I’ve kept a journal since I was 6 years old.
That’s 28 years of writing down my feelings, thoughts and experiences.
Through the years, I have come to learn that how you journal had to be personal.
I have tried different methods and come to a good rhythm for what works best for my personality type. Here are a few of the different ways I have learned about or experienced journaling.
Ask Yourself a Question
It’s the end of the day and your brain is full. Instead of dumping all your thoughts out onto a journal page - because maybe you’re just too exhausted anyway - write down one question on the page. This question is to you and from you and can be anything. The next day, use the page space to answer the question. End that entry with another question to be answered the following day.
And so forth.
The Audio Journal
This is an especially great tool if you are someone who has been told you need to improve your communication skills. Poor communication is really just a childhood habit that can be broken with practice. Being told to “be quiet” too much growing up instills the idea that what you have to say is not important, that you cannot state it properly or that no one needs to hear it. Toss that whole mentality in the trash.
Pick up your phone, pop in some ear buds and open your voice memo app. Fine a quiet, relatively quiet space. I like to record while I’m walking back home after dropping my son at school. Do this daily or however often you can. Listen to your recordings once a week.
There’s An App For That
If you need to ease yourself into the idea of journaling, try downloading an app. I have used apps in the past to micro-journal about my emotional patterns or about the patterns in my relationships. My favorite is the Day One Journal which kind of combines the ease of Instagram with daily journaling. I love that apps allow you to set a reminder so that you get prompted to check in. I urge you to commit to this reminder and get into the habit of dropping everything for a few minutes to check in with yourself.
It can change the entire pace of your day.
Co-journaling is something that I have not yet tried, but am going to be starting with my son’s father. In order to keep a complete record of my son’s life, ups and downs and various growing pains we’ll be passing a simple comp book journal between our households with our son as the mule. Each section of time that we have our son, we’ll be writing a small paragraph (or more) about what his time at our homes was like, what challenges came up and how we handled them. This could be done between co-parents, between friends who are experience similar things together (i.e. break ups, first year out of college) and it can also be a great way for long distance loves to stay connected in a truly tangible way.
We’re not all writers, and that makes journaling feel like homework. If you’re more of a doodler, then put your pen skills to use and simply draw out how you feel. Doodle an emotion or draw a quick scene of the most challenging part of your day or week. Use shapes and colors to represent your mood instead of words. You can use symbols or word association or anything that feels natural and comes with ease.
I am an occasional doodler and have, from time to time, switched back and forth between writing dialog to doodling a picture and back again. This is a completely safe space for you to express yourself however it flows.
You don’t have to feel beholden to the daily rhythm of journaling. I think the reason why the idea of a new year’s or birthday resolution excites us so much is because we recognize the release that comes in writing down our ambitions, fears or goals. So, instead of a couple year’s worth of resolutions listed somewhere on your Mac, write a full, robust annal journal entry. This can be something you do along with daily journaling as well.
Try a week/week journal if that fits you better.
Who says journaling has to be warm and fluffy? You can also journal by creating a chart and formatting your various emotions as points of data. Create a scoring system and check in every day to how you’re feeling each day. Over time you might see a pattern in your mood swings. Maybe they come the second week of every month or anytime there is a quarterly review at work. Journaling is also about finding and recognizing patterns in ourselves, this is how we get to know ourselves and learn how to care for number one.
If creating a report doesn’t appeal to you, try Reflectly an app that allows you to see data around your various ups and downs.
An obvious creative cousin to the audio journal, but definitely serves a slightly different purpose. Video journaling allows you to see how you’ve changed through the years. How did you look when you were truly happy, how did you look when you were stressed? Finding comfort with our physical form and how we move and express ourselves is a part of learning how to communicate better.
I started a video journal towards the end of my pregnancy and tracked all the way up through the newborn experience. Seeing how my body changed, how strong I was when I was pregnant, those first few weeks of my son’s existence - its something I’m really happy I have. If flipping open your laptop or turning on your selfie camera are things that feel right to you, then video journaling is probably the move.
Rap To Your Mirror Bitch
If all else fails, start here. Talk to yourself in the mirror and do it out loud like Issa Rae. My favorite thing to say in the mirror is “I forgive you” because self-forgiveness is something I preach to the high heavens. I think women especially tend to harbor a lot of guilt that shows up in our lives in different ways. It can be why we’re so hard on ourselves or others; it can be the reason we have a hard time committing to things. So every day I look myself in the eye and I say those words and maybe a few more and at least I know I’ve made peace with myself and loved myself a little.