Self-care journal practices have had such an amazing impact on how well I manage my daily stress now. But, it wasn’t too long ago when I would just collect the supplies and not doing anything with them.
I have kind of a love affair with office supplies. I absolutely love new notebooks and pens and journals and planners. But, I used to have a really difficult time with consistency.
I would purchase the journal or the planner and I would use it for a week or so and then I would just stop using it for one reason or another. It wasn’t until I learned how self-care journaling practices help with mental and emotional health, that I really set an intention to use a journal every day.
This has been a major part of creating an intentional life.
I have a gratitude journal that has prompts for writing down what I’m grateful for.
The prompts began as one of the most integral self-care journal practices for me. They really helped me to make the process a habit.
I also have just a daily journal for writing out my thoughts and my feelings and how the day went
After setting my intention and using my journals consistently for the last couple of years, I have learned that more than any other self-care activity that I do, journaling is the most powerful
It leaves me feeling calm. It improves my mood. I am centered and strong after I have taken some time to journal.
But since I understand firsthand how difficult it is to stick with a journaling habit, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with you some of my knowledge tips and tricks for journaling.
I’m hoping that you walk away from this post knowing how powerful journaling is for your mental and emotional health. And how to start and consistently stick with a journaling habit.
How do I start journaling?
When I first started consistently journaling and really set an intention to do it each day, it took me a little while to learn which elements of journaling were going to help me to be consistent.
You may or may not have noticed that when you look at a journal, sometimes they are filled with completely blank pages. And, sometimes there are pages with lines. Even then, sometimes the lines are different height, maybe closer together or further apart.
There is also the size of the journal. Some are 8.5 x 11 and some are 5 x 7. And, some are hardback where others are spiral.
Not to mention, there are thousands of different pens that you can use for journaling.
Each one of these considerations contributes to whether or not you are consistent with your journaling practice.
I have found a journal that is eight and a half by 11 spiral bound with lines that are further apart is my favorite type of journal and I like to use a regular ballpoint pen.
You may decide that you want blank pages and a gel roller pin. The point is, when you’re starting out, be thoughtful about the different elements of the journaling experience and which ones appeal to you and which ones don’t. This is an important first step when implementing self-care journal practices.
If you’re going to set an intention and be consistent, the less friction there is between you and the task that you’re trying to build a habit around the better.
By friction, I mean anything that makes the activity feel like more of a chore.
So, if I had a hard covered book style journal with blank pages, that would not appeal to me. I wouldn’t be inspired to open it up and start writing.
My mind appreciates a little bit more conformity. I like the lines. They structure my sentences and keep things organized and that feels good to me.
I don’t like arguing with my journal and making it lay down, so that’s why I really like the spiral bound because it’ll lay flat on my desk and I can easily layout the pages and write.
Also, it’s important to have a general idea of what time of day you’re going to journal. Eventually, your journaling can evolve into more of a free-flowing activity.
But, when you’re first starting out, if you don’t have a specific time of day that you’re going to do it, it’s really easy to keep putting it off until you just don’t do it.
You can decide to make journaling part of your morning routine or your evening routine or something that you do on your lunch break.
But, whatever time of day it is, it’s important to pick one and make a commitment and set an intention for that time of day to be your journaling time.
If you like to look ahead at your day and kind of talk about how the day is going to go than journaling in the morning might be good for you.
If you’re someone who likes to look back at how the day went and reflect on things, then journaling at night might be better for you.
Make a commitment to write every day
The key here is to remember that you don’t have to write 75 pages. You don’t have to talk about everything that has happened in the last 24 hours.
You can set a timer on your phone and sit and write for five minutes and whatever you write down in that five minutes, that’s your journal entry for the day.
When you’re first starting to implement self-care journal practices and you’re a beginner at writing in your journal, it has to be an activity that appeals to you that inspires you. If it feels like you have to sit and write a manifesto every day, that’s not going to be something that you want to do.
So instead just set an intention to write for five minutes in the morning or in the evening
And bubble wrap that time so that it is protected and nothing else takes priority over your journaling time in that five minutes during that time of day.
Keep your thoughts free-flowing. Don’t try to write out a story with a beginning, middle, and end. And all of the punctuation and quotation. You’re not writing a book. This is just you literally brain dumping what is on your mind onto paper.
To make implementing self-care journal practices a smooth process, it shouldn’t feel like a job.
Anything that comes to mind, you should write down to help you to become aware of your thoughts. That is what makes journaling so powerful.
If you are analyzing your thoughts before you are writing them down, that’s not going to help you trust yourself and your journal and make a commitment to being honest.
The thoughts in your journal are only meant for you.
So, whatever thoughts come to mind, write them down. Don’t overthink, analyze, or question if it’s normal or not. Just write it down.
If you’re having trouble getting started on your journal writing, just describe the space that you’re in for five minutes.
Describe the colors, what things look like, what they resemble, what’s in the room or the space that you’re in.
How does your body feel sitting in the space? Does your back hurt? Do your shoulders hurt? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty?
You would be surprised how quickly five minutes go by if you’re just writing about the space that you’re in. And that’s a great way to just get this habit started because.
Eventually, you’re going to start kind of breaking those barriers down a little bit.
Then, you’ll start describing the chair that you’re sitting in and how it makes you think of when you were six years old and you sat on the Teeter totter.
Over time, you’ll start to just naturally move into a more free flow of writing.
What do you put in a self-care journal?
I have two separate journals. I have a gratitude journal that actually has prompts in it. On one side of the page, it tells a little story about the stars.
On the other side, of the page, it asks “What are you grateful for about the stars?”. And, then there are a couple of pages for me to write my answer to that question. This pattern continues throughout the journal with stories and prompts about everything under the sun.
