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The Benefits of Journaling: How to Get Started

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Updated February 22, 2012

The Benefits of Journaling: How to Get Started

Journaling can provide an easy route to stress relief.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com
The benefits of journaling have been scientifically proven. Journaling can be an effective tool for stress management and personal growth. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 10-20 Minutes a Day

Here's How:

  1. Buy a Journal This seems like the obvious first step. However, what kind of a journal you purchase is important. You can choose from the most beautiful blank books you can find, to a more functional notebook, to your computer. If you go with the blank book option, you can decide between lined or blank pages, with a variety of pens. Use your book to reflect your creativity, or go with functionality first. It’s all up to you and your tastes.
  2. Set Aside Time One of the most difficult aspects of journaling is not the journaling itself, but finding time to write. It’s important to block off about twenty minutes each day to write. Many people prefer to write in the morning as a way to start their day, or before bed, as a way to reflect upon and process the day’s events. However, if your lunch break or some other time is the only window you have, take the time whenever you can get it!
  3. Begin Writing Don’t think about what to say; just begin writing, and the words should come. If really need some help getting started, here are some topics to begin the process:
    • Your dreams
    • Your possible purpose in life
    • Your childhood memories and surrounding feelings
    • Where you’d like to be in two years
    • The best and worst days of your life
    • If you could have three wishes…
    • What was important to you five years ago, and what’s important to you now
    • What are you grateful for?
  4. Write About Thoughts and Feelings As you write, don’t just vent negative emotions or catalog events; write about your feelings, but also your thoughts surrounding emotional events. (Research shows much greater benefits from journaling when participants write about emotional issues from a mental and emotional framework.) Relive events emotionally, and try to construct solutions and ‘find the lesson’. Using both aspects of yourself helps you process the event and find solutions to problems.
  5. Keep Your Journal Private If you’re worried that someone else may read your journal, you’re much more likely to self-censor, and you won’t achieve the same benefits from writing. To prevent the worry and maximize journaling effectiveness, you can either get a book that locks or keep your book in a locked or very hidden place. If using a computer, you can password-protect your journal so you’ll feel safe when you write.

Tips:

  1. Try to write each day.
  2. Writing for at least 20 minutes is ideal, but if you only have 5 minutes, write for 5.
  3. If you skip a day or 3, just keep writing when you can.
  4. Don’t worry about neatness or even grammar. Just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper is more important than perfection.
  5. Try not to self-censor; let go of ‘shoulds’, and just write what comes.

    You may also want to try a gratitude journal, a coincidence journal, or a goal-setting journal.

What You Need

  • A journal and pen or a computer
  • A few minutes of quiet privacy each day
  • That’s it!
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