Demystifying Journaling and 7 Proven Methods to get You Started in the Write Direction

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I have experienced many people over the years share comments with me like “I am just not the journaling type,” or even “I’ve tried to journal, but I can’t keep the habit going,” or still better yet, “Every night I try to journal, but I end up falling asleep… book and pen in hand!” I am sure that most everyone who has attempted to create a pattern of journaling in their rhythm of life has had similar thoughts at some point. The truth is, journaling is not as scary as it may seem, it has tremendous benefits for personal growth and development, and with some very practical effort, you can join countless others by successfully creating a pattern of journaling.

Demystifying Journaling and 7 Proven Methods to get You Started in the Write Direction

  1. Journaling is writing down the thoughts you DO have. It is critical to start here in this discussion, as so many people wrongfully assume that journaling requires them to “come up with things to write down.” Journaling is not writing down the thoughts you do not currently posses, there is a habit for that brain-stretching practice (which falls more along the creative writing lines), but that is not what beginning journaling looks like. Journaling is simply writing down what you have been thinking, pondering, or considering. What has been on your mind lately? That is what you should write down. You don’t have to force your mind to think about stuff, it does that automatically because God made you a brilliant human being. Just write down what has been on your mind lately.
  2. Your journal is only for YOU to read. Enjoy the freedom that comes with the fact that you don’t have anyone to impress, or prove how smart and clever you are to, or even worse… have to turn your journal in to for a grade. Just enjoy writing down your thoughts for your benefit.
  3. Journaling is highly related to your calendar. As you sit down to begin writing in your journal, it is quite helpful to have your calendar nearby. Much of what you naturally think about is closely connected to the experiences you have. A quick stroll (or scroll) through your calendar is a sure fire way to stir up subjects you have been thinking about. Who did you spend time with? Where did you go? What have you been up to lately? Your calendar is like the ultimate journaling cheat sheet.
  4. Journaling transforms thoughts into places of personal growth. Often, what comes up in your journaling, will be subjects that are currently unsettled in your mind. Journaling provides a tool to take those restless subjects and work  through them. Every subject that is bugging you probably has at least three parts that need to be investigated: 1) my part in the situation, 2) the part of others, and 3) the action steps I should take next. Filtering those wandering thoughts through this filter is super helpful in finding some mental peace so you can rest well at night. Start journaling and begin taking the action steps that will move your life forward.
  5. Journaling can happen at any time of the day. Not an early riser? Can’t seem to stay up at night? Not to worry, journaling can happen successfully at anytime during your day (or night). In fact, the most effective time to journal is probably when you are already looking back or planning ahead with your schedule. Remember, journaling is tightly associated with your calendar, so pairing journaling with an already formed habit increases your likelihood to be successful.
  6. Journaling creates a well of available resources for you to draw from at a later time. As shown in the picture above, we’ve been at it for awhile now, and the results have been very beneficial. For the purpose of brevity it will suffice to say that journaling has strongly impacted our marriage, parenting, schedules, routines, character, careers, and most importantly, our personal growth and development as followers of Jesus Christ. Taking a tour back through your journal is an excellent way to examine up close the progress you are making as an individual. In fact, journaling can help you build your relationship with God as you process your thoughts with Him.

    Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

  7. Journaling is an excellent tool to partner with what you are already reading, watching, or learning. This takes journaling one step beyond the initial effort of writing down your own thoughts. Using a journal to interact with the thoughts of others is a great way to solidify the learning experience. This works for students, for professionals, for readers, and for viewers. Just keep your journal nearby to quickly jot down what grabs you from the content you are interacting with.

Begin applying any of these seven methods (or all of them) and we are confident you will experience some positive growth in your journaling experience. To help get you started with some simple tools, here are some of our favorites:


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