By: Alyssa Burns
Ever since I was little, I’ve had this infatuation with writing my life on paper. I’d write stories, document my days from the time I was seven years old in my Hello Kitty notepads, and make note of my thoughts and feelings. Naturally I knew it was a tool I’d use forever. Journaling is a powerful tool to not only connect with yourself in the present, but to use it as a reference for how far you’ve come. It’s also a way to understand what you’re currently experiencing. It’s a way to sit down and look at your own heart on pieces of paper or black letters on a white screen.
Journaling is the most compelling form of self-discovery and self-understanding. It has changed my life, and allowed me to connect with others beyond the surface. I’m here to share with you my favorite forms of journaling, and give you some tips to get started on your own journaling journey!
Use Journal Prompts
Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to journal about. You sit down, open a fresh new page, pen in hand, and your mind is just… blank. Believe me, I’ve been there. A really helpful tool is researching journal prompts that align with whatever it is you’re looking to understand or uncover. Pinterest is full of amazing journal prompts about self-love, childhood, relationships, career goals, etc. Start by thinking about what it is that’s weighing on your heart or mind the most. Sometimes it’s as simple as three lines on a page listing what you’re grateful for that day. Or, maybe you just write, “Today I feel ______.” It doesn’t need to be pages and pages long to open up something in you that you weren’t seeing before.
I also recommend finding a book that’s specifically designed for you to write in responses to different prompts. I have one I’m working in right now titled, “Healing Through Words” by Rupi Kaur. Sometimes it just takes an aesthetic-looking book and a cute new gel pen to get the inspiration going.
This is a journaling technique I learned in college. We weren't told what to write
about, we were just given ten minutes to write. It was ten minutes to flow with your thoughts as they popped up in your head. What has been stressing you out lately? What is the most beautiful thing about yourself? What would you say to the person you love if you had no fear of their reaction? Just set a timer and write freely without boundaries. This is a wonderful technique for when you’re in a creative block. You may get some of your best ideas when you sit, shut out everything else, and allow your thoughts to run wild. I suggest starting small, ten minutes max. Then, gradually, add in five or ten more minutes. Soon enough, you’ll go into an hour of writing without even realizing time is passing by. Time for you and you alone. Photographer: Patricia Aquino
Whatever the case may be, day to day, there is an opportunity to take away something bigger than your circumstances.
Document Your Day
This is how I personally began journaling at a young age. I kept “diaries” so to speak to write about what happened that day in my life in the most detail I could provide. I would write as if I were telling this story to someone whom I wanted to feel as if they were right there with me. I’d use strong descriptive words for how I felt, how the world around me felt, how the rain would quietly fall outside of my window as I started a new book and curled up with my pink Vera Bradley blanket. In a way, it was storytelling, but telling the story of my life and romanticizing the small details. This is a more personal way of journaling that can be as private as you want it to be.
When I journal this way, I journal about all of my experiences, even ones that I don’t want anyone else to know about. I talk about my firsts, my strongest emotions, my breakdowns, my breakthroughs, when I kissed the guy I really liked for the first time. All of it. I guess most of you would consider this a diary. Then yes, these are diary entries! I love going back and reading my entries from when I was eighteen and just starting college, meeting all of my best friends for the first time. It’s nostalgic and bittersweet. It’s reading about the person you thought was your person that you haven’t spoken to in over a year. It’s your first day living in a new city you ended up moving out of less than a year later. All of these moments are such crucial parts of your story, and now you can understand how it all led to you getting to where you are now–exactly where you’re meant to be.
What I Learned Today
If you have me on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen my current journal entries on my Instagram Story. I chose to dedicate part of my journal entries each day to reflecting on what that day taught me or reminded me. It’s a way of taking a step away from your situation and looking at it through a wider lens. There is a lesson in everything–an opportunity to better yourself and learn how to grow, heal, and come back stronger. Some days, it’s a beautiful reminder after a super exciting day. Others, it’s those tough reminders that you don’t necessarily want to hear, but know you need to. Whatever the case may be, day to day, there is an opportunity to take away something bigger than your circumstances.
These kinds of entries can absolutely be yours and yours alone. I’m not saying in order for them to be helpful or valid that you need to share them with the world. However, these kinds of journal entries have helped me to become a better human. They remind me that we’re all dealing with so many things that no one else knows about on the surface. We feel deeply and love hard and are all just trying to figure this life thing out one day at a time. Acknowledging that in your own life and taking away from what each new day is reminding you or teaching you allows you to feel safe. It’s reminding you you’re doing enough, and you are enough.
Now… Get Writing!
These journal prompt ideas are just some of many that can help you get started on a whole new journey of self-discovery. Whether you want to journal to learn more about yourself, to document your life, or to heal, the fact that you’re curious about it is a great start! Don’t overthink it. Maybe treat yourself to a cute new journal and pen from the bookstore, or like me, type your feelings away until your fingers cramp. Whatever mode you choose, it’s the right one for you! Trust that. Happy writing!