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Why Everyone Should Journal & How to Start One

I believe in the power of words.

Words have the power to inspire, abuse, comfort, insult and the power to heal. Most people seem to be aware of the potential harm and motivation words can instill in people, but they also seem to blindsided to the fact that words are a powerful tool in the journey of self-love and the process of healing.

The practice of talking or writing about what’s eating away at our brains and causing us trouble is highly underrated and swept under the rug in today’s society. Instead of being outright, we dance around topics and tell everyone we’re fine, knowing we really aren’t okay.

It’s become normal to keep everything inside our brains, and that’s not healthy. We need to talk to people about what’s going on to stay sane and keep our mind in positive places, but not everyone finds it easy to talk over things with other people.

I am one of those people. That’s why I turn to journaling.

Why Everyone Should Journal & How to Start One | College with Caitlyn

I journaled religiously in middle school, but I slowly eased out of the practice when I started high school, and by the time I started college I wasn’t doing it except maybe once a month. I hadn’t noticed how I had practically given up on journaling until a YouTuber I follow started talking about the practice. So naturally I took a trip to Target and bought three journals.

It’s been a struggle getting back into the habit of journaling. As much as I love the benefits of the practice, thinking about doing it makes me lazy. Writing takes so much effort! My classic excuse for everything. But just like as with exercise, you may dread it in the beginning, but you will never regret it afterwards. The sense of peace I get after journaling cannot come from anything else (except a good long girl talk).

The feeling you get while and after journaling really isn’t something you can comprehend until you try it out for yourself, so grab a paper and pen and let’s get you started!

How to Start a Journal

When I was younger I had quite the obsession with paper. I wanted to be an author as a child, so I thought that the more journals and notepads I had, the more that inspiration would hit me. If that’s how things worked then I would have been on the New York Times best selling books list at least five times. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that though since my name is nowhere close to being on that list. However, I feel the same thing happens with journaling. People sit holding their notebook open, but never write anything because they “have nothing to write about.”

I had troubles with this too when I was first getting back into journaling. I mean, I was excited to get in touch with my inner-self and work through the issues ailing me, but when I opened to an empty page, I didn’t know what to write. I was stumped. I had millions of thoughts swimming in my brain, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write about. I feel like that’s something everyone new to journaling struggles with, that’s why I’m going to share what got my pencil moving in hopes of inspiring your’s to get moving too!

The number one rule you have to remember is that you don’t need to think about what you’re writing, you just need to write. None of it may make sense, but neither do many of our thoughts, do they? Just write anything and everything that comes to your mind. Try not to filter anything. Take note of topics you feel uncomfortable writing about, because those are the topics bringing turmoil to your mind.

Related: I Don’t Feel like Myself Anymore: and why I see that as a good thing

The best way to start if you can’t bring yourself to write anything is to just write about what you are doing at that moment. Then from there let things flow, and you’ll eventually find a topic to run with as you continue writing.

An example would look something like this:

I’m currently sitting on my couch, typing this out. I feel really overheated because I’m cooking dinner. I made cornbread and my veggie burgers and edamame are on the stove. I keep glancing over because I’m scared the water is going to boil over. That always happens to me, and it’s embarrassing because I want to be a good cook but I get bored just watching things cook and I have other things on my mind.

Like right now I’m worried about my ear. I can’t hear out of my right ear right now. I just showered, so I’m pretty positive I have water in my ear. This has been happening a lot lately. I wonder why that is. Maybe I should Google it.

The journaling technique described above is called a free-write. I bet you didn’t think there were different kinds of journaling techniques, did you?

Free-writes and Responding to Prompts

This is my free-writing journal, or rather it’s my flexible journal. I use it for free-writes, mantra analysis and to answer random journaling prompts.

free write journal | how to start a journal

I date the top of each entry and give it a name. It could be something simple like, “Brain Dump,” or “Currently,” or it could be the prompt I’m responding to, or the mantra I’m analyzing.

free write journal | how to start a journal

I get my journaling prompts from two sources: my journaling Pinterest board and the book Let It Out by Katie Daleabout.

