Is there an art to journaling?

We read in wellbeing magazines and across social media that keeping a daily journal is something that helps us keep grounded, show gratitude and generally support our mental health, helping with prioritising fears, problems and concerns, tracking symptoms day-to-day to help you recognise triggers and learn ways to control them, and provide an opportunity to speak positively and kindly to yourself.  It helps us craft a sense of self and reflection on experiences and self-discovery.  Often the instructions are to write three things that you are grateful for.  Simple.

Only its not. 

Once you’ve written that you’re grateful for having a nice home, or a loving family, or a good job you enjoy, or the smell of coffee first thing in the morning, how soon does it become difficult to find different things to be grateful for?  Its not that we’re any less grateful for those things, but a journal would get pretty dull if the same three things kept cropping up.

Also, persistent journaling could have negative effects as it makes you spend too much time over thinking things, making you a passive observer of your life rather than active participant.  You can become a bit self-obsessed and it could be a place of blame rather than finding solutions, and you could wallow in self-pity.

I have recently started listening to a different podcast about elegance, grace and femininity.  About the second episode in, the narrator actually described, in some detail, how she didn’t really get the point of journaling but started anyway to see what the fuss was all about.  After a while she got the hang of it and via her podcast offered some actual practical guidance how to journal, in a way that works for her at least.  She acknowledges that her style might not suit everyone, but this was the first real example that I’d seen that was actually any use.

She suggests that you write:

  • A love note – what you want to give gratitude for
  • Secret garden – those things that only you know about/think/feel
  • Idea garden – describe dreams, goals, things to strive for
  • “I am…” statement – I am strong / beautiful / bountiful etc
  • Top three things that you want to put your energy into that day
  • 9-1-1 – if you still feel uninspired, identify what’s blocking your thoughts and feelings and speak kindly toward it

She expanded a little bit on the “I am” statements:

  • I am deeply grateful for – list three qualities you possess
  • I am proud of myself for – biggest accomplishment this year
  • I forgive myself for – a regret
  • I appreciate my ability to – insert superpower
  • I love my – best physical attribute
  • I am high fiving myself for making it through – insert biggest challenge
  • This time next year I will be thanking myself for – deep desire

This is the first time that I had actually seen an example of journaling, and it made much more sense then.

I have never kept a diary, except for the year that I turned 40.  I wrote in a book everyday anything from the mundane what I had for dinner and the tedium of work to the excitement of fun events and different situations etc.  But I also wrote some heartfelt stuff that I felt I couldn’t say out loud during a year where quite a lot off odd things happened.  I did wonder whether to do it again as I was turning 50 but never got round to it. I started a blog instead, so I guess that counts, although I can’t write everything I think or feel.

I am not sure this is something I intend to do on a regular basis, but it would be interesting to try it using the structure set up above might be interesting.


One thought on “Is there an art to journaling?

  1. Interesting point about wallowing in self obsession 🤔 I think I’d still struggle with some of the pointers she supplies. I’ve tried written ones and soon lose the discipline of making an entry every day. I now have an app on my phone which allows me to enter as and when something pops up, but also offers suggestions of entries to make. Only been doing it a few weeks so unsure whether it’s working 😁


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