Photograph of a notebook with blue butterflies and cherry blossom on the front cover.  Notebook is spiral bound.  Background is light wood.
Rather pretty notebook I picked up from WHSmiths but your journal needn’t be pretty or expensive any notebook will do.

“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.

Published by kaelawalker

30-something aspiring writer on the West Coast of Scotland. Inspired by nature, beautiful Scotland and my journey coping with physical and mental illness.

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