How to Journal for a Better Self

How to Journal, Document Life, and Write Yourself to Better Mental Health

How Do I Start Journaling?

Apart from breathwork, or maybe walking, journaling must be one of the cheapest self-help practices that exist. But is it naive to believe that you can simply write yourself to better mental health?

When I started journaling, it was a space for me to vent and complain about every possible downfall of the day. I didn’t hold back when detailing the extent of how people had wronged me, or to that end, how the world was certainly ending. I didn’t realise I was conveniently reinforcing my own negative cognitive biases about my life, writing my thoughts as concretely as if they were facts. 

Recently, my journaling style has become more of a logical process of identifying problematic or stagnant areas of life and finding a subsequent resolution to them. This has been a game-changer. Now, I still document all thoughts and feelings, but it’s my response to them that has transformed – both while journaling and in daily life. 

It’s important to document the entire spectrum of feelings, rather than just frustration, anxiety, and anger. 

When is the Best Time to Journal?

The practice of ‘Morning Pages’ was coined by artist Julia Cameron to mean just that: three pages written in the morning. She advocated this ritual practice, as one that doesn’t appear creative at first but intends to make space for documenting consciousness. This results in the development of new ideas and awakenings. 

Three pages of long-form writing are comparable to the thought-catching technique I mentioned earlier in the blog. Essentially, this process of tracking thoughts is incredibly beneficial for creating a renewed awareness of exactly what your internal monologue is saying. 

Granted, I have never made it to the third page. By the second page, I have most likely convinced myself that I have no more thoughts left to write about, which is certainly not true. However, the practice in itself is highly stimulating and certainly sets the tone for renewal at the start of the day. 

One of my favourite content creators, Ali Abdaal, recoins ‘Morning Pages’ as his ‘Brain dump’. For some reason, this transforms journaling from something previously archaic into a genuine practice where we can speak our truth. 

As a writer, it also feels essential to clean out any toxic waste piling up in my mental space, before I even attempt to start the day. Residual angst or harboured grudges tend to directly impact my writing style and even how productive in the day. 

I consider myself a morning person – whatever stereotypes of me that evokes, I write better in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not part of the 5 am club but, for me, it makes sense to wake up and almost immediately set intentions for the day. 

However, there seems to be no hard and fast rule, a daily journal works best when it is written, no matter the time. 

How Do I Write a Journal?

In my mind, journaling has always been such a personal thing, which leads me to believe that advising someone how to write one is somewhat counter-intuitive. 

At the same time, receiving guidance on how to structure my writing and thoughts has always been beneficial for me, as I’m sure it will be for you. 

I’ve found that separating your thoughts into three categories can be highly effective:

  • Thoughts: space for documenting your conscious thought-processing – any worries, anxiety, shame, guilt, joy, elation, can all be documented here. 
  • Intentions: once the entire spectrum of your thoughts have been released onto the page, then you can start to frame your focus on the day ahead. You might start to ask: what do I want to achieve today? What can I do for myself today? What should I prioritise today? 
  • Manifestations: once you’ve covered these short-term intentions, it’s good to remember your overall life goals that sometimes get lost in the daily grind. 

Take-aways

I hope you enjoyed this post and as always, thank you for visiting this blog page. 

As you can see, journaling is one of the most accessible methods of self-help that exist. Maybe as a writer, I am biased but I think there is something truly powerful in documenting consciousness and thoughts as they enter our mental landscape. 

Whether you explore this with a talking journal or alternative methods not suggested in this post, the ultimate goal is to reach a sense of heightened awareness. This means checking in with yourself regularly and building a stable foundation to operate from in daily life. 

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