Two years ago, I found myself in the situation when anxiety and panic have reached the highest levels. It was my boyfriend who asked me if I can help him with some work by driving a car from one point to another. It may seem nothing scary or out of the ordinary. With all my driving anxiety and panic, I refused to help him.
This incident strangely marked me. Although I was all anxious and panicked, I really wanted to help him. Unfortunately, I could not. I was very upset and disappointed because I could not handle the situation. I could not get over the panic of driving and help him. And that was the moment when I started keeping a journal.
I started an online private journal, where I started venting myself . I created my universe where there is no judgment and where I can say whatever I think. It helped me get to know myself better and to recognize when I feel vulnerable and fragile. I started working on myself and everything started getting better.
But, what does it mean to keep a journal? How do you begin?
Let’s Define What Journaling Is
Most people think that if you keep a journal, you need to spend hours writing in a notebook. While when we were teenagers we could easily do this, our adult life is quite different. We need to work for a living, study, have a career, a family and so on. A busy lifestyle can be overwhelming, so a journal might just be the solution to relax a little bit.
You do not have to have a notebook necessarily, but you can also work with journaling tools. You do not have to spend hours writing down your thoughts, but you can submit how many journal entries you want. It is up to you how you organize your time, but keep in mind that keeping a journal is beneficial for your mental health.
It helps you organize your thoughts, get rid of negative emotions and accept the situation as it is. It means that a certain time per day is allocated to taking care of yourself. It means that you spend some time alone, undistracted and undisturbed, concentrating on yourself.
Journaling has many benefits on your wellbeing, but how can you start a journal practice that will help you? How can you make journaling a habit?
Make Journaling a Regular Habit
I started my journal with that story of my great disappointment. But after I wrote my thoughts and feelings, I started feeling better. And so, I begin journaling every day. Like meditation and yoga, the benefits of journaling are not so obvious after one or two sessions. Instead, you need to keep journaling for a time to observe its benefits.
How can you do this? You need to set a time per day when you have some time to write something down. You can block the time slot in your calendar to be sure that no one will disturb you.
For example, I always write when I get up in the morning and before going to work. I see my journal as a method that helps me remember my night dreams, too. I also write about my values and my thoughts for the day. At the end of the day, I also submit a journal entry and I evaluate the day.
Of course, everyone is responsible for organizing his time, so you do not have to adopt my habit. Adapt journaling depending on your agenda and other habits, but do not give up. You can write down something every few days, not every day. Either way, be consistent and persistent. You will sense the benefits of journaling as a habit after practicing it regularly.
Choose the Tool that Suits You the Best
You can choose from two options: a traditional or a modern one. You can choose to write down in a notebook or agenda or you can use an online tool. WordPress offers the basic package at no cost, so you can design your journal as a blog. Of course, there are a lot of plugins that can keep your journal blog private.
Either way you choose, make sure that it is the most suitable for you. Think about how you can make it easier to write every day and choose that option. It will be easier to make journaling a habit if you have chosen the best option for your personality.
Keep Your Journal Close to You
If you have decided to develop an online journal, keeping it close to you is easier. You can download the WordPress or other website provider app to your smartphone. You may find yourself waiting for someone at a cafe bar or restaurant. You can explore how you feel and write down in your journal.
If you have decided that the traditional notebook suits you more, try having it with you. You never know when you need a moment of reflection and venting off. This is why you have it, don’t you? To find comfort and relief in times of need.
Write in Times of Need
Most of the time you will use your journal to write down how you feel, what you think, how your day was. Over time it will become a habit, but you can use it for more than daily entries. One trait that is specific to my personality is the fact that I defend what I think and, of course, my dearest friends. I often find myself becoming quite aggressive with others. The fury is controlling me and I slowly become like a wild mamma bear.
Whenever I find myself in difficult situations, writing in my journal helps me relax and calm down. I write down my thoughts, my feelings, my perspectives. I slowly begin to realize that not only my side of the story matters.
I begin to understand other points of view and the perspective of the other person. I begin to be more understanding and calm. I see my journal as a mirror that can help you discover and improve yourself, only if you look into it.
Your Journal is Not Judging You
We often avoid showing our real feelings because we are afraid that people will judge us. This is not happening with your journal. Your journal is intimate and private and you are the only one who can make it public if you want. However, your journal is free of any judgment. No one is judging you, nor responding to your questions. Because you are the one who should answer them in the first place.
See your journal as your micro-universe where you can freely express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Do not censor yourself, especially when you are writing something in your journal. Your journal is free of any judgment, so do not limit yourself. Instead, write everything that goes through your mind. You will feel more relaxed, calm and at peace with yourself.
You can write unsent letters to anyone. It can be someone from your past or present life. It can be dead or alive. You can write a letter to express your feelings of anger and to clear some unresolved business. Or you can write a letter to express your positive feelings towards that person. Either way, writing unsent letters can prove to be a very successful therapeutic technique.
You can write these letters you are not going to send in your journal. It is helpful because it allows you to express your thoughts and feelings without censoring them. It will trigger feelings of relief and calm.
Keep It Private
It is important to keep your journal private. Why? Because you already think about it as a judgment-free zone where you can express everything that goes through your mind. Showing it to someone can create a breach and prevent you from further freely writing.
However, there are people in our lives that understand our feelings and do not judge us. In my case, my boyfriend is the one who gets to read some of my journal entries from time to time. I think that this is good for our relationship, as he gets to know me better. He tries to understand my thoughts and accepts me as I am.
If you have a person in your life that understands you like no one else, you can think about showing her some journal entries. It will strengthen the bond and relationship. However, this is not mandatory, so do it only if you feel like doing it.
Keep your journal in a safe place to avoid future questions from friends or visitors.
Starting a journal practice can seem overwhelming, as you do not know where to start. To make journaling a habit, try to do it every day. Write everything that comes to your mind and use it as a judgment-free universe. Keep it close to you and use it in times of need to express your negative emotions and to find calm and relief.