- Don't judge yourself, your journal is for you, not for others.
- Don't try to make it perfect, allow yourself to make mistakes in spelling and grammar.
- Don't copy other people's writing styles. Write in your own way, however it comes out.
- Don't force yourself to write, not every day and not a certain amount of words/pages.
- Don't let journaling take over your life or become an obsession.
- Find a spot you feel comfortable in, and that you won't be interrupted.
- Use a pen and notebook that you enjoy using.
- Don't just write down things that happened, reflect on them, analyze them, try to understand them.
- Make journaling a habit by doing it at a scheduled day and time, but don't be too strict.
- Journal with an open mind, allow your thoughts to flow, and explore even the silliest ideas.
I have noticed that when ever I try and force myself to journal, not only do I not actually benefit from it and end up writing nonsense, I also lose motivation for journaling and end up not doing it for a long time until I feel motivated again.
I have also undoubtedly tried to write whole pages at a time, which I now understand is a problem and should be avoided.
So for me, when ever I try and force it, it stops working.
Some reasons why you may feel that journaling isn't working for you are: you are expecting the wrong things from the practice, you are not asking yourself the right questions, you are forcing yourself to write more than you actually need to, you are not personalizing it.
There are of course more reasons why journaling may not be working well for you, be those are some very common reasons.
If you expect things that are not realistic, such as journaling being a cure for what ever you are dealing with, then you may end up very disappointed when the practice does not provide those results. Understand that journaling is not a magic trick, it will not suddenly change your life. It is a practice that takes time to get better at, to build up the patience and acceptance of the practice. It takes time to build up the benefits it can provide. Give it the time it needs.
Asking the right questions:
Are you asking yourself the right questions? Searching online, you can find hundreds of journal prompts to give you examples and inspiration for questions to ask yourself while journaling. Don't stick to the same ones if they aren't working. Try out different prompts, explore them and see which work best for you. There are no rules when it comes to which questions to ask yourself, just as long as you feel they are benefiting you and not making things worse. Try asking questions based on the reason you are journaling in the first place, ask yourself how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and continue from there.
Forcing yourself to journal:
If you don't want to journal, don't. If you don't have anything to write, don't. If you only have enough for half a page, or a few sentences, then write just half a page or a few sentences. The point is to not force yourself to write when you don't have anything to write. The point of journaling is not to write as much as you can, but, to write what you need.
Journaling is a very personal practice. You decide how to do it and what's best for you. Find your own way to do it. Find a spot that makes you more comfortable, that makes your thoughts flow better. Use a notebook and a pen that you like that you will want to write in. Ask the questions that get your mind flowing. Write in your own style, without fear of judgment from others. Your journaling practice is your own, and no one else's. Make it your own, however you like to do it.
I always like to start by asking myself, "Why am I journaling?". If I chose to start journaling and to start writing, there must be a reason for it. If I can understand that reason, even if i just partially understand it, I can use that as a guide to asking myself further questions.
There are many questions you can ask yourself, some people like to stick to the same questions, some like to ask different questions each time, and some like to mix it up. There aren't really rules or "right" ways of journaling, it just depends on why you are journaling and what you hope to get out of it.
Based on the reason you are journaling, you may want to try different journaling types, such as mindfulness journaling, gratitude journaling, or reflection journaling. There are many different types, and each may have different prompts that can help get you started and get your thoughts flowing.
If you are doing morning journaling, or are considering starting to do it, here is an article about how to start a morning journaling habit, which includes 100 prompts.
If you know your ideals, you know who you are, or at least who you want to be, and you even know what you consider right, why is it so hard to act on it and actually do it and be true to yourself?
There are a few things that are best to avoid when journaling. It's not that they are necessarily wrong per se, but, they could impact your journaling practice and the effectiveness of it.
One important thing to avoid is to not judge yourself and what you are writing. Journaling is a safe space for you to write down what ever you feel you need to write down. This could be your thoughts, emotions, feelings, things that have happened that day, things you want to have happened, or anything else. It's a place for you to vent, to clarify and understand yourself, and to go on a journey of self discovery.
Another important thing is to keep it simple. Don't try to have perfect grammar, it's not the point of journaling. Don't try to copy someone else's style or write in certain styles other than your own, just be yourself. And don't try to fill out a whole page or multiple ones every time you journal, just write as much as you feel you need to, even if it's just one sentence.
Here is a longer article I wrote on this site's blog that covers more things to avoid and things that can help your journaling practice: The Essential Guide To Journaling: Dos, Don'ts, And Tips For Success