Reviewed By Cara Swanston - Registered Member MBACP Adv. Dip.
Journaling, not sure where to start?
19 January 2024
You can write a novel, jot down a few bullet points, or even sketch your thoughts. It's your space to be as creative or straightforward as you want.
If you've not tried journaling before as a practice, we understand you might just think it's like having a conversation with yourself, what's the point? BUT, there are tonnes of benefits to journaling!
Why start? Journaling lets you track your growth, celebrate the wins, and navigate the bumps in the road. It's a judgement-free zone where you can be 100% you. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Pour it onto the pages.
It’s a safe space to untangle your thoughts and feelings. You'd be surprised at how therapeutic it can be. Plus, it's a fantastic way to spot patterns in your emotions and behaviours.
An anonymous Find Help NI user Joined the Conversation to share their experience with journaling:
“You have heard of the expressions, "you drive yourself crazy" and "don't drive yourself crazy."
There was a time I was an expert, a grand master, at driving myself crazy - living in a world on my own creation, suffering in silence from self-inflicted mental turmoil and torture. My mind, at times, uncontrollable, a whirlwind of madness - as I created conflicts that didn't exist, conversations that never happened, fears that were imaginary, uncertainties that were illusionary.
I was on a cycle of therapy, medications and mental frenzy overload - a roundabout exhaustion in search of an exit, an escape. Then one day I decided to start a journal, to write down what I was going through on a daily basis - and being brutally honest about the devastating conflicts that were taking place within my mind, and the turmoil and torture those thoughts created.
Did it help? Not at first, but I kept writing, day after day - a required rigid regiment in my life.
Gradually, I began to improve, becoming more aware of the self-destruction of my thoughts as I saw them written on the page. In time I was better able to control these thoughts and was able to recognize when my mind was about to take flight on a trip I didn't want to take.
So, take pen in hand - one word after another will take you on a journey, an adventure - destination unknown.”
Maintaining a journal provides a sense of structure when everything around you seems chaotic. Through it, you unveil your innermost fears, thoughts, and feelings, getting to understand yourself better. Consider your journaling moments as your personal unwind time—a dedicated period to relax and let go of stress.
First, Let's talk about some of the common challenges
Embarking on journaling can be a wonderful journey, but it's not uncommon to face hurdles along the way. Let's address a few before we go over some journaling prompts because it's good to be aware of these, before they arise.
- Perfectionism: Feeling the pressure for perfect prose? Journaling is a judgement-free zone. Forget perfection; it's all about expressing yourself authentically and embracing imperfections.
- Lack of Time: Life's hectic, we get it. The beauty of journaling lies in its flexibility. Even a few minutes here and there can weave its magic.
- Uncertainty of Where to Start: No idea what to write? Let the prompts below guide you or simply let your thoughts flow freely. There are no rules.
- Fear of Confronting Emotions: Scared of diving into deep emotions? Journaling offers a safe space to explore and process, fostering emotional awareness and self-understanding. If journaling starts to bring up emotions that do feel overwhelming be sure to reach out for support in the moment via a helpline, or find a professional that can support you.
- Scepticism about Effectiveness: Doubting the impact? Numerous studies vouch for journaling's positive effects on mental health—try it to believe it.
- Inconsistency: Struggling with consistency? Set realistic goals, make it a personal ritual, and enjoy the journey.
- Perceived Lack of Writing Skills: Think your writing skills aren't good enough? Remember, journaling isn't about grammar; it's your personal reflection. Try doodling, mind maps, free writing, it doesn't matter what it looks like, or how it reads, just get your thoughts down on the page in a way that feels right for you.
10 Journaling Prompts to try when you aren't sure where to start
Journaling prompts can be a great way to kickstart a reflective practice if you aren't sure where to start or if you feel need a little direction to get you started. Here are 10 prompts aimed at fostering gratitude, peace, self-understanding, and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression:
1. Gratitude Journaling:
- List three things you're grateful for today and reflect on why they bring you joy.
- Write about a person or experience that you appreciate and how it has positively impacted your life.
- Consider a challenge you're facing. What are three aspects of it that you can find something positive or meaningful in?
2. Mindfulness and Peace:
- Describe a moment today when you felt completely at peace. What were you doing, and how can you incorporate more of that into your life?
- Take a few minutes to write about your surroundings right now. What do you see, hear, and feel? Practice being fully present in this moment.
- Explore a recent decision you made. What factors influenced your choice, and how do you feel about the outcome?
- Write about a challenge you overcame in the past. What strengths and skills did you discover about yourself during that time?
4. Stress and Anxiety Reduction:
- Identify a current source of stress or anxiety. Break it down into smaller components and explore practical steps you can take to address each one.
- Write about an activity or hobby that brings you joy and relaxation. How can you incorporate more of this into your routine, even in small doses?
5. Positive Affirmations:
- List three positive qualities about yourself that you appreciate. How can you emphasise and cultivate these qualities in your daily life?
- Write a letter to yourself, acknowledging your strengths and expressing self-compassion. Read it back when you need a boost.
6. Daily Reflection:
- Reflect on your day, noting one thing that went well and one challenge you faced. What did you learn from each experience?
- Consider a mistake or setback you encountered recently. How can you reframe it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure?
7. Goals and Aspirations:
- Describe a personal goal you have. What small steps can you take today to move closer to achieving it?
- Write about a skill or hobby you've always wanted to explore. How can you incorporate a small aspect of it into your week?
Remember, the goal of journaling is personal exploration and self-discovery. There are no right or wrong answers, and it's entirely about what feels meaningful to you in the moment. Feel free to adapt these prompts to suit your preferences and needs.
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