Journaling is an incredibly useful tool for developing self-awareness, practicing creativity, managing your emotions, planning, organising, and more.
Journaling can also help to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression.
I have used a journal for as long as I can remember, and am a big advocate for keeping one regularly. Journaling helps me gain clarity, calm my mind, pump myself up for the day ahead, gain insight through reflecting on the day that has passed, and even stretch creatively!
If you’re new to journaling – you may not know where or how to start, and that’s okay! The great thing about journaling is there is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s not an assignment, nor a presentation. It’s for you, so it’s okay if it feels a bit awkward when you first start!
Below are the five different techniques I’ve used when journaling.
1. The Ask & Answer
I’m going to start with the one that’s a bit woo woo, but please bear with me!
If you have something you’re unsure about, write about it as if you were asking someone for advice.
Be honest, and be direct about the problem and your feelings surrounding it. Don’t hold back. Then, conclude it with a question like:
“What’s the best route to take?”
“What would be best to do in this situation?”
“What’s in store for my relationship with X”
Avoid asking why, too much introspection can be counterproductive.
Then, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths, or sometimes I get up, get a glass of water, etc. then come back. The point is to give yourself a bit of space between you and the problem you just spilled onto the page.
Once you’ve created some space between yourself and the journal entry, come back to it and re read what you have written.
Then, write down your response as if it wasn’t you who wrote it down. Write as if you were speaking to another person, maybe a friend or coworker who you are giving advise to. Or (here’s the woo woo bit) channel your higher self or intuition to speak to you.
The most important part of this is to not hesitate and just write what comes out naturally. Try not to overthink it.
I do this often when I’m feeling really strongly about something and need a bit of help making sense of it.
2. The Reflection
Contrary to the ask and answer, the reflection is more similar to a fact finding exercise.
You may have specific questions that you want to ask yourself and reflect on every day such as:
“Was today a good day?”
“Did I do my best today?”
“What was the best and / or worst parts of today?”
OR you can just write down any strong feelings that you had and reflect on what prompted those feelings.
You’ll get the most out of the reflection by leaving the emotion out of it. It shouldn’t be used as a tool to beat yourself up or build resentment against other people. It’s just a way for you to look at your reactions, what prompted them, and what needs to stay the same or change.
I do this in the evening or right before I go to bed as a way to wrap up the day.
3. The Brain Dump
The brain dump has so many uses.
What you do is put your hand to paper and you put everything in your brain onto the page. It’s that easy.
This can be done anytime of day, and can be used for anything! Having strong feelings about something and need some clarity? Brain dump. Have a lot on your plate and need to make sense of it all? Brain dump!
The brain dump is also really useful for lists, organising your thoughts or a task, making notes, or prepping for a meeting.
Brain dumping can also look like just…writing. Write anything and everything that comes into your head. You don’t have to worry about punctuation or structure or if it makes sense, you can literally write the same sentence ten times, it doesn’t matter, it’s just about clearing the cobwebs from your brain. Usually the first couple sentences or paragraphs are pretty shit but then I get into some really juicy stuff and either connect with something that I didn’t know I needed to connect with or some really good ideas come up that I probably wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.
Remember, it doesn’t need to be punctuated, and it doesn’t need to be structured. It doesn’t need to look like anything! It’s literally called a dump for a reason. I do this most often like right when I wake up in the morning or if I have a lot of energy and need to put it somewhere, I free write and see what comes up.
4. The Hype Journal
This is probably my favourite technique and probably the one I go to the most.
The Hype Journal is just a space for your to tell yourself what you need to hear. A space for you to hype yourself up!
“You can do this.”
“You got this.”
“You’re almost there.”
“Who cares what they think!”
It’s a space for you to back yourself. The things that your mom, or best friend might say to you – you can say these things to yourself!
If you’re having a hard time on starting – I would recommend making a list of all of the things you accomplished. Start from the beginning of your life and acknowledge every single thing you have been able to do. Even the little things. Afterwards, you should feel proud of yourself, and that is the energy you can carry to your hype journal.
Another way you can look at this is to picture your best friend, sister, or the person you love the most and reframe this as if you’re talking to them. Would you tell them how amazing they are? How much value they offer the world? How funny, beautiful, smart and kind they are? Of course you would! So, why not tell yourself the same?
5. The Visualisation
There’s a couple ways of doing this one.
If you have a specific goal in mind, imagine your mind and then write out the exact moment when that goal is achieved, or where you will be when that goal is achieved. Get into the details, if you can. What are you doing? How do you feel? Where are you? What are the people around you saying? If the specifics are hard to imagine, then just focus on the goal being achieved and how you feel about it.
You can also write out a scene from your future – where will you be in one / five / ten years?
I do this when I’m feeling demotivated, because let’s be honest, just because you have goals, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to also have the motivation to do the thing that’s going to help you get there. By writing out the scene, as if I’m already there, I feel more motivated to take action.
Another way to use The Visualisation technique is to write out the day ahead.
Write exactly what you’ll be doing, who will be with you, what you’ll wear, eat, etc. Get specific on details and don’t hold back. It can be useful if you’re feeling anxious in the morning and need to ground yourself.
Don’t forget, journaling is meant to be used as a tool for you to connect with yourself, so be kind to yourself when you’re doing it and don’t be afraid to dig deep. You never know what you will find!
Hey, I’m Courtney.
I really appreciate you taking the time to read this post.
I’m always looking to connect with like minded people, so please say hi and let me know what you’re working on and if I might be able to help.