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Journaling, 7 Quick Hacks.

Negative thoughts can litter your mind, everything reminds you of an ill-thought-out action or takes you back to a memory that weighs heavy on your conscious. These thoughts will have a root that's always there but as they roll around your mind they can grab and discard new ideas like a thorny tumbleweed. It seems simplistic but writing helps you trap that tumbleweed and take it apart, you start to see the thought in a more logical way. Once you’ve got it on paper it’s easier for the mind to process something solid rather than chase it as it ricochets around your mind. 

 

Journalling isn’t just keeping a diary (though it can be that too), it’s where you look at your thoughts and deal with them, as such it can be a good outlet for stress, anxiety and depression it can improve sleep quality, and improve overall mood. Journaling can even help you process trauma and grief.

 

The problem is often knowing where to start so here are a few simple steps to help you use writing to deal with these negative thoughts.

Set yourself a time every day to write, a good way to do this is to stack it with something you already do i.e while I drink my morning coffee I will write for 5 minutes.

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Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, this is for you and you alone. If you know what you mean to say then that’s good enough.

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Don’t censor yourself, if you think it WRITE IT. Once you see it on paper you might change your mind and that's fine i.e. I hate that dog. No that’s not true, I just hate it when she barks.

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Don’t keep it if you don’t want to. You can write it down, get all those thoughts out, process it and then chuck it in the fire. Reviewing what you’ve done can be great but it’s the act of writing that helps the most.

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Try to focus on the present, it’s fine to write about the past but: You can’t change the past but you CAN change how you feel about it.

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You can use prompts. Starring frustratedly at a blank page helps no one. Use prompts; Here’s a .pdf attached that you can print out to get started.

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Lastly, and this is a big one, be consistent. Journaling is like going to the gym, the more you go and actively do it the more you’ll notice results. 

Photo of Man writing at a desk

…do these every day or two and you’ll be journaling.

What do I need? Obviously the simple answer is pen and paper but there are a lot of little things that might help the habit stick. Firstly we’d recommend getting a dedicated notebook that is just for journaling it doesn't have to be anything fancy (note. if you’re going to be throwing pages away as you do them remember to get a spiral-bound notebook). It can be really nice to have a good pen as well that you keep with your journal…a pen loop is always a bonus!

 

If you need a little more guidance or structure you can get a pre-printed journal that has prompts and exercises to help you out. A few favorites are:

 

5 Minute Journal (£31) is the easiest pre-made journal to get to grips with, it’s pretty pricey but gives you a daily set of prompts to get you easily into the habit. These are great for people getting started and give you a good grounding but if you want to really start exploring some ideas it can be a little restrictive.

The 6-Minute Diary (£23) These guys obviously jumped on the popularity of the 5 Minute Journal and made it a little more in-depth and less prescriptive. You explore more concepts and have a few more sections like a ‘weekly review’ which can be an interesting thing to think about. This is more of an intermediate-level Journal experience.

 

Mind Journal (£35) is more intermediate/advanced and has a lot of exercises and prompts to get you really thinking. It’s a very structured experience but still has space to explore thoughts in a little more depth. It can be quite overwhelming if you’re new to journaling though so keep that in mind. 

 

Ruled Notebook (£8) Once you’re comfortable with the idea of journaling there is a great feeling to just writing, letting thoughts and ideas spill out onto the blank page. It’s not as straightforward as the other options but you can often find yourself going down a rabbit hole, filling pages with ink and gaining a real clarity of thought. 

 

There are a load of other pre-printed options out there and a lot of the concepts will be the same so don’t feel you need to get one of these specifically. The important thing is that you start the process, it gets easier every time you do it and if you make the habit stick you will really start to see the benefits. 

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