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Our Love/Hate Relationship With Journaling

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-development, keeping track of your life, and reflecting on what you’ve accomplished. Therapist and relationship expert Nedra Tawwab shares tips for developing a consistent journaling practice.

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-development, keeping track of your life, and reflecting on what you've accomplished. Therapist and relationship expert Nedra Tawwab shares tips for developing a consistent journaling practice.

How to Develop a Consistent Journaling Practice

I recently went back to a journal I kept in 2005. Oh. My. Gosh. Seeing yourself in the past that way is like watching a black-and-white movie where you are the featured star. It is such a trip down memory lane. I am so glad to have these entries to look back on and glad that I found a way to create a journaling practice that works for me. In order to do that I had to loosen my idea about what journaling is and what it means to be consistent. I had to remind myself that I make the rules. 

When many of us think of journaling, we think of a process where we write down all of the events of the day: what happened, who was involved, who went where, and what we wore. It can feel like a lot, and keeping up with something with that level of detail every single day can feel daunting. 

There are many ways to journal beyond keeping a daily account of your life’s events. Here are five ideas for other kinds of journaling:

  1. Process Journaling. You can utilize this form of journaling when you are processing the way something made you feel or something that is troubling you. You can use your journal as a space to work through the discomfort around what you’re experiencing. 
  2. One Sentence Journaling. Part of what can feel overwhelming about journaling is being preoccupied with how much you’re saying in a given entry. Using this method allows you to summarize a day or an experience in a single sentence, and it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Your one sentence could be, “Today was amazing when I discovered that the donut shop around the corner has sour cream donuts,” or “It sucked today when I wore my favorite shoes and stepped in a puddle of water and my socks got wet.”
  3. Video Journal. Beyoncé did this in her Homecoming special. She would just turn her camera on and talk. Sometimes this is referred to as vlogging because there are people who produce and share this content, but you can do it just for you. You can be the content creator of your own life. You can turn the camera on with the intention of keeping it to yourself. 
  4. Voice Recording. If you don’t want to look at your face while you’re talking, you can just record your voice for whatever length of time works for you. It can be a stream of consciousness, it can be you venting, or you can be talking about something specific. 
  5. Journal Prompts. When I get bored with journaling, I grab a few journaling prompt books. There are tons of these kinds of lists available online as well (and at the end of every Nedra Nuggets newsletter). Journal prompts give you a starting place when you’re not sure what to write about, or you don’t know where to begin.

Consistency is tricky. In my professional opinion consistency is any regular interval of time. Once a day, once a month, once a week, all of that is consistent. It doesn’t have to be frequent, it just has to be something you can stick to. If you can take 5 minutes a day to journal, great. If you can journal six times a year, great. Don’t quit journaling just because you can’t commit to doing it every day. 

A lot of us have journaling trauma; at some point in the past someone found and read our journal, and we don’t feel comfortable writing on paper. I have been keeping a digital journal since about 2005. I have a journaling app and I use the Notes function on my phone. One of the things I love about Notes is that it has a separate password from the one I use to unlock my phone and it’s completely random, so it adds an additional layer of security. 

The important thing to remember when journaling is that it is for you. It is yours to write and no one is judging it. It is not for public consumption—it is a way to reflect and keep track of who you are, where you’re going, and what you’ve done. It’s your life story.

 Journal Recommendations

  • In Courage: A Daily Practice for Self Discovery, by Alex Elle.
  • Repeat After Me: A Workbook for Adult Children Overcoming Dysfunctional Family Systems, by Claudia Black.
  • The Book of Myself: A Do It Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions, by Carl and David Marshall.
  • Burn After Writing, by Sharon Jones.
  • The Set Boundaries Workbook: Practical Exercises for Understanding Your Needs and Setting Healthy Limits.

Journal Prompts

  • What is a method of journaling that has worked for you?
  • What are some things you need to do to be more consistent (in your own way) with your journaling practice?

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