Mantra analysis is probably the technique you’re probably wondering the most about. A mantra is a short saying that is repeated to bring assurance, positivity and love into your day. They are usually associated with meditation and yoga, and are much more than just repeating the word “om.”

The mantras I write about come from a book called Find Your Happy: Daily Mantras by Shannon Kaiser. The books has 365 mantras along with elaborations and questions to accompany each. On days where I’m not feeling inspired to free-write, and when I want to get in touch with my inner-self, I’ll use one of the mantras and its questions as a prompt.

Letters Never to be Sent

You didn’t think I had only one journal did you?

letters never to be sent | how to start a journal

This is my notebook I use to write letters to people, but letters that I never intend to give them. This seems like a weird practice to some. I mean isn’t the whole purpose of writing a letter for the other person to read it? Well yes, but just forget about that for now.

The first time I ever heard of anyone doing this was on the Suite Life of Zack and Cody when Maddie wrote Mr. Moseby a very angry email to vent her feelings and it ended up accidentally being sent, but I’m getting off topic.

Many people use this method to vent angry feelings, that if expressed in person, would cause damage to the relationship between the two people. I’ve used this method for that reason, and after I finish the letter I usually no longer feel angry and realize my feelings were caused by something other than what the person had done to make me angry.

Other reasons I have used this method include: to write about the person to figure out how I actually feel about them (I’m a strong believer in the notion that I never know how I truly feel about something until I write it out), as a practice talk with the person I’m writing to, to “talk” to someone I’m no longer in touch with, or to talk about things I’m scared to bring up in person.

Gratitude Journal

This last one is for all the lazy people out there or those who still don’t think there’s any point in journaling.

This technique is the simplest, but the most effective if bringing happiness to your life. At least, that’s how it worked out for me.

gratitude journal | how to start a journal

I started my gratitude journal as a New Year’s resolution this year. At the end of every day, I write down everything that made me happy that day and everything I was grateful for.

Somedays your list may be shorter than others, but that’s okay. Not every day can be full of happiness and gratitude, but every day will have happiness and gratitude. That’s why I started this journal, to show myself that there really is a reason to be grateful and happy every day.

gratitude journal example | how to start a journal

Gratitude is the key to happiness. Don’t believe me? Use that paper and pen you got out to write down five things that you’re grateful for in life. Then write down everything that made you happy today. You can’t tell me you don’t feel happier now than you did before the exercise.

gratitude journal example | how to start a journal

Buying a Journal

Am I the only one who gets a rush from buying a new journal or notebook? I know I can’t be the only one!

I have six different ones. That’s not excessive right? You’ve already taken a peak into three of them. Besides one I use to keep track of my goals (not pictured in this since it’s not a journal per say), the rest of them are empty. But I thought I’d share them anyways to give you more ideas for the style of journal you might want!

more love journal | how to start a journal

I picked up this beauty from Francesca’s back in August, and I’m so excited to use it! I haven’t decided if i’m going to use it to continue my gratitude journal or my free-write journal yet, though.

how to start a journal

This is the other journal in the competition. I got it from Target back in April, but it is still available in stores!

I mostly like to journal in the evening when I’ve got some nice mood lighting, almost like I’m on a date with my journal (that single life though), but I’ve been trying to get into morning journaling recently. I just really like the idea of putting my first thoughts pf the day onto paper in the morning! Maybe it will even help with remembering my dreams! Plus, then I can drink a cup of coffee and put off getting ready and actually having to face the real world for a few moments longer.

So that’s my journaling practice! I hope I’ve inspired you to start, or get back into, journaling and helped you find something to write about!

Do you journal? What do you like to write about? Are you a night or morning journaler? Which empty journal should I use for my next free-write journal and which one should I use for writing my gratitude? Let me know in the comments below!

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