Young woman journaling in a park
Health,  Lifestyle

How To Journal for Self Improvement

The benefits of journaling and what it can do to your overall mood are extraordinary. Not to mention, it’s incredibly easy to start. There are no rules for how to start a journal but rather, a few things to simply be aware of so that you get the most out of the activity. In this post, I’ll go on to explain some benefits, my experience, and more broadly, how to journal for self-improvement.

Where It All Began

A few months ago I stopped by my parents’ house and started digging through my childhood closet. Not only did I find my prom dress and competitive swim medals, but I also found something even more priceless, my journal. The journal happened to be when I was in grade school and apparently only cared about who was “dating” who in our grade, a rather hilarious fixation considering it was “grade school”.

This really got me thinking about when I started seriously journaling in high school as a way to decompress from the day. I made myself write in my journal almost every day, and now I have kept up with it for six years. The activity has helped me through crucial points in my life and along the way, I’ve learned about the benefits of journaling and how it positively impacts my mental health. If you’re curious about what writing in a journal can do for you and how to get started, keep reading!

Spending some time in the park using the benefits journaling to manage stress

Stripped down definition: Journaling is a record of one’s feelings or thoughts. The usually daily activity is a way of clearing the mind, enhancing focus and identifying/addressing negative patterns to ultimately improve your life.

Benefits of Journaling

Shows your personal growth. I started writing in a journal in 2014 and it is amazing how in just a few years your thoughts can change. The things I was worried about then no longer scare me. The people I surrounded myself with maybe aren’t in my life anymore. The goals I had are maybe already achieved. If anything, journaling is like keeping a scrapbook, only instead of pictures, it’s your thoughts, ideas, and emotions.

Helps you achieve your goals: Whether personal or career goals, writing in your journal can trigger your brain to think “Hey, this is important” instead of fantasizing about something but not actually doing it. When you think about a goal often and write it down, it most likely will become your reality. 

It calms and clears your mind: Writing down your thoughts takes them from your brain and straight to paper allowing for a clear mind. Journaling can help release those built-up thoughts and emotions, identify triggers and helps reduce stress. As an added bonus, journaling takes you away from your phone and other technologies which allows you to focus and reflect on yourself.

Journal on a tapestry waiting for someone to start writing
How to Journal for Self Improvement

So, what do I write about? The answer is quite simple. Anything! I usually start with how I am feeling at that moment. Sometimes I write how my day went or just thoughts that have been hovering in my mind for a while. Try writing down goals and answer the question, what did or do I want to accomplish today? If you would like a more guided approach, consider searching for daily journaling prompts and go from there. Start writing and let your thoughts flow. It doesn’t have to be coherent sentences, sloppy handwriting, whatever! Just as long as you are able to read and understand it later. 

The key here is to get your ideas down onto paper so you can begin seeing trends in your thinking. Maybe you’ll notice reoccurring patterns and ideas in your thought process. Once identified, you can drill down on an issue that keeps returning. Why am I feeling this way? Are there things in my life I can change to diminish the energy I put into these negative thoughts? Writing all of this down will help you work through tough subjects and improve your overall mental state.

Where’s the Best Place to Journal & How to Start

The best part is about journaling is that you can do it whenever you want and how often you want. My ideal environment is to be in a quiet room and usually at night. If you’re just starting, it may be beneficial to do it first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day (I’ll explain more on that below). Sometimes I like to listen to relaxing music to calm me down. But whatever your routine is, it’s best to stay consistent.

One of the best ways to start and develop this into a habit is by writing a couple pages in the morning. Like I said early, just let your thoughts flow. Just set a goal for yourself to write one or two pages in the morning and don’t stop until you reach it. Begin to stream your thoughts out onto the paper with no specific format or concept involved and you’ll be surprised at how fast it goes by. Completing this in the morning forces you to engage in the activity day to day. Once you’re in the habit of recording your thoughts this way, it will allow you to write more focused and detailed entries later on and explore writing at different times of the day.

Here are some journals on Amazon if you are interested in purchasing one:

Paperage lined journal notebook with hard black cover
JoyNot A5 classic notebook with pen holder and pink cover
Twilight garden journal with blue floral cover

With all that, I hope you’ve gained a little knowledge of the benefits of this activity. Perhaps now you’ll be inspired to take it up and see how journaling can improve your life! If you already use a journal, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

If writing isn’t your thing, check out this article on my experience doing yoga for 30 days. It’s another great way to improve your mental health.