You’ve probably heard a million and one times that keeping a journal can help you chart a path to success and unlock your wildest dreams and whatnot. Well, it’s a cliché for a reason—journaling is powerful stuff! Writing things down gives you a chance to tune into your true desires and emotions. It can also wake you up to patterns that don’t serve you so you know what to change and how. It’s an important part of self-care.
When I do nutrition and health coaching, I have my clients write down what they eat and log their workouts, especially in the beginning as they’re in the early stages of making lifestyle changes. I also encourage them to jot down their feelings through the day, people they were eating or exercising with, or what the situation was like for them. Having someone pay attention to how they feel (physically or emotionally) before or after eating certain foods can also provide useful clues.
Even when someone is past feeling like they need a food log (though many keep it up to stay accountable to themselves), I still encourage keeping a journal of some kind.
I know that in my own life, I find journaling immensely helpful for keeping in touch with my thoughts and feelings. It’s a safe space to process stuff. I can’t tell you how many times I put pen to paper not totally sure why something was bugging me so much, only to free-write my way to the heart of the matter, giving myself a clearer sense of how to deal and what actions to take, if any. Sometimes you just need to vent, too so you can just move on with your day or go the heck to sleep.
If journaling sounds like yet another good-for-you thing you just don’t have time for, fear not! Here are some easy ways you can fit journaling into your busy life.
Decide What’s Realistic
How much time can you devote? How much time do you want to devote? Do you see yourself writing several pages or just a few lines? Is there a time of day you could see yourself fitting in journaling, or will you need to set aside time?
Make It Easy
Choose a journal size that suits your lifestyle. Maybe you want a beautiful handmade journal to keep on your desk you can’t wait to write in. On the go a lot? Those heavy handmade journals with all the beads and whistles might weigh your bag down too much, so maybe you want to try something more streamlined like a simple Moleskine. I favor the lined 5” x 8.25” ones, which tuck perfectly into my purse and can be bought in packs of two or three.
Make It A Routine
Pick a time of day that works for you. Put it on your calendar or in your phone if it helps. I like to spend a few minutes in the morning while I’m eating breakfast and then another few minutes right before bed. You could make it part of your commute or make lunchtime writing a thing instead of scrolling through social media feeds on your phone.
Have A Structure
Ask yourself the same questions or give yourself some guidelines in terms of length. Do you want to do a few pages? A few lines? Ask yourself a set of questions or follow prompts?
To give you a personal example, back in college, I used to do three Julia Cameron-style morning pages every day. Just write—no censoring, no editing, just writing. Now that I’m, well, long out of college and working a lot, those three morning pages just ain’t happening. Instead, I devote my morning journaling to set a few intentions for the day ahead and note a few things I’m grateful for. I also write down the previous night’s dream or some thoughts I woke up with. At night, I list something I appreciate myself for, note a choice that did not serve me so well, write down something I added in or crowded out of my day, and say one nice thing to myself before I call it a night.
These are just a few examples. Have fun playing around with different styles and structures!
I’ll be talking about journaling and other forms of self-care in my Self-Care For Entrepreneurs workshop at the Lady Project Summit on March 25th. Hope to see you there!
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, and writer based in New York City. She blogs at Keeping It Real Food.