How to journal your way to healthier living

Learning how to journal is perhaps one of the biggest self- empowering steps you can take.

As well as helping you to realise your life goals and ambitions, personal journaling has been proven to be an effective self help tool which can also improve your emotional and physical health.

This journal guide is designed to help you gain insights into how to journal for your ideas and solutions, using your conscious and subconscious mind.

I have often stressed throughout this site, the importance of using your journal to record your goalsetting activities, as well as your thoughts, feelings and awareness of the goal setting process. The following will provide you with further indepth guidance on journalling your goal setting for maximum success.

If you want to learn more about what is journaling, do consult what is journaling faq.

You'll find the following an excellent resource on focused, purposeful Journaling and journal writing tools for self empowerment.

Journaling Overview

The word journal or journaling will hold different meanings for different people. Journal writing is one of the most beneficial and powerful things you can do in your day to day life. The journaling process has several distinct benefits. These are:-

  • Journaling provides an outlet for feelings and emotions, e.g. fear, anxiety, confusion, doubt, anger, inadequacy, guilt, worry etc.,

  • Journal writing becomes a tool for logging your day to day experiences, personal goals, goal setting activities, your progress and achievements for your own self-analysis

  • Journaling helps you to tap into and bring into awareness, a rich source of information and ideas from both your conscious and subconscious

  • When you journal write, your notes provide valid feedback on your hopes, expectations, goalsetting results, as well as heightening your insights and awareness on how to expand on your achievements

  • Learning how to journal is one of the biggest steps you can take toward self empowerment, since what you'll discover can only reinforce that your your ideas, solutions have come from you alone - helping you to build on your level of self-trust, self- belief and self-reliance.

  • Journalling with structure

    All you'll need to record your journal entries is a notebook or a binder with loose leaf format and a pen. You can also use a diary, although the limited number of pages will prohibit the amount you write.

    If you prefer, you can purchase a book specifically for this purpose, although any writing material will suffice.

    There is no need to worry about your grammar, spelling or use of punctuations since the issue of importance is to bring to your attention, your personal experiences and feeling.

    Knowing how to journal with structure will make the process that much easier and enable you to locate your dated journal entries much later on. Just as a book will have a table of contents for easy navigation, you might also want to set aside a number of pages at the beginning of your journal, to help you locate your entries with ease later on.

    Do find yourself a quiet corner where you won't be disturbed or interrupted. Pay attention to - and observe all the things that help you to feel relaxed and centred. Have a glass of water or a few nibbles to hand for example.

    Journaling the processes you're working through

    Journaling isn't a difficult process; nor is being a good writer or having good writing skills a pre-requisite of journal writing. What's important is that you develop a style that suits you and which you're comfortable with. You'll find that as you progress with your writing, your journalling skills will also develop.

    Journal writing is a process of expressing your feelings and experiences, thus creating movement within you. This movement will stimulate your creativite thinking and open windows of ideas, notions, and insights as to how to surmount challenges to your goals.

    You can enhance your journal learning by following these basic guidelines:

  • Do record journal entries by dating each one

  • Your journal writing entries should also include the time, place, the emotions you're experiencing, your moods etc., This is an important inclusion which will later throw light on the processes when you review your journal entry

  • The best way to record journal entries is to write at speed, noting the first thoughts ideas, feelings or emotions that pops into your head. This data is 'raw' and is more likely to contain the key to solutions/how and what you're experiencing, as opposed to when you're being more thoughtful or actively thinking.

  • If you find yourself hesitant or of wanting to erase or amend your journal writing, this could be indicative of your comfort zone being under threat from writing about something you might sub-consciously want to avoid. Just leave it alone and restart a fresh paragraph. You can later return to analyse this further to ascertain the issue you're avoiding and how to best deal with it

  • Journalling techniques

    There are numerous techniques on how to journal write. Here are a few you might want to consider. You might even find that you have your own personal style already. Either way, the following journaling techniques offer a guide as to what you can do.

    how to journal write the 'Reflective' way:

    Using this style of journal writing, aim to record from an 'observer' perspective, by replacing 'I' with 'she'. For example, instead of starting an entry with, 'I decided this wasn't a good move for me to make', write it as if you are commmenting on an observervation you have made - e.g. 'it would appear that her decision did not best warrant that situation. Continue your personal journaling with a detailed account of events, including 'her' recollection of scents, sounds, sights, emotions, feelings, etc., By taking the 'I' (yourself) out of the loop, you become more objective and effective in your journal writing.

