Most of us have heard that keeping a journal can be a good way to relieve stress and get in touch with our inner selves. We’re attracted by the idea of putting our most intimate thoughts down on creamy paper, in our most flowing script. But thinking about it and actually doing it are two very different things. When we actually have the pen in our hands, poised to write … nothing happens. If you are interested in starting a journal, here are seven tips for getting yourself past the “someday” stage, and starting today.
1. Buy a cheap notebook. The idea of jotting your feelings into a leather-bound thing of beauty might seem tempting, but in fact, the perfection of the book itself might be too much pressure. You’ll feel the need to write something earth-shaking, even if what’s really on your mind is what to have for dinner tonight. Get an inexpensive composition notebook instead. So what if your writings aren’t profound? The thing only cost a buck!
2. Buy a good pen. You don’t need a $100 fountain pen for this, but a cheap ballpoint that skips and leaves blotches will not do anything for your sense of inner peace. Get a pen that works properly and feels good in your hand.
3. Start small. Don’t feel the need to fill page after page on your first day. If you don’t know how to get started, just put down a sentence about the top thing on your emotional agenda for that day, and then add a few thoughts about that. Chances are you’ll be inspired to write more. But if not, you can pick up your train of thought tomorrow.
4. Set aside a specific time for journaling. Need to have peace and quiet in order to express yourself? Try writing during the half-hour before the rest of your family wakes up, or after they go to bed. The former option will allow you to collect your thoughts for the day to come, and the latter will let you put the day’s events into perspective.
5. Forget about your audience. Don’t worry about what people will think if they read your journal, because ideally, they never will. Your journal is just for you, and no one else. That means you can set aside your inhibitions, or your fear that you don’t write well, and just write what you really feel.
6. Don’t forget about people’s feelings. As mentioned in point No. 5, no one is supposed to read your journal except you. But that doesn’t mean they won’t snoop. So if you find yourself writing something hurtful about someone close to you, it’s a good idea to dispose of the pages when you’re done. The point isn’t having the written record of your thoughts; the point is going through the process of writing it down. Once that’s done, you won’t need those pages anymore.
7. Make it a habit. You won’t develop the easy flow that’s most therapeutic right away. That takes time and practice. Make journaling a part of your daily routine, and you’ll find that it will get easier and more enjoyable. Eventually, you’ll find that you cherish that time for yourself.