming at first (there are so many options!) but having a journal you love may be the difference between sitting down and writing for a few minutes, or skipping it for the day. The same thing goes for a pen. Find a pen you enjoy writing with. That might be a smooth, colorful ballpoint pen or perhaps you prefer a functional, mechanical pencil to erase while you’re writing. Whatever you choose, make sure it feels right for you. Don’t know where to find a journal? As part of the wonderful St. Petersburg community, we love to shop locally. Check out Book + Bottle on Central Avenue. They have a wide selection of journals that are sure to unlock your inner writer.
Next, the writing begins. When we journal, we want to remember that journaling is what you want it to be. You don’t have to write in your journal every day and you don’t have to follow a prompt. Journaling can look a lot of different ways depending on the writer. When we journal for our mental health, however, we want to primarily focus on our emotions. Here are some thoughts to remember when beginning your writing.
Start small. It’s okay if you only write a sentence or two. Start with the date and label one feeling for the day, that may sound like this, “Today I had a wonderful day, I felt rejuvenated when I saw an old friend.” or “Today was not a great day for me. I felt a lot of worry and anxiety when I had a confrontation at work.” If you don’t feel like elaborating more, then don’t! Oftentimes, therapists and writers (don’t forget, that’s us!) use journals as tools in therapy and in life! Being able to look back to see how your days went in between sessions can be very helpful when you’re working in session with your therapist.
Personalize it. Make lists, create drawings, share a quote you love, or write the lyrics to your new favorite song (you and I both know you already listened to it 3 times to
day, I don’t judge!) Make it your sacred space for internal exploration.
My journal is… chaotic. But that’s just the way I like it! Every page has something. Sometimes that page just has one word written on it and sometimes there’s a picture of a pretty flower I saw on a walk with a short sentence about where I saw it and why I liked it. Write a short story about something that made you laugh today. I promise, you’ll likely forget about it as time passes, and when you go back to read that entry, you’ll laugh all over again. Those are my absolute favorite entries. All of those things are okay. Paste pictures in your journal or press flowers in it. Journals don’t have to just be words. Journaling is what you make it.
Don't stress it. Feeling pressure to write in your journal daily about your entire day, who you saw, where you went, why, when, how... Those are some things people love to write about, but here’s a secret, most people do not write about that every day or even most days! Sure, I have a day here and there where I will write 3-4 pages with all of the gossip! Many days though, my entries are short glimpses of my feelings in the moment or something I really don’t want to forget, like how loved I felt when my best friend checked in on me after a long, hard week.
Cozy it up. I love journaling with a candle lit. Specifically any fall scent. The delicious smell of vanilla and cinnamon, while wrapped in a soft, chenille blanket, makes me feel so warm and calm. It’s one of my favorite ways to journal. Figure out how you like to journal by testing different environments. If you live locally in St. Pete, try taking your journal down to the beach and smell the salty air and feel the cool sand between your toes as you write. Or maybe you’d like the sound of sweet birds chirping and the wind whistling through the tree branches over on Beach Drive. Perhaps you prefer to journal on the go, as things happen in the moment, that’s fine too. Remember, journaling is your journey.
No Prompt? No Prob. Although you don’t need a prompt to journal, maybe you might prefer one. A quick internet search can do the trick. I like to keep a list of 3-5 prompts, just in case I really feel like I want to write but just don’t know what to say. I love referring to the list in my journal (I keep mine in the back for easy access) and seeing which one is giving me energy and desire to write. It could be something as silly as “Would you rather live in outer space or under the ocean and why” (and yes, that’s an actual prompt I’ve written to!) Your journal doesn’t have to be serious, it can be lighthearted and fun. Bring back that childhood fondness for self-reflection and curiosity.
Learn what works for you. Some people journal at the same time, every day. It’s a beautiful, invigorating ritual for them that makes them feel alive and safe. Some people crawled like a poisonous spider out of their skin just reading that sentence. Both of those ways of being are totally acceptable, valid, and welcomed in the world of journaling. If you’ve tried a timer, and it’s just not working, stop using it! If you don’t like being told when to write (even if you’re the one telling yourself) don’t do it! Write when you want to, feel free in your writing. Likewise, having a ritual for writing can make someone struggling with consistency in their outside life finally have some consistency in their practice. Think about what is and isn’t working for you. You can even write that down in your journal!
All in all, journaling can be an exciting adventure for so many people. I encourage you to watch videos on journaling, look up prompts, or look up quotes.
Sometimes that’s the best way to get the creative juices flowing. At Be Your Best Self & Thrive Counseling, our practitioners love to use journaling as a form of healing. We are always prepared to help you along the way if you need more support in the journaling field. Following up on your journey with a professional can help guide you in a positive, kind direction. We would love to chat with you about your journey! We offer free fifteen-minute consultations here at BYBS and match you with practitioners that feel good for you.
Now… Let the writer in you be free.
Warmly & Fabulously,