You don’t need eloquent words, fancy (or even legible) handwriting.
You don’t need a beautiful notebook (in fact better if it’s something you aren’t too precious about!)
You don’t need writing skills to clearly record the events of today for posterity.
You don’t need to carefully consider your words (writing fast is the best strategy here). You don’t need to worry about spelling or punctuation.
You need a page, you need thoughts, you need a time commitment (not a large one 5– 10 minutes will do).
You need to be open to letting the feelings onto the page (think of it as a brain dump!)
You need to not censor the thoughts.
You may need to write the same thing over and over before you can move on to something else.
How do you do it?
Get a notebook. One that is fancy enough that you want to write in it, not so fancy that you don’t mind burning the pages if you need to.
Some people prefer to type, but there’s a large school of thought that says handwriting is better (it’s more tactile, offers greater freedom to write in the margins, and some argue it’s easier to access the subconscious thoughts through handwriting than through typing). SO even if you always type, try to give the handwritten journal a go.
Time yourself and commit to continuing to write until the timer goes off (yes… even if you write the same thing over and over.)
Take a breath. Settle into your body. Relax the shoulders, the jaw.
It can make it easier to use prompts to begin with.
A few reflective prompts which can provide a good start.
How am I feeling today? Name the emotions you’re feeling right now
How is my body feeling? What does it need right now?
What’s a question I wish you had the answer to?
What unresolved issue or tension is on my mind?
A few relating to gratitude/appreciation
What brought me joy recently?
What am I looking forward to right now?
What am I enjoying about life at the moment?
What do I appreciate about myself?
Meander and flow
Once you start writing, don’t feel like you have to stay with the prompt. Let that be the starting point and see where it leads. Keep writing - fast- and don’t analyse as you go (but if anything interesting spills forth onto the page, underline it to have a closer look at it later).
Write as though you were pouring your heart out to a best friend or a therapist who will never repeat a word, bad or good. You may later decide to share some of the thoughts that come up with others.. but to get into the flow of writing, imagine that this writing is for your eyes only.
Some people like to journal about goals, values, career decisions, life changes, relationship issues. Anything can be a topic. Nothing is off limits.
You might like to draw in your journal. Some people find this helpful.
A final word to mind yourself here.
In some studies of expressive writing (which is similar to the concept of journaling I’ve outlined here- where people reflected/wrote on a problem or a trauma in their life)), some people reported feeling sad and anxious immediately afterwards - but the longer term effects were positive.
So be your own guide. If the writing feels to difficult or heavy, take a break. Try some of the gratitude/appreciation prompts.. or just stop writing until you’re ready to come back to it again. Maybe it highlights something unresolved that you could do with talking to a professional about.. maybe it’s just something that is currently too painful or fresh.
Listen to your gut – you know yourself best.