    Journal writing the 'clustering' way:

    Personal journaling using the 'clustering' approach is very effective when you experience writing blocks or you find that your thoughts don't flow for you to record them. Start by writing the subject of your recording in the middle of the page. Circle it to make it stand out and immediately proceed in making associations with the subject. As each idea emerge, draw a circle around it and link it with a line to the main subject. This is a simple yet effective method that will present you with an array of ideas that will surprise you. You can later develop each circle into a new expanded version or simply leave them as they are.

    Another good 'how to journal' technique for when you encounter 'writer's block', is to record how you're presently feeling, or simply describe an event or even a conversation you've had. Once you start, you'll find your writing begins to flow.

    Journalling the 'unsent letter' way:

    This is a very empowering 'how to journal' technique that will help you to freely express what/how you're experiencing. Whether your experience is related to an event, a situation, an individual or even to yourself, this 'how to journal' letter style provides a platform for you to speak out, especially if you're less than comfortable with a more direct, face to face approach. Your 'unsent letter' if for your own purposes and is therefore not actually sent.

    Simply start your letter in exactly the same way as you would any other letter, addressing the person or situation by name. You'll be amazed by the amount and quality of what you communicate on paper.

    You might find this technique useful when learning how to journal write your assertiveness and your communication skills. For example you might have a goal to build your assertiveness with your partner or an employer. By writing to him/her about how his/her actions or behaviours undermine and impact on your level of assertiveness, can also help bring to your attention your own responses and how you can go about changing and/or developing them more appropriately for you.

    Journal writing the 'Cathartic' way:

    Having the security of a safe and trusting environment in which you can truly express all your deepest fears and concerns isn't always easy to come by. Your personal journaling however, will always provide you with this much needed space. Learning how to journal strong emotions such as anger, frustration, pain, fear or worry is a very liberating experience. Furthermore, your personal journal won't raise an eyebrow, or feed back disapproval, criticise you or even cast judgment on you. Your journal or diary frees you to hammer away and get it all out in the open. A suggestion to start off this area of your journal is to open with a sentence such as - 'I am presently feeling....'. Allow your writing to flow thereon, without limiting yourself in your writing. At the journal review stage, you might well find that having put it all down on paper, you now don't want to hold on to these particular recordings. Discretely disposing of the page can be symbolic of getting rid of the negative emotions once and for all.

    how to journal your goalsetting activities

    Personal Goal Setting has already been addressed elsewhere so this section is specificly related to how to journal your goalsetting activities.

    Learning how to journal your goals involves developing a relationship with your journal; one that is taylored to your needs and aims. Treat your journal or diary as your personal coach.

    You determine your goals and actions and your journal (coach) will help you formulate ideas and insights in such a way that they have every possible chance of being achieved.

    Get creative with the journalling techniques you use, why you're using them and your journal will be supportive of your efforts.

    how to journal attentively:

    A most important feature of how to journal your goalsetting activities, is learning to take yourself, your aims, your experiences and your unconscious resourcefulness seriously. This means, setting aside time to communicate with your journal on a regular basis.

    Being attentive means approaching your goals activity journaling with thoughtfulness. That is, noting the ideas, notions and strategies that emerge out of your journaling and acting upon them. This will help you to explore yourself and to find out what makes you tick, your areas of strength as well as how to build your development areas.

    With the right approach you'll develop your skills in how to journal your goals and get the most out of your efforts. For example, rather than feel overwhelmed by one of your more ambitious targets, journaling can help you breakdown larger long term goals into smaller short-term achievable steps.

