Make it work for you

As a writer, I’m often gifted journals. I’m also a total sucker for beautiful notebooks and can spend way too long perusing the paper section at Target. That means I’m the owner of a thick stack of pretty journals, just waiting to be filled with scribbles. But I have a confession:

I’m not much of a journaler.

It’s always sounded dreamy, and I love picturing myself as a regular journal writer. But I’ve struggled to keep the habit up. The reasons are plentiful.

For starters, there’s the issue of timing. In the mornings, I’m usually running around with chores before the house—and my day—are ransacked by two toddlers. By the end of the day, I’m exhausted and I usually just want to open up a book or zone out watching a Netflix documentary (Homecoming, anyone?!). Secondly, I often feel like my creative juices are spent on my work, which is writing, meaning I don’t have much left in me. Lastly, and most importantly . . . I don’t know what to write! Do I just Dear Diary my day? Am I supposed to provide detailed times of things? Am I writing more about what I did, or what I felt about it? How is journaling even supposed to work?! I usually end up staring at a blank journal page, doodling for a second, and then casting it aside.

I would just give up on trying to become a journaler, but the benefits of it speak for themselves. 

According to the American Psychological Association, “expressive writing reduces intrusive and avoidant thoughts about negative events and improves working memory. These improvements, researchers believe, may, in turn, free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities, including our ability to cope more effectively with stress.” Journaling, especially in today’s ever-connected world, can help you take a step back, shut off the screens, and really digest where you are in life at this current moment in time. I always feel better after I do it, even if making myself sit down can feel like a chore. There’s also nothing better than flipping back through old journals and reminding yourself what you were going through at a certain moment in time. Keeping a record for yourself is the best way to reflect on how far you’ve come.

So here’s what I’ve decided: when it comes to journaling, let’s throw out the rules. You don’t need to do it every day. You don’t need to follow any specific format. You don’t need to record the minute details of your day. You don’t even need a pretty journal—although, in my non-scientific opinion, it definitely helps! All you need to do is commit to ten minutes and pick up a pencil. If this non-journaler can begin the habit, anyone can.

Still feel like you have no idea what to write? That’s where prompts come in. 

Journaling prompts can be helpful for those of us who dread staring at a blank page. However, a lot of the typical "what you did today" prompts feel a bit stale to me. I simply have no desire to do a breakdown of my day, which so often involves dull activities like checking email or handing my kids fruit snacks. I want to embrace creativity within my journaling and really dig deep into my thoughts and emotions.

If you’re like me, it can sometimes require a bit of outside-the-box thinking to have an effective journaling session. Here are ten journaling prompts to help all of us who struggle to journal find the creative juices we need.

  • If you could change one thing about what happened today, what would it be?
  • How would the best version of yourself have handled the day?
  • What are three things you hope will happen tomorrow and why?
  • If you could talk to anyone in the world right now, who would you call?
  • Who are three people you’re particularly thankful for at this minute?
  • How were you kind to yourself today?
  • Which room in your house is your favorite and why?
  • If money and time were no object, what would you do tomorrow?
  • In what way did you serve others today?
  • What is something nobody knows about you?

Remember, journaling doesn’t have to look a certain way. You can do it in a way that works for you and makes you feel your best. If these prompts still aren’t floating your boat, throw them out and write your own.

The only way to journal wrong is to not journal at all. Light a candle, pour a glass of wine or make a cup of tea, and get to writing!