So - you've read about the benefits of journaling. You've bought a journal that inspires you, and one of those nice heavy pens. You have everything you need to journal regularly... But you're just not doing it. This is one of the most common journaling qualms we encounter. Starting a new habit is always challenging, and journaling can seem particularly daunting because it's a vulnerable process.
Here are some tips for starting and maintaing a journaling habit:
Don't put too much pressure on yourself
Lots of people avoid writing in their journals because they have set the bar too high. Maybe you expect yourself to write for an hour every day. Maybe you expect each journal entry to read like a novel. Maybe you think that everything you write needs to be insightful. Journaling is a free process - there is no word limit, no set topic (unless you want one), and there's no rules. When you first start out, set the bar intentionally low - aim to write just one sentence a day. If you're not sure what to write, just put down "I'm journaling right now. I don't know what to write about". Something - anything - is better than nothing, because it establishes routine. As you build the habit of picking up your journal each day and writing something down, new thoughts, ideas and words will start to flow.
Ritualise your journaling habit
Habits are often environmentally triggered. For example, you get up when your alarm goes off. You turn on the light when you walk into the bathroom. You scroll the news while you eat your toast. You drink tea when you settle down to watch a TV show. You need to find a place in your current routine where you can slot journaling in - anchor it to a particular time or activity. Maybe you journal as soon as you get into bed at night. Or, maybe you journal while you drink your morning coffee. Attach journaling to something else.
You can also use emotional triggers. Journaling can be a reaction to feeling a certain way - perhaps you write in your journal every time you feel overwhelmed. Or anxious. Or grateful. Build a reactive habit - ideally one that is triggered by positive as well as negative emotions.
Create a path of least resistance
Make sure that your journal and pen are always easy to access. Carry it around in your handbag while you're out, and put it in a visible place when you get home. Humans like to take the path of least resistance. If you make grabbing your journal as barrier-free as possible, you're more likely to do it.
Use habit-building methods
There are great tools out there that are designed to help you build habits. You can use habit tracking apps, set alarms and reminders in your phone, or even try out the 'Seinfeld' method (Jerry credits much of his success to this method - get a big, one-page annual calendar and stick it on the wall. Every time you journal, put a little X on the date. Your job is to keep the chain of X's going for as long as you can).
Start a nightly gratitude practice
Sometimes journaling feels overwhelming because we don't know what to write about. A great place to start is a nightly gratitude practice. We've written about a simple 3-step process in another blog - you can check it out here.
If you have any insights into maintaing a journaling routine, we'd love to hear them. Also, if you have any journaling concerns or questions, please reach out.