How To Journal: 5 Mistakes To Avoid




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Your Mind Is Bigger Than You Think


How To Journal


If you find yourself stressed because of a decision you need to make, or you don’t know where to start or what to do or what route to take in your life, learning how to journal might be an option for you to explore. If you have already been journaling, here are five mistakes you might want to consider avoiding to make the journaling process as enjoyable and productive as possible. Practice journaling to release stress and free up brain space.


“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.”

Joan Didion



Imagine you are in your kitchen fixing an amazing dinner that all the family is waiting for. While you chop some veggies, a memory of your mother comes to you instantly. It was just because you were also listening to the radio and the song reminded you of her. This happens to me all the time.


Then, you move on to the next task and it happens again. Something else pops into your head while doing your normal chores, or driving, or washing dishes, etc.


No wonder by the end of the day, you feel exhausted. Your brain doesn’t stop. There is a lot of mental clutter that’d help get rid of to make room for new thoughts and ideas.


Journaling is a wonderful practice that can help your mental clutter. It helps you find clarity, reach your goals, and find your next direction in life. 


But if you feel bored with it, don’t know what to write about, or find that you aren’t being completely open and honest, you may be feeling you’re doing it wrong. 


While there are no rules with journaling, you could be unintentionally taking away from the many benefits it provides you.


Benefits of Journaling

Here are a few answers from people around the world on how journaling can help you:

  • Clears up the congestion and logjams in your mind
  • Helps with clarity
  • Pushes your creativity
  • Give you something to feel good about
  • Enables you to write with honesty
  • Creates a chain reaction on ideas
  • Liberates more ideas and new thinking
  • Provides perspective


Five Common Mistakes When Journaling


  1. Not Enjoying the Process
  2. You Keep Using it Like a Diary
  3. You Feel it’s Hard to Come Up With Something to Write About
  4. Journaling Increases Your Stress
  5. You Notice You’re Holding Back Certain Details


1. Not Enjoying the Process


It starts to feel like a chore. And you find journaling to be extremely tedious, boring, or just not beneficial to you at all. It might come down to how you are journaling and what mindset you are in. Take a few minutes to meditate or practice mindfulness before you pick up your pen and start to write. Consider how you are feeling at this moment, what you are struggling with, what part of your life you are enjoying, and what your plans are. 


Get into a mindset of gratefulness, positivity, and kindness before you start writing. If you get stuck, it’s ok. Don’t force yourself. The whole idea of journaling is to enjoy it and get something good out of it.


Literally, before starting to write ask yourself:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What am I struggling with right now?
  • What part of my life am I enjoying right now?
  • etc…


2. You Keep Using it Like a Diary


If your goal is to record your daily activities, then a diary format sounds good. Many people do actually benefit from using their journal just to write about their day. If your goal of journaling is to clear your mind, destress, and declutter to make room for new ideas, then using it as a diary isn’t the best option for you. Look at how you are journaling and determine whether or not you are actually digging deep or just using it like a diary, where you list what you did today, and didn’t actually get to your thoughts or emotions. 


Try instead, setting up a purpose before writing. Start with a prompt, like a problem you want to solve, or a decision you need to make. Then keep going and let your words flow on paper.


3. You Feel it’s Hard to Come Up With Something to Write About


If you feel like every time you open up your journal, you have nothing to write, there are a few quick ways to remedy this. The first way to fix this problem is to use journaling prompts. These are questions or statements that give you a topic to write about in your journal. These often lead to other ideas in your head about what you want to write about in your journal. 


Another option when you feel you don’t have anything to write is to make a list each day. It can change by the day, such as today writing down 3 of your best moments, then tomorrow write 5 goals you have for next week. 


More examples to prompt your thinking:

  • These two things I could do today to make things more exciting…
  • This simple thing I could do to make a difference in my life….
  • I don’t have an explanation for why I haven’t done this yet, but I could start with…
  • I’m scared about _______, but I am going to do it because…
  • I remember the proudest moment of my life was when…
  • I loved it when I went to _________. If I could go back again, I’d…


4. Journaling Increases Your Stress


Journaling should be helping your stress, not making it worse! If you find it to be super stressful or the act of journaling is actually making things worse for you, it’s time to try and figure out why that is. Consider what you have been writing about, and whether or not you are being kind to yourself. If every journal entry is a rant or negative, and you beat yourself up a lot, that is probably the cause. While we need to vent, and our journal is a great and healthy place to do so, try not to limit your journaling to write only negative thoughts. This would not encourage self-awareness or personal growth, but rather hanging on and amplifying negative emotions.

Try to write at least one positive thing about yourself and express gratitude in your journal. Look around nature, and breathe deeply realizing how lucky you are to be right here, right now.


5. You Notice You’re Holding Back Certain Details


You might want to keep the journal to yourself because you fear who might find it one day. However, this is holding you back and stops you from being open and honest with yourself and can really halt your progress. You need to be able to be candid if you want to find any sort of clarity. Journaling is a process and one that can do amazing things, but not if you find that you are filtering out a lot of certain details of your life because of fear. Try to keep it in a safe place or just destroy it after a period of time, if that makes you feel better about it. The purpose was to gain clarity at the moment of writing. See what works best for you but most importantly, enjoy the process.


If you are new to journaling or just thinking about starting the practice, I hope these journaling techniques help you. If you know of any other mistakes you’ve experienced when journaling to clear up your mind and make some room, please share it with us in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you and learn from your experiences.

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