A Guide To: Journaling

Writing about how you’re feeling (both the good and the bad) or simply writing, period, can help you track personal development and gain a greater understanding of yourself. Here’s how to develop a life-long journaling habit… sparkling prose optional.
24 Mar 2021

What is journaling?

Journaling is writing about and reflecting on how you’re feeling, and utilising those written meditations as a tool for personal development. Forget about perfect prose, flawless grammar and spot-on spelling, and just focus on getting your thoughts down on paper. And don’t feel married to a text-based format – allow doodles, images, scrapbook mementos and anything else you wish to become a part of this practice.

How exactly does journaling help personal growth?

Writing how you feel about your life can help identify stressors and negative thought patterns, which can then be addressed with more focus. By identifying stressors, you can handle relationships and situations more confidently in the future, or at least be aware of them. Journaling can additionally provide alternate perspectives on life events and help to make sense of your responses to them.

What’s the difference between keeping a journal and a diary?

Journaling is more purposeful than just jotting down what happened that day; whether that’s uncovering what’s making you anxious, or gratefully reflecting on some positive news.

What kinds of journals are there?

There’s the gratitude journal (what you appreciate), daily reflection journal (thoughts on your day) bullet journal (a blank or dot-grid journal to log daily to-dos, track exercise, brainstorm ideas and set goals) and the dream journal (a place to tap into your subconscious). People keep career journals, wedding journals, baby journals… you can dedicate one to anything you like. Have multiple journals if you think it’s useful.

The New Moon’s Guide to Journaling, featuring Wilde House Paper’s Self Reflections Pad
Slide gently into the practice of journaling with this Self Reflections Pad by Wilde House Paper, a tear-sheet notepad that allows you to reflect on various aspects of your daily journey

Eek – the blank page is daunting. Are there any exercises I can do to get started?

An easy way in for beginners is the gratitude journal, which involves writing down three things you’re grateful for every day (or more if you like), from a perfect latte to a new promotion. Bullet journaling, or using lists, is another good way to get started: try writing down 10 things you’re worried about right now, followed by 10 action points to address these concerns. You can also use journal prompts – look online or make your own list of prompts to use. This could involve anything from writing a reassuring letter to your high-school self to reflecting on how you define success and when you’ll know you have it.

I’m not very good at writing. Can journaling still work for me?

Yes! Just think of writing a process. The end result is getting to know yourself better and reframing your personal narrative so you’re not defined by certain behaviour or happenings in your life.

The New Moon’s Guide to Journaling, a woman working through a journal workbook on table with a candle, sage and decorative objet
Photograph by Mathilde Langevin

How often should I journal?

There are no hard and fast rules, but the more you journal, the greater mental release you can experience. Some like to write daily morning pages, often referred to as a “brain dump journal”, to declutter their mind. Others pick up their journal less frequently, and some only when experiencing turmoil.

How can I get the most out of journaling?

Write whatever comes into your mind – the journal is a place of non-judgement. It’s your safe space. Think about what you want to get out of the experience and what steps you can take to address certain feelings or behaviour. Date every entry so you can see your progress, and revisit old journals to see how far you’ve come. Yes, you’ll cringe – it’s all part of the process.

Should I ever share my journal with others?

Many view their journal as a private place, somewhere to express what they feel without censoring themselves. Some may choose to share their musings with counsellors, or even close friends & family. But if you proffer your journal to others, be prepared to accept they may not share your views on people and past events.

I’m keen to try journaling but blank pages make me nervous. What guided journals can I purchase?

Wilde House Paper’s Rituals & Wellness Journal encourages you to list out wellness intentions and mindful rituals, while Muse with the Moon nurtures creativity and reflection through writing and drawing to the rhythm of the lunar cycle, including exercises from setting new moon intentions to colouring in flowers to heading outside to picking out new recipes you wish to try.