How to Start Your Journaling Practice
Are you stuck staring at the blank page? Start by identifying your ideal writing environment. Journaling in a cozy nook lined with plush pillows and throws can elevate the hygge experience by allowing your thoughts to flow freely onto the page. Or, perhaps time spent at a café or on the mountain top with a hot beverage is more your style. Also, find a journal that you love and make it your hygge journal.
One way to get over the hump of figuring out what to write about is to use journaling prompts. These are questions or phrases that get your mind thinking and get your pen writing.
Here are some prompts to try out:
- What season do you love most and why?
- What are you grateful for in your life?
- How do you make the world a better place for others?
- What makes you feel glad to be alive?
- What natural landscapes do you love and why?
- If you created a hygge challenge, what would you include?
- It is storming outside; how would you love to spend your day?
- What book author would you most like to invite over for tea? Why?
- How could you make life simpler for yourself?
- What is the coziest room in your home and why?
- What is your favorite time in history to read about and why?
- What will you think of your life as you look back at the end of it?
- What would your 10 Rules for a Happy Hygge Life be?
- What happy hygge memories do you have?
- What family rituals did you have growing up? Do still do them?
- What genre of books enchant and interest you the most?
- What choice do you think has had the most influence on your life?
- Who “gets you” more than anyone else in the world?
- What would your perfect hygge day look like?
- What simple things make you happy?
Perhaps the most common journaling technique is called. When you free write, you just write about whatever comes to your mind. Try to keep writing even when your mind wanders off, and don't worry about grammar, spelling, or a storyline. Freewriting may be a good technique to use when doing a daily journal, at least to get the thoughts flowing and overcome the inertia of the blank page.
Write down affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements, usually about yourself (e.g., "I have the power to change" or "I am enough"). We can use affirmations to shift our mindset and focus more on the positive. Affirmations are a good practice to do daily (or at least frequently). By doing so, you may be able to make these positive thoughts automatic. That is, you won't have to do the affirmations anymore; your mind will just think these thoughts on its own.
Write a to-do list.
Try to be thoughtful about what you want to get done, what you'll have time for, and then make yourself a list. At the end of the day, come back to the list and cross off the things you completed. At the very least, this practice can help you better understand what you can reasonably accomplish in a day. At best, it'll give you a sense of satisfaction for having planned and succeeded in completing it. This may be one potential way to boost self-efficacy—or the belief in our own ability to do or achieve what we set our minds to.
Try bullet & dot journaling.
Bullet journaling and dot journaling have become very popular in recent years. Basically, these techniques involve making a lot of bulleted lists that vary from functional to artistic. Given this is a new journaling technique, there isn't a ton of research on it. But initial and related research would suggest it likely offers at least some benefits. One study suggested that bullet journaling helps creators to gain holistic and novel views of their life, reflect on life trajectories, appreciate the imperfect world, and resist a culture of super-efficiency.
People use bullet journals to track a wide variety of things including:
- fitness activities (e.g., running, weightlifting, meditation)
- food and nutrition (e.g., water, veggies, home cooking)
- bedtime routines (e.g., up at 7am, nap time, bed by 11)
- hygiene (e.g., shower, wash face am and pm)
- social activities (e.g., phone calls, go out)
- hobbies (e.g., reading, Nintendo, piano)
- health (e.g., period, symptoms)
- medication intake (e.g., drugs, vitamins)
- mood (e.g., tired, happy)
- resolutions (e.g., no junk food, no spending, no alcohol, no smoking, no tech after 11pm)
- personal development (e.g., creativity, productivity, compassion, courage)
Self-compassion can help us feel better about ourselves. To write yourself a self-compassion letter, start by thinking of some parts of yourself that you are critical of. Then, try talking to yourself about those parts in a compassionate way. How would you talk to a friend about these things? How would you ensure them that they are lovable despite these things? In this letter, just write a kind and supportive letter to yourself.
Try expressive writing.
Research suggests that writing about emotional experiences can result in improvements in mental and physical health. One study showed that 15-30 minutes of daily journaling for 3-5 days was enough to improve health. The researchers suggest this may be because when we disclose important things, we haven't told anyone, it releases the burden of keeping these secrets all to ourselves. But keep in mind that bringing traumatic memories to the surface can be difficult and the benefits of doing so may be small so this may not be the right journaling approach for everyone.
Try reflective journaling.
Reflective journaling is used to chronicle our internal processes.
- Begin by writing an objective description of an experience you had.
- Then, reflect on the experience. Ask yourself, what was your subjective experience? How did you feel? What do you think about it?
- Explore the meaning of the experience. Ask yourself, what do you think the experience means? How might it affect you now or in the future?
- Lastly, ask yourself whether you learned anything additional from reflecting on this experience. Do you have any new interpretations or a better understanding of the experience?
Reflective journaling is thought to aid experiential learning (Hubbs & Brand, 2005), and it may help us process difficult events so that we can move forward more effectively.