Author | Photos Natalie Collins

How To Actually, Really, Start Journaling

Journaling is an activity that has helped me through so much. It’s given me clarity in relationship turmoil; it’s helped me get over habits, define my goals and get back to seeing my self-worth; it’s helped me realize things I would have never realized through just thinking or talking it out.

Writing on paper brings out intuition like nothing else does. It’s meditative and creative, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a stronger sense of his or her “inner guide.”

Like all kinds of self-work, journaling takes some habit-forming to get into it, but it’s totally worth it. If you want to start journaling but have been putting it off, maybe you’ll benefit from some of my ideas for actually making it a thing you do!

Define your version of journaling. There are different ways you can do it and it really depends on what feels best for you. Journaling, above all, should feel good and be grounding.

There’s bullet journaling, which is an artful/visual way of organizing your life on paper. Dream journaling, where you record your dreams and interpret them. An art journal, where you can draw, collage or paint (this is good for visual learners who don’t want structure). A time capsule, where you record notes on the present for your future self/kids/whoever. A gratitude journal, where you write about the things you feel grateful for and manifest more of that.

When you define your version of journaling, you’ll have a clearer idea of a desired end result.

Get you a good journal! This is a huge support. If you like your journal and your pens, it’s so much easier to write. I love Moleskins but I also like those black and white composition books from the dollar store (the Harriet the Spy ones). Winners and Marshalls have super cheap, awesome journals. (Also Michael’s at John and Richmond.) 

Find prompts. Journaling is all about asking yourself key questions. When you ask good questions, you get good answers. Prompts help, and they can take a bunch of different forms.

A really straightforward prompt/exercise to help get in the zone is automatic writing. This is where you shut off your mind and write from a more or less dissociative state. When you write fast–without stopping, without thinking–you get some really deep, true insights. Get grounded, and write at the top of a page, “Inner guide (or inner self/truth/source, whatever jives for you), show me the insights I need to know now.” Then set a timer and write without thinking too much for 10-15 minutes. Often I will be surprised at what comes through.

Rarely do I sit and write about my day or actual things that happened. When I journal, I like to cut to the chase. Here are some other prompts that help me do that:

  • Pulling a single tarot or oracle card and writing about what I think it means for me. Or do a full, dedicated spread about a certain topic and journal it out.
  • Writing true, no-holds-barred letters to people (or to my future self/past self, or to an inspiration or muse).
  • Writing out an emotion to release it.
  • Looking into the future and writing out how I see things turning out if I choose path A, B or C. (We’re all a lot more psychic than we think, and journaling is where we can really prove it to ourselves). 

Make it a ritual. Research has shown that rituals really do change the way we think, feel and behave. So bring some intention to the process. Set yourself up for it. Don’t just cram it in the morning before you leave the house. Create space. Sit at a place that feels good to you. Light a candle. Run on the spot really fast for thirty seconds to get grounded and out of your head. Do whatever makes you feel present and want to be there.

Having a journal ritual means you’ll get so much more out of the time you put into it. It’ll help you become more effective with it. Trust the process!

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