Simple Steps

#4 – Keep a journal

This Simple Step is about kindness to yourself, it is about making yourself feel better, improving your mental health, inspiring you to make your everyday life better. And it is a simple change that you can make to your daily routine to switch the focus onto the positive. This Simple Step is about journalling or keeping a diary.

Keeping a journal has been shown to massively improve people’s well-being and it is so easy to do. All you need is a pen and some paper. If you like, you can treat yourself to a fancy journal (I love these notebooks from the Rifle Paper Company) and pen, but a simple sheet of paper and biro will do the job just as well.

Rifle Paper Company notebooks
Gorgeous Rifle Paper Company notebooks


The key to journalling:

The most important thing is to make journalling a key part of your daily routine. Do it every day. Create a habit. And stick to it. Then you will reap the benefits, of which there are many (more on that below).


When should I journal?

For many, the best time to journal will be when you first wake up – it gives you chance to set the tone for the day. You can write about your dreams, about what you want to achieve in the day ahead, you can note down five things that you are grateful for, or you can simply write whatever comes into your head.

If you have young children, it may be hard to carve any time to yourself into your morning routine. Our kids are our alarm clocks at the moment. Setting my alarm earlier would just make them wake up earlier. So, for now, I am enjoying the morning cuddles and delaying my journalling until bedtime. If this is the same for you, no biggie. Journalling before bed has a slightly different tone – it is more about reflecting on the day and processing things that happened. But you can still write down five things you are grateful for and you can still look ahead to the next day and set some good intentions. In other words, it is still highly beneficial.


Some of the benefits of keeping a journal

So what are the benefits of journalling on daily basis?

Life is busy and it is all too easy to spend a whole day without taking any time at all to reflect. We wake up, check social media on our phones, turn on the news or the radio, rush around to get to school and/or work on time and then spend the next however many ours immersed in our daily lives – meeting deadlines, answering the phone, responding to colleagues and customers. By the time we get home and have had dinner, all we want to do is shut down and switch off – watch some TV and then go to bed. We wake up the next morning and we go again.

I probably don’t need to tell you that there is a better way to live. Gifting ourselves some me time is so important and journalling is a great way to carve this time for yourself into your everyday routine.


1. When you journal you are forced to express yourself

– whether it is conscious thoughts that you quite intentionally want to get out on paper or simply a stream of consciousness. The results can be extremely enlightening. They can reveal solutions to problems, they can help you to prioritise what is important, they can simply help you process and deal with any issues you may currently be facing.


2. When you journal you are forced to think about you

there is no-one there to tell you what to write, you are dancing to your own tune. We spend our days following the instructions of others, chasing timetables that we don’t set, being overwhelmed with information and opinions from every angle. There is so much information at our fingertips that it can be hard to work out what you actually think. We are losing the ability to think critically and objectively. Writing down your thoughts each day can help you to form your own opinions and to process information, rather than just absorbing it all like a sponge without any critical analysis.


3. When you journal you are providing space for your creativity

– I believe that we are all creative beings, but how often do we get the chance to actually be creative? Children spend their days playing and expressing themselves. As adults, we rarely have time to play – to do something just for the sake of doing it, with no end goal in mind. By writing daily, you give yourself a daily window to be creative. To let your mind run wild and to be open to your own ideas. You may find you are struck by moments of inspiration – to do things that you have always wanted to but never quite got round to doing. You may discover parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed. Journalling is a great way to get to know yourself properly. To truly listen. To give yourself time to be you. This can have a massive impact on how you then live your life.


4. When you journal you can set intentions

– this is especially true if you journal first thing in the morning but it also applies to the bedtime journallers amongst us. If you start the day writing a journal, you can set the tone for the day. You can write down what you want to achieve that day. And this is more powerful than you might think. Simply taking the time to identify what you want to achieve can do great things – not only does it actually give you the chance to work out what you want to get out of the day, it allows you to set clear intentions. It is all too easy to just coast through the day, reacting rather than taking control yourself and shaping the day to suit your own agenda. This is your life. Even if you are working long hours. It is a whole day in your life and it is up to you to make it as good as it can be. Don’t sleepwalk through it – set clear intentions and stick to them. You will be amazed by the impact it has.
If you are journalling before bedtime, you can still set intentions for the next day. You can even reread these over breakfast or, if your children are anything like mine and the only peace you get is when in the bathroom, reread them on the loo!


5. When you journal you can show gratitude

showing gratitude really makes you appreciate what you have. We are constantly bombarded with adverts and encouraged to want more, to buy more things, to be better people, whatever that means. How often do we take the time to think about how lucky we are? If you are reading this and you are in a position to integrate journalling into your life, then there will be at least something you can be grateful for. Try and think of five things and start your journalling session with a list of five things that you are grateful for. For some, this is sufficient – there is no need to write anything else. But even if you are the type who likes to write more, starting by showing gratitude can be very powerful. You will spend the day noticing all the things that you should be grateful for that you don’t normally appreciate. This simple practice has the potential to completely change the way your day goes.


6. When you journal you can change your mood

– maybe you’ve had a really bad night’s sleep and you’ve woken up in a stink. Maybe you’ve had a hideous day, a big argument or are just feeling really stressed or anxious. Journalling can really help you to process these emotions and to reboot your system. Get it all out on paper. It doesn’t matter what you write – no one will ever read it unless you want them to – just write. I can guarantee that your mind will feel clearer afterwards.


How to journal?

I love writing and journalling has always felt very natural to me. But I appreciate that there are lots of people who don’t enjoy writing or who have simply never really done it. This can put a lot of people off the idea of journalling. The good news is that you don’t have to be able to write well or even to enjoy writing to journal.

There are many different types of journalling – from writing a stream of consciousness (i.e. just writing what comes into your head without thinking) to writing a list of things to be grateful for to writing a bulleted list of how you feel in that particular moment to drawing a spider diagram with what you want to achieve for the day.

Choose what works best for you. And don’t feel like you have to do the same thing each day. Some days you will have more to say than others. On the quieter days, just write a small list – of things to be grateful for, of positive things that you done in that day, of three things you want to do tomorrow. Don’t be scared to just write something. No-one is judging here. This is play – it is about the process not the end result.

The most important thing is to write something. Make journalling a part of your daily routine. Gift yourself five minutes. It will do you the world of good.

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If you have been inspired by this post or just want to read more about keeping a journal, I would highly recommend taking a look at this fabulous article by Gayle Johnson: How to Use Journaling When You’re Feeling Lost.

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