How to Start Journaling

The benefits of journaling have been widely espoused. It can improve self-esteem, reduce stress, and help your general mental health. But actually putting in the time to sit down and write in a journal can seem like a lot more trouble than it’s worth. It’s hard to know where to begin or what to write, and it can feel like a whole lot of bother to sit down every day and write. However, starting a habit of journaling doesn’t need to involve hours of writing or extraordinary self-awareness; it can be as simple as a couple of minutes whenever you have the time to jot down what you’re up to.

That’s why I’m doing—and writing for Metiza—a three-month journaling challenge.

I got interested in journaling after my first semester of college. I remember clearly the whirlwind of first-year orientation, but after that things start to become a blur. Eventually I found myself talking to my friends about fun times and going, “Was that last week or two weeks ago?” and “Wait did we see that movie the same day as that exam? I thought those were weeks apart!”

I didn’t like the feeling of college being a blur, and I wanted to delineate in my mind what had happened when so that I could look back on my first year of college with more clarity. That’s why I’m doing—and writing for Metiza—a three-month journaling challenge. Join us by using the end of the school year as a springboard strengthening your own journaling practice. It doesn’t matter how long your entries are, where you’re writing them, or even what you’re writing.

I’ll be sticking to a couple of specific types of journaling, and you can follow along with me as we build habits of self-awareness and self-reflection. That being said, you don’t need to journal exactly the same way that I do; there are lots of ways to journal, and you can pick whatever works for you!

My plan is to write 100 words in a journal daily for the first two weeks.

Rules of the Series
The goal here is to start with an easy program of journaling, so that it’s simpler to stick with. My plan is to write 100 words in a journal daily for the first two weeks, 150 for the next two, 200 for the two after that, and so on until the end of the challenge. I’ll be using Penzu for my journal, just because I like the idea of typing more than physically writing in my journal (on top of that, I always have my computer with me, so it’ll be easier for me to pull it out and type than to sit down with a notebook every day—it’s all about figuring out what works for you).

I’ll also be posting twice-monthly updates on how the challenge is going. This is the Week 0 article and I plan to do this challenge for 12 weeks, so I’ll be checking in every two weeks. I expect to see a big change in how my journal entries go after the middle of May, because right now my classes are gearing up for finals. BUT, once I’m on summer break from school, my schedule will be a lot less hectic. I’m interested to see how my journal entries change when I have more free time to breathe and reflect rather than just trying to figure out how to get through my next exam.

At the end of the challenge, I’ll report back with a summary of how it goes, what I learned, and what I plan to do going forward.

Basic Outline
For the next month, I’m writing pretty basic journal entries. Each day, I’ll summarize what I did the day before, what I’m up to right when I’m writing, and what I plan to do for the rest of the day. Here’s an example:

Finally done with my research paper for foreign policy. Yesterday I got out of class at 2:30 and spent most of the afternoon working on the essay. Karen and I got dinner at the dining hall and talked about how her parents are coming to visit soon. Then I ended up back in my room doing work on the paper until like 7:00. I watched Netflix for a couple hours then went to sleep pretty early. Today I got breakfast and went to my Spanish class in the morning. Now I’m at lunch doing homework and tonight I’m seeing a movie with Karen.

Simple, short entries, though, don’t take up much time.

This is the kind of journal entry I’ll be doing this month. It’s simple, basic, and easy to write out within a couple of minutes. The above entry was 105 words, which is right about where I’m aiming to start.

Journaling can be a really great activity, but it’s not always the easiest to start. Simple, short entries, though, don’t take up much time and can still give you a lot of the same benefits as long-form writing. Everyone is welcome to take part in this challenge as we work on building journaling habits. Slide into your own journal, write out your feelings, and let us know how it goes!