Journalling: 5 Tips to Use Your Journal More Effectively

By: Michelle Nortje

Several people over the years have let me know that they aren’t quite sure how to journal.

Journalling is often mentioned as a psychological tool for self-reflection to help improve one’s mood and anxiety. Journalling is the act of regularly writing (or drawing!) about your thoughts, feelings, and memories.  This helps us to feel more organised, to make more reflective decisions, to live our values daily, to be more in touch with our needs, and to celebrate the wins.

However, it can be hard to know where to start! There are so many different types and ideas about journalling that one can easily get overwhelmed and not even begin. So, by making sure you are choosing a type and form of journalling that best suits your personality and schedule, you’ll be more likely to stick with the practice and reap the benefits.

Here are 5 simple steps to help you use journalling to improve your self-awareness, focus, self-compassion, mindfulness, creativity and self-care:

1. Choosing the type of journalling that best suits your needs

There are a vast number of different kinds of journalling approaches. Below are some examples to choose from. Which ones resonate with you most? Remember you can combine different elements to make your journal the best fit for you.

  • ‘Stream of consciousness’ writing for self-reflection
  • Using a specific journal prompt
  • Making a short bulleted list of important things/ experiences
  • Writing a detailed description of each day
  • Using writing and/or adding an artistic flair (eg: mixed media, paint, collage, embroidery…)
  • Organising your external world
  • Themed journalling (eg: Gratitude, Travel, Food or Nature journalling)

2. Keeping track of daily activities

Journals can help us to increase our awareness about our daily intentions, weekly achievements, and longer-term goals. If an area of growth is to keep better track of your appointments and calendar, then you can use your journal as a daily diary, a task manager or to-do list or as a space to create monthly, weekly, or daily logs as you go. When we write things down, we are so much more aware of how productive we are. And are more likely to keep ourselves accountable!

3. Building gratitude into your practice

No matter what form your journalling might take, gratitude is a helpful ingredient. Although it may not resolve depression or anxiety all by itself, being able to identify at least one or two things that we are grateful has been proven to modestly improve our well-being.

4. Adding creativity

Adding a creative element to your journalling can help to broaden your perspective and think about situations from alternative perspectives. Sketching or using a variety of mediums can unlock hidden inspiration. It can also help to make your journalling experience more mindful and fun. Remember, you don’t need to be ‘good’ at art to enjoy visual and art versions of journalling. Choose your favourite pens, coloured pencils and markers, or grab your sewing and embroidery kit to explore different creative effects throughout your journal.

5. Expanding your awareness

Sometimes we may not have time in our busy weeks to dedicate much time to journalling. By using journalling to explore less frequent experiences, such as a bushwalk or an overseas trip, you can amplify your enjoyment and mindfulness of the moment. In addition, you will have a record of memories to reflect on even when the experience might be over! Nature, travel and food journalling are helpful ways to build a deeper appreciation and curiosity for the world all around you.

Put Some Time Aside

With these tips in mind, try to set aside some time to gather your creative tools together and test out what form of journalling inspires you most. Journalling, like most habits, requires a certain amount of dedication and time to be most effective. Investing time in yourself is a worthwhile exercise! Check out this list of journal prompts to get you started.

Journalling is a wonderful adjunct to engaging in a therapeutic process with a mental health professional.

Article supplied with thanks to The Centre for Effective Living.

Feature image: Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash