Imagine having a simple, reliable method for sorting through and processing all your difficult thoughts and emotions so that you felt clearer, more grounded, and even joyful when you were finished?
And what if that reliable and repeatable system was (practically) free?
The good news is that there IS an extremely effective, time-tested system for working through thoughts and emotions and coming out on the other side feeling lighter, clearer, and confident.
And that system is journaling.
Having a journaling practice will help you go from feeling out of control as your thoughts swirl in a thousand directions, to knowing exactly how to untangle the mess in your mind so that you can get rid of all the stress and anxiety.
If you’ve ever worked with a good coach or therapist, she is doing WITH you the same thing a journaling practice can do FOR you!
She creates the space for you to speak your truth, she listens to what you have to say, she offers clarifying questions, and you leave with more clarity and direction.
(Okay, I have to admit here that there have been a few times in the past when I didn’t leave a therapy or coaching session feeling this way, but stay with me.)
With the right information and tools in your journaling toolbox, you can experience the same breakthroughs with journaling as you do in a therapy or coaching session.
I’ve been journaling for 35 years, and I’ve journaled daily for so many years I’ve lost count.
For me, journaling is a form of mental hygiene—in the same way that flossing my teeth is dental hygiene.
Writing in my journal every day is my go-to method for keeping myself grounded and centered. It’s where I process my thoughts and emotions, and where I tell the unvarnished, unedited truth to myself.
Sometimes it’s not pretty, but nobody else needs to know :-).
One of the most common questions people ask me about journaling is, “Where (or how) do I start? Or, “I don’t know what to say.”
Knowing how to start journaling and knowing what to say are easy when you have the right information and a few prompts to get you started.
With just a bit of practice you will know exactly what to do, and how to access a variety of journaling practices based on what you need in the moment. I use multiple methods—sometimes all on the same day!
One of the most effective and simple strategies for getting started and knowing what to say is by using a simple “timed” method.
Here’s how it works:
Sit down with pen and paper (this is just one way to journal), set a timer for an amount of time that feels easy for you—even if it’s just one minute. Then start the timer, and write non-stop until the timer goes off.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but what if I still don’t know what to say during that one minute?”
That’s where “write non-stop” comes into play.
Your pen must keep moving on the paper the entire time. Don’t pause to think, or sit staring into space with your pen in your hand until you (hopefully) think of something brilliant to say. Simply write.
“But what if I still don’t know what to say?”
Then here’s what you can write:
“I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. . . . .” And you continue like this for the entire minute if need be.
But don’t worry! It’s nearly inconceivable that you won’t think of anything to say because the nature of your mind is that it is a thought-making machine.
Your mind will come up with a new thought like, “This is such a ridiculous exercise. I’m not getting anything out of this at all.” And when you have that thought, write it down!
When you write what you’re thinking you’ll notice that there is always something to write. People spend hours and hours and hours learning how to meditate for the sole purpose of emptying their mind of all thoughts.
But the reality is that for 99.9999% of people, this never happens (actually it’s not the real aim of meditation, but we’ll save that for another day).
The bottom line is that you don’t need to worry that you won’t have something to write. See how easy that is?
So, give it a try.
In the next 24 hours, sit down with pen and paper (or whatever writing tools you like to use), set a timer for an amount of time you know you can commit to, and just write.
In my next article I’ll share more about what I’ve learned about journaling over the past three and a half decades. I’ll give you more simple tools and strategies to help get your journaling practice off the ground so that you can begin experiencing the priceless benefits of journaling now.
And in the meantime, I would love to hear how your first timed journaling practice went. Share in the comments! I read them all.
© Victoria Tidwell Palmer (2022)