“I read somewhere recently that you shouldn’t wait for a certain moment in time to start something. So here I am on a Wednesday 29th September at midday starting a new journal…”
There are many sources across the internet that champion the mental and physical benefits of journaling. Other last couple of years I found keeping a journal incredibly beneficial. My last journal helped me through my mental health struggles with severe depression and anxiety and the marriage break-up, which followed them.
At the time, I felt I had no one else close to me I could confide in and with the mental health system under strain, I had few and far between appointments in which I could share my troubles with a professional. Simply the act of writing out all the negative thought, worries and stresses gave me a therapeutic outlet I much needed.
Before writing them down, my mind would feel in daze, with thoughts battering around like a tornado in a small room. Somehow by writing those thoughts down, they left me as though I had literally dumped them on the page. I had some calm again before the next storm.
That journal I still have and though there are still empty pages within it, I have put it aside. I am no longer in that despairingly dark and excruciating lonely place. I still have my issues, my anxiety and my doubts but they no longer rule me as they did before.
But just because I am in a better place, does not mean I cannot still benefit from keeping a journal. After months without journaling, I felt a desire to jot my thoughts down and reflect on how I feel now. So as the excerpt above reflects, I didn’t wait for that optimal starting point of the beginning of the week, month or year; I just bought myself a new notebook and got to it.
I have seen in some magazines suggested writing prompts for journaling and I’m not sure how I feel about them. I don’t want to write about where I see myself in a year or how someone else would describe me, well not unless it is a notion that has popped into my head of its own accord. For me journaling should be about releasing what you feel and think in that moment, not a constructed question. Sure, some might find it helpful to get started but I would hope they wouldn’t get too bogged down in them, making journaling akin to a job application or test.
Some also suggest planning a time to write, however, the rigidity of it, to me, is off-putting. For me simply having a notebook set aside for journaling, having provided myself an outlet, is enough for me to use it.
I journal as I feel the need arises and as my brain is usually whirring, there is often something to scribble down. I feel that you shouldn’t pressure yourself with journaling, it should be a therapy you undertake as needed and should never feel laborious. Consequently, I have no rules placed upon my journaling – I don’t make myself write every day or even set out to write ‘x’ amount of times a week. Of course, I make time to journal, but I don’t make it a set time – I don’t want to feel bad for missing a designated slot just because life has got in the way.
For that very reason, I don’t have a diary but a notebook, so I can write without blank pages of other days starting back at me. When I was younger, I often gave up on keeping diaries as having so many empty days made me feel (wrongly) like a failure. It felt like it was too much pressure to find something to talk about each and every day.
So do I have my own advice to give others thinking of journaling? Yes, do it. Do it when you feel the need arise or when you want to. Never worry about fulfilling a quota of entries each week. Write about what you want to, be it prompts or the thoughts buzzing around your head – whatever works for you. Don’t place pressure on yourself for it to be perfect, written out a set frequency or even for it to make any sense. It’s to be cathartic, it’s to be that removal of the bottle top – not a chore, never a chore.