How To Create the Life-Changing Habit of Journalling


I started journaling after going through a particularly stressful time as a school teacher. I was overwhelmed by the workload, had students that struggled to behave and the school was being inspected. I benefited from getting my worries and concerns out of my head and onto paper for sure. In fact, the writing gave me a sense of clarity and helped me find solutions I hadn’t thought of. I’ve been journaling on and off ever since.

Journaling always feels like a real pleasure. It’s like coming back to meet myself and spend lovely, quality, caring time with me.

Although most people journal with pen and paper, I’ve actually been journaling on a ‘Google Doc’ myself. Typing is actually more natural for me to do than handwriting, so I’ve been doing it like that.

However, having been given a lovely journal as a gift, I’ve been doing short journaling by hand every morning and night. I’ve enjoyed the process of working with pen and paper rather than being on my laptop, so I’ve switched over from digital to the real-world! There’s something about having a pen and paper that make me feel less stressed and more creative somehow.

There’s two reason journaling can be particularly powerful:

  1. Journalling can be considered a form of therapy. This may be because people who journal are able to fully open up to their feelings and know they won’t be judged, as it’s just a piece of paper. The cathartic nature of journaling offers this lovely benefit. Wikipedia explains more here.

  2. Writing about a trauma over 4 days is particularly powerful. Some other research found that just one experience of journaling where they are asked to write down their most challenging moment of their lives lead to positive health outcomes for months or perhaps even years later. Benefits included less visits to hospital and a better immune system. Find out more on the research here.

So there you have it. Journaling works! Do you want to journal everyday. If so, how can you make journaling a habit, from the science of habit formation?

  1. Start very small. The first thing to remember is you need to make the habit as small and as easy as possible. This is because your motivation may be high one day and low another. That’s natural. So a very small and easy action works best by far. For example, your initial action can be, ‘I will journal one line a day’. Great! Nice and small - so small, even if you’re feeling really tired or unwell or are too busy, you can do one line. Excellent choice :)

  2. Hook to a routine. Next, you need to ‘hook’ your daily journaling time into one of your daily routines. For example, your daily routine may be to get up, brush your teeth, have a shower, get dressed, go to your kitchen, make breakfast etc etc. So, after which routine will you do your one sentence of journaling? Let’s say you decide to do it immediately after getting up. Excellent. So, in a nutshell you can say ‘After I wake up, I will open my journal and write down one sentence’.

  3. Make it easy. Now you need to make the action as easy as possible. To achieve this, I’d recommend you place your journal/notepad/diary and pen somewhere you’d see it. In this example, on your bedside table if you have one, would be idea.

  4. Tiny Celebration. You’re ready to have a go! After you wake up each morning, you’ll sit up, open your journal and write down how you’re feeling that day. After that, celebrate your tiny action with a ‘yay!’ or ‘Go me!’. The tiny reward makes a difference - just like praising a young child or even animal makes them feel good and more likely to do the action again.

Try these steps and let me know how you get on!

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