Ready, Set, Start Journaling Today! 5 Simple Steps to Get Started
Written By: Matt Mignona
It seems like everyone and their uncle is talking about journaling these days.
There’s a good reason for that. If you seek to be more grateful, positive and mindful – or to embark on a journey to forge stronger relationships and gain control over your life – then adopting a daily journaling is an absolute must.
The truth is, your every moment deserves to be a memory. Even the hard experiences have value, and can help you regain your power, as well as open you up to a broader perspective of life. Looking within helps you avoid the auto-pilot to which we regularly turn, increasing the chances of living a good and intentional life.
If you want to get back into the driver seat and start focusing on the good each day, journaling is where it’s at. That doesn’t mean it’s easy though. Finding a journal structure and template that works for you can prove challenging, as can building a lifelong habit when you have so many other things on your list.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that planners and diaries abound, many of them complete with journaling sections, while paperies and gift shops inevitably carry a line of products masculine, feminine and everything in between. From art journaling to #bujo, daily gratitude lists to old-fashioned, Roman-senator-style chronicling, the options make your head spin.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Not only will we share a few compelling reasons to institute a daily journal habit, but we'll give you a simple five-step process for starting that habit tomorrow. After that, we'll discuss what kind of journal to use to get the most out of your new habit. Get ready for a whole new you!
The Incredible Health Benefits of Journaling
Studies show incontrovertible evidence that journaling improves your health, both mental and physical.
As Cambridge University Press reports, it is especially effective when writing about stressful events: “In the expressive writing paradigm, participants are asked to write about such events for 15–20 minutes on 3–5 occasions. Those who do so generally have significantly better physical and psychological outcomes compared with those who write about neutral topics.”
That’s not all, adds the University of Rochester Medical Center. Journaling brings a wealth of benefits, including managing anxiety, reducing stress, coping with depression and keeping track of symptoms related to emotional disorders. This in turn helps you self-assess and meditate on problems, both lessening their impact and suggesting solutions.
Want to boost your immune system? Journaling helps you there too, says James Pennebaker, a University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher. Disclosing traumatic issues – even minimally upsetting ones that occur in the course of a normal life – can improve immune function by causing the body to generate increased numbers of T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell responsible for a variety of immune system responses.
In a nutshell? Journaling is pretty awesome. Why wait to grab those benefits for yourself?
The Five-Step Process for Journaling Every Day
Again, we know how busy you are. You simply don’t have time for protracted processes that involve a lot of guesswork. That’s why we’re here with a reliable, repeatable daily process that takes thought and angst out of the process. Ready to move into action? Here’s how to do it.
- Make a commitment to journal each morning: Stay committed to your goals by journaling within 30 minutes of waking up each morning. Even if that means getting up 10 minutes earlier to accommodate your new habit, do it. This is the best way to stay on track, and becomes doubly effective if you post your commitment on social media and have others hold you accountable to your goals.
- Write three things that make you feel grateful each day: Lots of people get hung up on the “big” things, thinking they have to express the loftiest appreciation. And sure, if you’re fortunate enough not to be at war and to have to the use of all your limbs, say, those make for great sources of gratitude. But it doesn’t have to be that intense. You can also share your appreciation for sunshine, incense, coffee or a nice meal with those you love best.
- Write a single goal for today: Again, don’t overthink this. Getting to the grocery store, making your bed or accomplishing 5 minutes of reading in a book you enjoy is plenty. A successful life is made up of small, daily habits, repeated over time until their benefits compound. Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations when you could instead experience those small wins with all the same joy.
- Define one action item to better yourself today: Our goals range by person, age, season and more. Perhaps today you want to finally tackle that last 10 pounds of baby weight, or get those crackers out of your pantry and sub in a homemade snack instead. Whatever your goal, make it small so that you can actually check it off your list right away. That way, you build up confidence in your own abilities and are likelier to keep the streak going.
- Recall the happiest moment from yesterday: Recalling happy moments from the day before brings those emotions back into your life and leverages the power of positivity to make this day better. Force yourself to write with all of your senses, explaining everything you experienced during this time of happiness. For instance, you might write “my happiness moment yesterday was taking my daughter to breakfast just the two of us, where we reveled in the smell of coffee, pancakes and maple syrup, enjoyed the noisy diner voices and laughter, colored on the menu and felt the sun on our faces through the window.”
Such sensory detail not only helps you recall the memory more clearly, making it more likely to stick out in your memory for years to come; it also helps you become more observant for next time. That, overall, increases your chances to catch those happy moments that might otherwise pass you by, cementing the fleeting joys of life and helping you enjoy all of it to the greatest extent.
The same is true for all the other steps, which are small enough to pose no real imposition on your time, but large enough to make a real difference in your happiness.
See? Not so hard! Time to start that journaling habit stat.
Start Expressing Yourself Through Journaling Tomorrow
Now that you know How to Do the Thing, it’s time to start! New habits can cause a bit of trepidation at first, but the best way to overcome those feelings and learn what works best for you is not to dawdle or over-prepare, but simply to jump in.
That’s where it’s helpful to have a journal that contains dedicated sections for intention-setting, sensory descriptions, self-congratulation and goals – all of which help you feel better, work harder and get to know yourself like a pro. If you want to make those sections yourself, more power to you, and any blank notebook will do.
With the Happier Mind Journal, you’ll never stare at a blank page wondering what to write again ... so start expressing yourself, soothing your mind and reaching peak happiness today.