Cover image by People I’ve Loved
I’ve been telling myself for the past several years that I need to journal more. I always approach the new year with this intention, but I very rarely follow through on it. It can be hard to find the time to fit journaling in the pockets of free time in your every day life.
But I wanted to make sure that this didn’t slip between the cracks this year. So I set a goal to journal every single day for the month of January. And I feel so much stronger as a person because of it.
Here’s what I learned.
It’s like free therapy
Admittedly, I’ve put off finding a new therapist after a terrible experience with my last few. And although this is by no means a replacement, it did help to provide some reprieve in the meantime.
Since I had to find something to write down every single day, it forced me to be a lot more in tune with myself. Some days, it’s super hard to think of what to write, especially if you didn’t really do much that day, so it forces you to look inward. And that can put you face-to-face with some major realizations about yourself.
Part of this realization process can be seeing themes emerge. There are quite a few things that I didn’t even realize were such a constant on my mind until I found myself writing about them over and over again. They became threads that I was invested into unraveling.
And the last point on the pseudo-therapy front: this was just a really healthy outlet to unload my stress or other negative feelings (especially since I was doing dry January, so a glass of wine was out of the question). If I had a particularly hard day, I actually looked forward to unloading it all in my journal.
It was a confidence boost
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I never followed through on my intention to journal more before. It was always pushed to the side for something else.
So this 31 day challenge just made me feel really fkng good about myself and proud that I showed up every single day. It just feels good to check off a goal that you set for yourself.
Another confidence-boosting aspect of this journaling challenge was that I was given a vehicle to acknowledge all of my wins and accomplishments every day. I didn’t always have one, but many of the days, this gave me the opportunity to give myself a little pat on the back.
I sought out gratitude and fun lil call-outs more often
The hardest thing, at first, about journaling every day is deciding what TF to write about. A lot of us aren’t naturally on the lookout for honorable mentions every day.
Having a journal is almost like a personal version of telling your parents what your “peaks and valleys” of each day were at the dinner table. As an adult, no one is really asking me that. So having this journaling habit was extremely helpful in just making me more mindful of the things around me every day.
And what I realized is I have a lot more to be grateful for than I thought. Even despite 2024 being a little bit more of a shit show than any of use anticipated. I’m finding myself on the lookout for all of these cool little things that I want to write down in my journal later.
Even though I don’t use the journal as a “gratitude journal” specifically and instead use it as a catch-all for all of the random thoughts in my head, I’m often gravitating towards the good things that happen to me in my day.
I have more creative writing ideas!
This one is a little more specific to me, since I’m actively trying to write creatively more often this year, but I think it could apply to anyone who is focused on generating new ideas for their creative practice.
Since I journal in more of a stream-of-consciouness style, my thoughts will often wander off to some random places. What could start out as the recounting of some weird thing that happened in my day can evolve into a new idea for a character, or a plot point, or an entire novel.
Let’s just say the writing ideas page in my notion system has never gotten more action than it has this month.
So… what’s my trick to journaling more often?
Although I’m scared of sounding like a broken record: journaling every day is not an easy habit to create at first. It takes dedication, planning, and patience. But that being said, I did learn a few tricks along the way that I think could help you out.
Write like no one’s going to read it (because they won’t)
I heard someone say this on a tiktok, and I really wish I would’ve saved the video to give her credit, because it really helped me approach journaling much more openly.
Before, I felt like I had to edit myself a lot when I journaled, with a very linear thought process, perfectly written prose, and all tied up with a pretty bow. But then you think about it and realize there’s no reason.
Sometimes, our minds are a mess and the hamster is running on that little wheel in our mind extra chaotically. It doesn’t make sense to try to organize this.
So this month, I just totally went with the flow. Sometimes that means going on an unhinged rant about something. Writing about something and then (mid sentence) writing “I actually don’t want to talk about this.” Sometimes I wrote just a few sentences for the day that said “today was really draining and all I want to do is lay in bed and watch movies.
There is truly no one policing how you journal, and once you realize that, you can really tap into the full potential of journaling.
My January challenge to journal every day was my version of game-ifying it. If I set a challenge to check off a certain amount of boxes, I’m much more likely to do it.
This isn’t necessarily a long-term solution, but it’s super helpful to establish a habit.
I think the platform you use to journal also really helps here. Sure, you could just write in a notebook, but when you use a digital tool (I love Day One), it can show you your current streak to keep you motivated. It also gives you the opportunity to review at the end of the year and search through the pictures you attached, the words you mentioned most, the locations in which you journaled.
So I guess a sub-point of this would be to use Day One. I truly wouldn’t have been able to make it through this January journal challenge without it.
Use journal prompts
Many days, you’ll have so many things exploding out of your mind. But some days, it’s crickets. These are the hardest days to keep up the habit. So I really leaned on prompts in these moments.
Day One had built-in prompts specifically curated for the beginning of the year every day in January, so that was super helpful, but even if you’re doing it old school in a journal, if you’re ever feeling stuck, you can just google “journal prompts” and get a million ideas.
What I found is that often, I just need a prompt to get started, and then that lets my mind wander. Even if I felt like my brain was totally empty when sitting down to journal, I may start responding to the prompt and mid-way through answering it, I’ll go down a whole other tangent and suddenly have a whole page of words in front of me.
As with many things in life, the hardest part is just starting. So use journaling prompts as often as you need.
I, personally, am excited to keep journaling all through 2024
We’re only one month into the year, but I can already tell that this is going to be one of the most valuable things I take away from 2024. I can’t wait to see what kind of ideas, realizations, and random chaos come out of this habit.
Hopefully this was the push you needed to start (or keep) journaling, too!