This is the perfect setup for me because it helps me to remember that we can be grateful for the smallest things. And, it organizes the process for me so I just have to show up and write.
If you’re a more artistic type, you might like to use an art self-care journal where instead of writing you are illustrating your thoughts and feelings about how things are going and what is coming up for you.
If you need even more structure, you might think about getting a fill in the blank journal that has a lot of writing prompts in it and just gives you a specific subject to write on each day.
Again, whatever tools you need that reduce friction and barriers. So if you look at a blank page or at a page with lines and you just plain don’t know where to start, then maybe a fill-in-the-blanks is a good place for you to start.
For me, when I first started my gratitude journal, there was a lot of friction and it was hard for me to get started on it. So the writing prompts were really helpful.
Now that I’ve been doing it a while, I could very easily write in a gratitude journal without the prompts. But I enjoy the little stories. I enjoy the prompts and it actually makes me think more about the little things.
These self-care journal practices have taught me to experience gratitude on even a deeper level. And, to fully embrace the importance of gratitude in life.
The gratitude journal with the prompts continues to work for me. And when I first started it, it was just a way to break down the barriers.
How do you start writing a self-help journal?
We’ve talked about it a little bit, but there are some other tips that you can use for just getting started.
Write down your goals for the day.
If you’re someone who’s writing your journal in the morning, maybe you want to write down what your goals are for that day. You can write down goals for your nutrition, how much water you’re going to drink, your workout, for your meditation, your hypnosis, and affirmations.
There’s a lot of different things that you can write down for your goals and journaling about your goals for the day is a great way to get started.
Keep a daily log
This could include what you ate, what you thought about, how you felt, what you achieved, or how your sleep was.
Keeping a daily log is a great way to get started with journaling because you wake up in the morning and you write down what time you went to bed and what time you woke up and how many times in the night you woke up or if you slept straight through.
If you’re journaling just before you go to bed, you could keep a log of everything that you ate that day. A daily log is a great way to keep a journal and to get started with the practice.
Keep a gratitude journal
This will absolutely help with creating the habit of journaling. You can just simply write down three things that you’re grateful for each day.
That’s a simple way to get started with journaling because all of us can think of at least three things a day that we’re grateful for.
Every night before bed you can journal about what is the best thing that happened that day. What is the worst thing that happened that day? Just answering questions is a great way to start.
5 of the best self-care journal practices.
These are just a few tips for how to implement self-care journal practices in your life.
Explore your feelings.
If you’re like me and you’ve lived with anxiety for years, it is more important than anything else for you to be mindful of your feelings. If you start to feel anxious, it is highly likely that you are overthinking or your mind is racing.
You’re stressed out, you’re worried about something, you’re obsessing about something. Your thoughts influence your feelings and your feelings influence your behaviors.
So, journaling can be extremely powerful because it can make you aware of your thoughts and feelings by giving you a space to explore them.
It’s important not to disregard these feelings and explain them away.
Instead, take a minute to just journal about how you feel and about what’s on your mind and what your thoughts are. This seemingly simple task can dramatically help your emotional and mental health according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Just sit down and ask, how do I feel right now?
And be really, really honest about how you feel. It’s okay to say, “I feel like shit and I don’t know why” and then go from there. You can also ask yourself, what triggered me?
Typically the answer to that question is going to go back to maybe a specific situation, conversation or experience that you’ve had that is causing you some stress and anxiety.
You can ask yourself, “why did it trigger me”? Did I feel disrespected? Judged? Did I feel lonely? Ignored? Did I feel like I couldn’t be honest? Or, did I not communicate honestly about how I was feeling and what was happening for me in that situation at that time?
Really exploring your feelings with journaling will dramatically help reduce anxiety and reduce stress. You can clear your mind.
Silence and calm and active or overactive mind.
Being able to silence an overactive mind brings a level of strength and reassurance that is difficult to describe. When I first realized that I could calm my mind and reduce my anxiety, I felt like Thor. Like I was superhuman.
It was the most empowering and amazing feeling. Journaling helped me get there because it gave me a platform and a safe space to take everything out of my mind and put it into my journal.
After I do a simple brain dump I feel relieved and peaceful. I’m a complete data nerd, so writing in my journal gives me some data to analyze, which helps me to understand what I’ve been thinking about, what I’ve been feeling, what has triggered me, and how I can manage a situation better in the future.
I try really hard not to have negative self-talk or negative thoughts. But, when I have anxiety it makes me feel vulnerable and weak. And so the daily habit of journaling helps me to work through those feelings of vulnerability and weakness so that I recognize them as a gift.
Suddenly, I am appreciative of them rather than beating myself up about having them in the first place. Anxiety or stress or overthinking, none of that means that you are incapable or weak or broken.
They’re literally just signals from your mind and your body letting you know it’s time to practice a little bit of self-care. And that’s why journaling for self-care is crucial.
Write out your dreams.
Your journal is a great place to write down your dreams and discover what your best life looks like from the perspective of your heart and soul.
If you are quietly dreaming and not ever sharing those dreams or allowing them to see the light of day, that’s a sure-fire way to make sure they never come true.
But if you write them down in your journal, suddenly they have a little bit of momentum because they’ve made their way out of your mind and into the real world.
Even if they stay in your journal for the next three years, just getting them out of your mind is the biggest and most difficult step.
Using your journal as a platform for sharing your dreams automatically propels your life in a completely different direction.
Use writing prompts like, “What would my life look like if I wasn’t afraid?” Or, “How would I change my life if I knew I couldn’t fail?”
These can be very liberating and can immediately start a free-flowing journal session all about big dreams and big goals and having faith that they could all actually happen.