Tips for Improving Your Journaling Practice in the New Year
In a previous blog, we talked about setting New Year’s Resolutions. A common goal for the New Year is to start journaling, but why?
Studied by the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help you manage stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression, and can even help strengthen your immune system. Writing down your thoughts may help you understand why you feel the way you feel, and can even help you problem-solve independently! Still, we may find it difficult to journal for different reasons; maybe you can not find a journal, or perhaps it is hard for you to sit with your thoughts. Journaling does not have to be hard, here are some tips to help you improve your journaling practice.
- Pick the journal that is right for you. There are many journals on the market for the different styles of journaling people enjoy. You could use a regular notebook, or you could grab a journal from any store that sells stationery items. Some journals come with a different question on each page to inspire you, and some come blank. If you struggle with writing about a specific thing or thought, maybe try a gratitude journal. This style of journaling can be as easy as writing three things you are grateful for every evening before bed.
- Build a routine. Creating a routine will help you remember to journal each day, but will also allow you to see the positive effects journaling may have on your life. Journaling before bed may help you fall asleep easier, or journaling in the morning may help you start off the day feeling positive.
- Find ways to work through negative emotions that come up during journaling. While journaling is helpful in many ways, it can also have a negative effect if it keeps you stuck inside of your head for too long, or becomes a method of placing blame without finding solutions. When you are journaling your thoughts, look at them objectively. See if you can identify any cognitive distortions; judgments or thoughts that are not based on the facts of a situation.
- Try to end each entry on a positive note. We can only control our own emotions and behaviors, which is sometimes hard to accept. After writing about something you are struggling with, try asking yourself some reflection questions. What have you learned from this experience? Can you think of any way to cope with the situation if it comes up again? Are you able to see the problem from the perspective of others involved? Make sure to remind yourself that taking time to journal and reflect on your thoughts and emotions is an act of self-care: you should be proud of yourself!
Journaling can also serve as a communication tool between you and whoever you wish to share an entry or two with. If you struggle to share your feelings with your friends and family, maybe you could share with them an entry or two that you would like them to read. If you are currently in therapy sharing your journal with your therapist can help you both to identify patterns in your thoughts and behaviors.
What kinds of journaling experiences have you had? What challenges have you encountered, and how did you approach them? Share your experiences, stories, and strategies in the comments.