1) Disconnect to connect
To really get into yourself you have to hear your thoughts and step into your feelings. To do this you have to have silence and privacy and this means getting rid of distractions – turn off the ringer on your phone, the TV and the Internet. If you are writing on the computer there are some great computer programs that will black out everything in the background and allow you to focus.
2) Spend one day a week reading the last week’s journal entries out loud
This is extremely useful if you make notes along the way. Reading your journal entries out loud will help you understand your thought processes and behavioral patterns. As you read pay attention to the way that you are using language because it will help you see see the limiting beliefs that you have.
3) Don’t be self conscious
I have a friend who once told me that when she journals she pretends that she has died and it is the future and someone is reading her journal, which made her cautious about what she put in it. This defeats one of the main purposes of keeping a journal-self-discovery.
To understand yourself and benefit from journaling, you have to pretend the opposite – that no one knows you exist and this is for your eyes only so you can really bare your soul. You cannot find the solutions or insights you want if you cannot understand the problem and to understand the problem you have to be brutally honest in your writing. Grammar, spelling, and so forth is not important as long as it makes sense to you. Remember, this is for your eyes only and this is your way to channel your voice and free yourself. Besides, with time your writing will change and improve.
4) Journal about the future every other day
I call this futuristic journaling because you are writing your future into being. I mean it – journal about a calendar day that has not yet happened. The journal entry can just be paragraph long, but it should be very vivid.
Futuristic journaling really keeps your dreams fresh in your mind and fosters your creativity. It also gives you insight on what you want: most of the time we say we don’t know what we want but we do, we are just not paying attention.
Picking a future date and writing about how you feel, what you did, how much you learn, what you are performing or thinking will help give you insight on the things you value and want in your future. When you read these journals out loud you will see that certain things keep coming up. Pay attention to these details because they reveal your desires.
5) Set a regular time and time limit to journal
I was talking to a friend (who is a psychologist) about this post and she said that she will often recommend that her patients not exceed 20 minutes when journaling, especially when they are dealing with really heavy topics. Using a page limit which is also helpful because you can allocate a time limit and not have an excuse that you do not have enough time.
It is also very important to set a regular time to journal so that it becomes part of your routine and you do not forget. Many people have suggested early morning and late evening as great times.
6) Use your journal to write positive affirmations to yourself
This is very helpful when you are trying to change a habit. Remember how in primary school children were punished by writing out that they will not talk in class? This is because writing is a powerful way to change your thought process. I find this particularly helpful if you say the affirmations out loud as you write them.
7) End each journal entry with a list of 5 successes or things you are grateful for
This last exercise can really change your entire day because it inspires gratitude and appreciation for your life. Sometimes the only thing I can appreciate is that I am breathing but after that one hiccup I can usually find 4 other things to appreciate in my life and it changes my perspective.
Journaling your successes (some days getting out of bed can be a success so write it down) will remind you of all the things you have done in 24 hours, especially if you feel down about a particular issue or doubt your ability to produce a work of art.