Want to Try Journaling? Here’s How to Start

By: Laurie Cameron

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“And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing, live your way into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, poet and author

Have you ever experimented with journaling? In middle school I had a little book with a gold metal lock and tiny key. I would begin each page with “Dear Diary” and pour out my innermost thoughts on my parents, life as a teenager and the sweetness of my first love, Jack. Turns out that was a good strategy to navigate those tender and turbulent years.

These days, I still find that letting my thoughts flow across the page offers a range of benefits – from giving me more clarity and insight on questions, issues, people and situations in my life, to deepening gratitude and appreciation, to opening up the creative channel before I start a project.

“…the act of moving your pen across the paper becomes a meditative act, bringing you into the moment that is right here. You direct your attention to the page, open your mind, and make the invisible visible by seeing what comes through on the page. Whether you write for five minutes or 60 minutes a day, journaling helps you gain perspective and deepen self-awareness – revealing your thoughts, habits, strengths, and ways of interpreting the world.

Although journaling is an excellent practice for self-awareness, insight and clarity, it has also proven to be a tremendous tool for navigating times of change, uncertainty and dealing with difficult emotions. James Pennebaker, a distinguished professor at the University of Texas, has run numerous studies on journaling over decades. He found that people who write about emotionally charged episodes for three days a week, 20 minutes at a time, experienced noticeable improvement in their physical and emotional well-being. They were happier, less depressed, and less anxious. And the benefits were sustainable…”

Adapted from The Mindful Day. Chapter: Reflect in Writing

Try it and see. Whether at work, early in the morning or before bed at night, grab a pen, a notebook or simply some paper, and give journaling a try. This summer I have been bringing my journal to the beach – and I find that the expansiveness of the sky, the power of the ocean and the white noise somehow get me in a journaling flow.

Some of my clients want to start a journaling practice, but getting those first words on paper is the stumbling block. They find that journaling prompts – sentence fragments that you can use as a starting point, are a wonderful way to turn on the spigot. You can write free-form on a blank page, or use these jumping off points:

  • What I appreciate most in my life right now…

  • I am at my best when…

  • What brings me alive is…

  • The people in my life that support me are…

  • I am bothered by…

  • What gets in the way of being present is…

  • If I knew I had a year to live, I would…

  • My next best action is…

  • Three things that went well today and my role in contributing to them…

Start small – one morning a week, or before bed in the evening for five minutes. Enjoy meeting your inner self in the quiet calm of journaling. And see how you might live your way into the answers.


This article originally appeared here on PurposeBlue’s blog about mindful leadership.

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