If you are lying in bed at night and instead of getting some restful sleep all you do is worrying about the things you didn’t do today, or you need to do tomorrow, keeping a worry journal can help.
Pouring your heart out into a journal is an effective way to get things off your chest so that they don’t disturb your sleep. Plus, acknowledging and writing down your thoughts make it easier for you to deal with your worries because it allows you to gain some clarity on why they’re causing you sleepless nights.
In this article, I want to go over how to get started writing a journal and how you can make the most out of it. But before we dig deeper into the “how-to’s” let’s look at some of the main benefits of keeping a journal.
It reduces anxiety
One of the main reasons why many people can’t sleep is anxiety. The problem with anxiety is that it was designed to help us get away from immediate danger. It triggers the “fight or flight” response. If each time you have that anxious feeling you choose to write in your journal how you are feeling and why, you’ll start to control it better.
It lowers avoidance behaviors
Many people who have mental health issues practice avoidance behaviors such as not going to places that cause them anxiety, or not doing the things they need to do due to how they feel. When you write it out, it helps you get the feelings out but do the thing anyway.
It boosts your mood
If you want to boost your mood, keeping a gratitude journal is where it’s at. All you have to do is once a day, preferably before bed, write down what you’re grateful for today. It might not seem like much, but it’s very powerful for going to sleep, thinking positively about your life.
It increases your sense of wellbeing
As you write out your thoughts, you’ll start seeing issues from a new angle just because youíre opening your mind to think about it. This is going to make you feel more capable of dealing with whatever happens.
It lessens symptoms of depression
Understand that depression is something different from sadness and that you likely need a counselor. Writing it all down can make it seem less horrific so that you can feel better. Plus, you can look back at days you thought life was “over” and see better days after.
It makes you a kinder person
Exploring your own emotional state and accepting your own feelings while you work through what makes you who you are in your journal is going to make you naturally more empathetic to others too. Letting go of judgment for self improves your thoughts for others also.
It improves your memory
This is almost a situation where you want to say “duh” but it has to be said. Writing down things helps you remember them because you can go back and read it, but also because the act of writing something down enables you to recall it.
How to Get Started Writing a Journal
The most important thing when starting with journaling is that you don’t think too hard. There are numerous types and styles of journals and ways to do this. However, remember the primary goal here is to simply get your thoughts on some paper (or your computer).
Let’s review a few tips for making journaling part of your daily routine.
Make it easy – Don’t make it a huge deal, and it’ll be simpler to get done. You don’t need anything special to keep a journal; in fact, purists believe that using pen and paper is the best way to journal because you can carry it with you anywhere and you don’t need technology. So, there will be no excuses. However, you have to do what works for you, and what works for you is what you will do daily. If you make it too hard, you won’t do it.
Write every single day – Whenever you choose to do it, make it a habit. It is more effective to journal every day than just doing it when you feel like it. In fact, journaling is meant to be a long-term strategy to improve your life and not something that is going to have any effect overnight. For this reason, ritualize your journaling so that it becomes a daily habit.
Do it last thing at night – Many suggest not to procrastinate and do journaling first thing in the morning. However, if your goal is to get better sleep best is to do it before bedtime so that you have the right frame of mind to wind down. Or if you know a better time that works for you, do it. For example, some people like journaling while on lunch at work in the park. It’s up to you.
Combine it with something else you enjoy doing – If you struggle to make it a habit to write before bedtime, do it while you’re doing something you like. If you enjoy cleaning the house, then reading in your clean house with the windows open and the breeze flowing in, why not journal at that moment? If it’s a daily thing, add journaling to it, and it’ll create a habit fast.
Start simply – Don’t start being worried about style and substance right now; just work on the daily habit with pen and paper (or if it’s easier for you, a computer or smartphone). Don’t make it hard – just get going. Plus, you only need five to ten minutes, so it’s not that big of a deal.
Begin with today – Start right now and write about your day today. That’s the easiest thing to do. What of significance happened today? How did you feel about it? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?
Set up a comfy journaling spot – Find a good space you can journal in each day, one which is relaxing and without stress. It’s easier to get into your thoughts if you’re comfortable and not thinking about how bad your tailbone hurts or your wrist hurts. For example, you can keep your journal by your bedside so that each night when you get into bed, you can quickly write in your journal.
Add some relaxing music to set the mood – Now it’s true that some people prefer silence, so that’s fine if you do. But consider trying some music that doesn’t have words, and that is relaxing, to help you gather your thoughts and say calm and focused.
Get a (non-alcoholic) drink and eat a snack – You don’t want to have any excuses or extraneous thoughts while you’re writing in your journal. Make sure you’re fed and hydrated.
Consider using more than writing to document your thoughts – You don’t need just to use text. You can use images, pictures, tickets, and other memories inside your journal too. Sometimes a few pictures and mementos mean more than anything you can write to help you remember.
