We’ve come a long way from the typical “daily journal” – now, there’s a journal for everything – gratitude, anger, fear, productivity, habits – the list is endless. Sometimes, you might find that what you’ve received in the name of a journal is in fact, a book of questions and blank pages. This is because so many brands have now jumped on this journaling bandwagon that many of us don’t really get how we can make the most out of our journaling routine.
So how can you make the most out of it?
Set intentions:Do you want to start journaling to stop overthinking; to gain clarity; to practice gratitude; to get to know yourself; or is it just a way for you to explore how journaling feels? Is your goal to feel a certain way after you’ve journaled? The reason why you want to journal can help you pick the right one and also set a routine to how often you’d like to journal.
Set a routine but keep an open mind:Being consistent will help you build a habit but it won’t guarantee an epiphany everytime you decide to journal. Sometimes, there might not be much to do or write and that’s okay. Keeping an open mind, however, also means keeping yourself open to surprises. If you come across deep seated thoughts, it can help to acknowledge the unexpected as these thoughts tend to hold stronger emotions attached to them. And recording such thoughts will only help you fully appreciate them. PS: if these thoughts feel too overwhelming, you can also engage in some grounding exercises!
If you want to dig deeper, be specific: you can do this by noticing all your thoughts and feelings. You can also use the technique of Socratic Questioning to understand the difference between the two and dig deeper. Let your journal be a non-judgmental space where you notice feelings instead of inspecting them.
These are just a few things you can keep in mind while journaling in general, irrespective of what kind of journal or prompts you chose to engage with. While some of us (including me) would scoff at the idea of filling out a gratitude journal, several studies have shown us that gratitude is good for us. It gives us an opportunity to shift our perspective. So if gratitude journaling is something you’d like to practice, here are a few things you can do to make the most out of it:
Write it down: Physically make a list of things and people and situations in your life you are grateful for; don’t just do it mentally. Record keeping helps you have access and serves as a reminder when you review it. It’s important to make sure you don’t write down the first thing that comes to mind but actually introspect and take your time to think things (or your thoughts) through.
Be specific: While journaling, it’s important to really dig deep and note down the specifics of what and who you are grateful for. Eg: if you are grateful for your family, specify the people, the situations, etc.
Focus on people: Giving more emphasis to people to whom you are grateful for, is more effective and powerful than giving the same emphasis to things and thoughts.
Deeper the better: Once you touch upon the who’s and what’s you are grateful for, it’s important to elaborate the details of the why’s. This helps to really understand the reason for your gratitude, giving you an opportunity to verbalise the thought. For example, I’m grateful for my relationship with my sister, as she gives me the comfort to be myself and fosters a safe space.
Be consistent: Fostering gratitude as a habit can only be done if you practice it daily or consistently. Setting aside a time to completely engage with the journaling activity will add value to your already set intention. Meanwhile, keeping the journal easily accessible and visible will help you stay consistent!
Don’t overdo it: Writing consistently, even if it isn’t everyday will allow gratitude to become a part of your thought processes.
Sanjana has recently graduated with a degree in Psychology and is interning at The Thought Company to gain more knowledge and experience on her path to becoming a mental health professional. She is interested in understanding what makes people resilient in the face of adversity. She has a knack for cooking, origami and re-reading Khaled Hosseini books. Her favourite way to de-stress is watching a Pixar movie curled up next to her dogs. If she could be any Pixar character, she’d be Remy from Ratatouille!