“I’m not really the type of person who likes to journal.”
“I don’t like to write, or put my thoughts onto paper.”
“I just don’t have anything to write.”
These are pretty typical responses I hear from clients when I broach the subject of journaling as a practice. And I can totally understand their sentiment.
Plus, to make the recommendation to someone to journal, without any specificity to structure and guidelines, can feel like a very daunting endeavor.
Regardless of all the common and understandable objections, I have come to believe — more strongly than ever, that journaling may be one of the best practices. I journaled quite a bit between the ages of 20-32, and then it started to fall off as life got busier. But I look back at that practice, during that stage of my life, and I can see how much clarity it gave me in life, and through many transitions.
Over the last 4 months I’ve been engaged in a daily practice of journaling. And one of the daily practices I engage in, this may actually be one of the most important and beneficial to my overall wellbeing.
The last 6-8 months I have been buying journals in bulk for my therapy practice, and handing out journals to clients, encouraging them to take them home, and to engage in some journaling practices that I recommend.
Often I will give homework around helping people identify their patterns, known in my work as the Pain/Peace Cycles (i.e see Restoration Therapy by doing a search on my website). Just getting those words onto paper, and starting to see the patterns is a transformative experience. It’s a way to externalize things out of the mind, and to experience it in a new way by the kinesthetic practice of writing, and then seeing it visually on paper.
Another simple prompt is using the journal to simply track: “What did I notice going well for me today?” “Where did I notice things not going so well for me?” Or, “Where did I feel the presence of God in my life today?” “Where did I notice God’s absence?”
As you can see, there are literally lots of prompts in the form of questions. And journaling may be the entry of a few words, to several pages, and everything in between. But the key I believe is to be consistent, and to be consistent, it has to be simple. It has to start with the the building of a habit over time, that then can merge into a more varied practice.
So here is a recommendation:
1. Get a journal. Any journal. Cost or type does not matter.
2. Commit to journaling everyday for one month.
3. Don’t pay attention to how much you journal. Two words is suffice. As James Clear teaches in Atomic Habits, just narrow the scope and keep the practice going.
4. Come up with 1-2 prompts in the form of questions you can journal about every day. If you don’t need prompts and prefer to go without them…that is okay also.
5. Identify a specific time, or times of day that you will journal.
6. Then after one month, reflect back on the experience and how it has shaped you. And if you didn’t like it, then that is okay, and there is no pressure to continue on. But if it started to really shape you in powerful ways (which I think it will), then you can decide how you want to continue the practice.
Alright, let me know how it goes by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org