Keep It Private and Secure – You don’t want to worry about anyone getting into your private business when you’re not around, so keep it hidden. If it’s on your computer, keep it password protected. The only exception is if you want to share thoughts with a therapist, counselor, coach, or friend. Or if you want to turn it into a book or course, to help someone else overcome whatever you overcame.
Reward Yourself – When you have been diligent for a month writing in your journal, take some time to read what you wrote, then reward yourself for doing it. You might buy some colored pens or some scrapbooking materials so you can add some definition and interest to your journal.
Remember, any type of journal that you keep can be beneficial. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to document your life or to work through problems – you can use a journal to do it all. From tracking your projects to documenting vacation to overcoming anxiety, a journal will work for you if you pick the right type and make journaling a ritual.
Journaling to help with anxiety and stress
Anxiety and stress are for many people the number one reason why they can’t sleep. If that’s true for you too, here are some practical ways to journal to combat your stress.
Write about your worries – Go straight to the problem and write about your worries. Describe them from every single angle you can come up with. The more descriptive, the better. Go back to the first time you felt this feeling regarding this topic so that you can get to the bottom of it.
Describe wWhat’s happening now – Put out of your mind what you did, what someone else did, or what can be done – right now write about precisely what is happening right now and where you stand with the issue causing your stress. If it’s generalized stress, try to make a list of things that might be contributing.
Document the worst that can happen – As you look at the situation, one thing that often causes stress is the unknown, or the “worst thing” that you think can happen. Describe this worst thing but make it realistic. For example, donít make up something like an airplane falling on your wedding party. That isn’t realistic. However, bad weather, rude in-laws, and other issues may be.
Document the best that can happen – Let’s get serious by thinking about and writing about the very best (realistic) outcome of the situation you’re stressing about. Include potential steps and tactics to achieve this best-case scenario so that you can see it to fruition if you so choose.
Document what is really happening – As you are writing, be very careful to be realistic and honest above all else. Other than when you imagine the best and worst, ensure that you are also documenting the reality of what is happening to you right now. That way, you can narrow down identifying the stress-inducing situation.
Write a counter-argument to yourself – An excellent way to overcome some stress about a situation is to argue with yourself. First, tell your story as a letter to yourself about what is happening. Then write a letter back to yourself in answer, arguing all the negativity and turning it into positivity. If your best friend wrote that, what would you say back?
8 types of journals you can create
When you just get started with journaling, the best thing is to do a classic journal. A classic journal is simply a diary, and you can write whatever you want in it every day. It can be long, short, or you can skip days if you want to.
However, some people choose to have more than one type of journal or a specific type of journal. This way, they find it easier to keep everything organized. They can simply go to a particular journal to work on one issue at a time. It’s also an excellent way to store thoughts and memories for the future in a more organized and useful manner.
Here are some common types of journals you may want to consider:
1. Bullet Journals
This type of journal is useful for anyone who has lots of to-do lists, loves using a pen and paper, and who enjoys goal tracking. Your journal should have a table of contents that you create as you add to the journal so you can find things. You’ll use symbols, colors, and lines to make your bullet journal. You should be able to understand at a glance whatís on the page.
2. Vision Journals
You may have heard of vision boards, and this is essentially it, except it’s a journal that helps lead you to your vision. The way it works is that you set up the journal to have only one goal per page. Then you can write words, add pictures, or draw something that enables you to make plans to reach that goal. When you do reach the goal, be sure to go back and add the date of achievement.
3. Line a Day Journals
This journal is what it’s called: you write down only one line a day. You will write in the journal a short line about what you did that day. It should be only a sentence or two at the most, and should not take up that much space in your journal. Some people like using a calendar and a pen for this.
4. Prayer Journal
This is a particular type of journal where you essentially act like your diary or journal is your higher power. Write to God your prayers instead of saying them. Write them down so you remember them and can look back on them.
5. Dream Journal
Some people like tracking their dreams because they believe that dreams provide signs for life. If you want to track your dreams, you have to train yourself to write in your dream journal every morning while you still remember the dream. Write about the dream and then research what it means and write about that too.
6. Food Journal
Write down everything you eat every day. Some people like to include the calorie contents and so forth. It can also help to write down why you eat it, how you felt about eating it, and things like that.
7. Travel Journal
A fantastic way to remember your travels is to keep a travel journal. Some people like making one for each trip so that it’s easier to remember. You can write your thoughts in your journal, but you can also attach tickets, pics, and memories.
8. Gratitude Journal
This is just what it sounds like. It’s a journal where you record each day what you’re thankful for and grateful for. Nothing can be negative in this journal because it’s designed to help you think more positively.
Writing can accomplish so much! If you go into journaling to help with challenges like insomnia, anxiety, or stress under the right attitude and with a goal in mind, you can achieve a lot. The important thing is that you need to be honest with yourself so that you can find out the real causes of your struggle. In this way, the actions you take to overcome it are much more effective.