    It stops you from feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of your goal. For example, start by writing about where you'd ideally want to be in any aspect of your life in 5 years time. You'll be amazed by the quality and quantity of ideas and insights you gain as to the medium-term and short-term steps you'll need to take as well as how to journal the actions you'll need to get you there.

    how to journal using images:

    The different ways in how to journal is only limited by your imagination. Once you've set your goals, use your journal to scrapbook images, snippets of pictures you've cut out from magazines, or even drawings etc., to reinforce and strengthen your motivation toward achieving your goals.

    Lets say for instance that you have a weightloss goal. You've already journaled your feelings and thoughts on what it will mean to you to attain a certain weight or to look a certain way; by cutting out images from magazines or using old photos of yourself and how you ideally want to look, everytime you open your journal you'll be greeted by these images which are a positive statement of intent of where you want to be.

    Here's another example, using that same weightloss goal; in support of you, your partner has promised you a world cruise once you've attained your goal. Again, if every time you open your journal, you see a beautiful cruise liner, surrounded by endless, beautiful blue skies and sea wouldn't that get you going? Of course it would. Images are a powerful example of how to journal and will strengthen your motivation toward your goal.

    how to journal your progress toward your goals:

    You can note down your thoughts, any fears, concerns and any mistakes you feel you might have made in relation to your progress toward your goals. You will gain valuable feedback on what changes you can make as well as insights into the root cause of any fears etc.,

    When you're journaling such emotions, it is quite normal to feel very deeply moved. Bear in mind that the process you're working through is perfectly normal and healthy.

    Think of it as you releasing emotions which could otherwise cause you more harm if they were left unspent. View such experiences as part and parcel of the positive contributions of how to journal.

    Should you encounter any adverse blocks with any of your emotions and feel the need for outside help, do consult with a qualified counsellor or other practitioner.

    how to journal your review

    Once you've finished recording, take a short break before reading your entry. Do be kind to yourself and avoid being critical.

    Afterall, what you've put on paper is a valid account of your reality, the objective being to gain insights into how you are experiencing it and what you can now do to positively change or build on it. Now use a few lines to journal any insights, or ideas you gain from your re-read, as well as what you've learned from your writing.

    While you might find your writings very revealing, equally, you might not always get such instant clarity.

    You may well find on occasions that you glean very little, if anything from re-reading your journals. That's fine. Just get into the practice of re-reading your entries in the coming days or even weeks.

    You'll probably find that at some point, some of your insights will just seem to appear out of nowhere. You'll have found the answers within yourself and be able to return to your journal to this effect.

    how to journal - Tips

  • Do keep your diary safe, private and confidential. If you harbour any fear that it is not secure or that the content might be read by other people, it could hinder your journaling by you not writing as freely as you would otherwise. Just as you'd keep your best friend's secrets close to your chest, do the same with your journal.

  • Treat your journal as you would a good friend and, as your coach.

  • Write a welcoming greeting or inspirational quote that is welcoming of you, each time you visit it

  • Do journal anything and everything that give you cause for for celebration, as well as any frustrations you experience.

    Make your journal exciting and a place you will want to visit on a daily basis. As well as journalling thoughts, ideas and feelings, you can jot down inspirational quotes, short stories or anything else that will make it interesting and meaningful

  • The above should have answered many of your questions on how to journal as well as giving you some ideas as to the techniques you can use to do so.

    Journaling is not 'set in stone'. Use a technique that best suit you, which should include your own personal style of writing. You - more than anyone else knows how to journal effectively and what's right for you.

    Journaling should not be strictly reserved for when you're under stress or experiencing difficulties in your life. You'll learn just as much, if not more from journaling, when you're experiencing feelings of happiness, gratitude, joy and success.

    For journaling tools that work wonders, see - Journaling and journal writing tools for self empowerment. Happy journaling!

    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us" (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

    Self Help: how to journal resources

    You might find the following resources useful in getting you started on how to journal.

    Recommended Reading List

    The Creative Journal: by Lucia Capacchione
    The Art Of Finding Yourself

    Making Friends With Yourself by Lucia Capacchione
    The Creative Journal for Teens

    Finding the Voice Inside:
    Writing As A Spiritual Quest For Women

    The information on this site is purely of educational value and is not intended to replace your seeking medical advice. You must consult your doctor over all your health concerns.

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