From doodling (badly!) about all the things I’m grateful for that particular day/in general/in my life, to writing down my goals, dreams and intentions, I love to journal. There are no rules, no format – just me, my notebook, my pen and my thoughts. It’s something I can do, just for me. It focusses my mind; it consolidates my ideas; it shifts my mind-set in a good way!

How I started

I started journaling back in 2014. I was asked in a MBCT session (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) to write down nurturing versus draining activities in a bid to ramp up the nurturing ones and cut down on those that were draining me. I was surprised to find how cathartic it was, to write those activities down. It felt like a step towards taking control of my life (which at the time was awash with anxiety), and revealed a whole host of draining activities/patterns that I had no idea I was doing. And by sitting down and taking the time to mentally sort my life out on a piece of paper – it was all there, staring me in the face, so obvious. A positive step to being able to make some real changes.

So, I started looking around at what others were doing – journaling about their ideal day, sketching goals and intentions, writing gratitude lists – there were lots of ideas, books and inspiration out there to get me started. I’m a sucker for the good old-fashioned putting pen to paper so I started playing around with what worked for me.

What to write?

Firstly, I made sure that I found quiet time to journal, without distraction, so it felt like time for me, my special time of the day. There was something quite childlike and playful about it and I tried to approach it with a curiosity that made it feel like a treat rather than a chore. Some days it flowed, some days I wrote very little but I always tried to write something.

My content differed day to day. Some evenings, in the midst of anxiety, I would try and find things to be grateful for. However small, I would seek little moments that were the chinks of light in the shadowy depths of my mind. As I moved through my mindfulness journey, these tiny steps forward opened out into much bigger, brighter events in my life. And looking back it’s uplifting to see how far I’ve moved on from that place in my mind.

Other times I would journal about my ideal day – so where do I want to be in my life, what does that look like? All the melting pot of ideas scattered around in my brain were consolidated onto the page. It was a great way to brain dump and clear my mind. It gave me a focus, a sense of purpose, a direction. All the scattered pieces, when laid out in front of me, allowed me to start joining the dots and gave me some clarity.

My beacon of light

It’s taken me 12 months to finish my beautiful leather-bound journal, gifted to me by my husband. And it’s wonderful to look back over the last year. My journal is like a little beacon of light. To see how many wonderful things I have recorded in black and white uplifts me and fills me with joy. Looking back at some of my dreams and plans, seeing that I’ve realised some (ditched others!) and surpassed more, shows me how much I’ve grown and developed. It’s so easy to forge forward without even stopping to see how far you’ve come or how you got there. My journal allows me to slow down, take stock, be grateful, evaluate, consolidate, be creative, offload, focus… it’s my little place of calm, just for me.

So how to get you started!

  1. Buy a journal, something lovely, that feels special and makes you want to open it.
  2. Go with your gut – there’s no formula – write about what makes you feel good/grateful/happy. Set intentions or sketch out fledgling ideas.. or both!
  3. Journal regularly – it doesn’t have to be every night (articles I have read recommend gratitude journaling at least 3 times a week) but I would say be consistent so it becomes part of a routine to really feel the benefit.
  4. Make it your special time. Set space and time aside in your day to write in your journal. This is time for you, so allow yourself this time. I love Saturday mornings before the rest of the household is up, first cup of coffee of the day, window open listening to the birds, peace and quiet, me, my pen and paper.
  5. Start today – don’t put it off – give it a go!

Journaling Books

On my bookshelf

Whether you like to doodle, sketch, bullet, write lengthy prose, there are lots of book out there to give you inspiration.

Drawn Dreams by Maddie-Jo Anderson – a sketch book with interleaved pages of inspiration for you to literally draw your dreams and goals.

52 lists for happiness by Moorea Seal – weekly inspiration with ideas for action at the end of each list.

Make Someone Happy by Emily Coxhead – a creative kindness journal, fun and interactive for young and old alike.

I am here now by The Mindfulness Project – another creative-approach journal which allows you to delve deeper into your mindfulness practice through interactive exercises.

Happy journaling!