Journaling is the new meditation. Everyone wants to have a practice but no one is exactly sure how. It seems to be the hip in the wellness world to write down your thoughts to reorganize your mind. However, many people find barriers to beginning this practice. While the normal meditation excuses surface here too like, “I don’t have time for that or I don’t know how” tend to come up, a huge one with journaling is “I’m not a writer, therefore I can’t.” True we all process things differently, some of us are auditory learners, many of us visual and so on, but the truth is anyone can write and it can be a beneficial tool regardless of how you process the thoughts in your mind.  

Journaling is simply a way to take all the different voices you have in your mind and organize them. For instance, there’s the secretary of finance, the inner child, the inner parent, and so on but what journaling allows you to do is step into your role as CEO of all of those voices, by taking charge, meeting with them, and deciding on which one you want to listen to.

You don’t need to be a writer or have any skills to journal, you merely need a willingness and awareness, and like meditation when you make the time, you’ll be amazed with the results.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Just start.

Like with anything else, you learn best by doing. And the more you do it the easier it will become.  You don’t even need to like it at first or even see any results immediately, but provided that you just get started and keeping going, you start enjoying it in the end. But, you’ll never know unless you start…

It’s impossible to do it wrong.

Journaling is for you. It’s your practice. No one has to see it and it doesn’t have to be done any particular way. You can use whichever method you prefer to help you get your thoughts out of your mind and onto the page. Maybe you could use one of the exercises from my book. Maybe you could simply write ten things you’re grateful for or even ten things you’re excited about. You could stop there. Or maybe find that you still have more to say, so expand upon these things, and end up writing pages. Not trying is literally the only way you could ever fail at this.

Ask yourself good questions.

When you ask yourself intelligent questions you’ll be amazed at the intelligent answers your intuition or higher self will give you. They don’t need to be anything super­-profound, simply in depth enough to probe into your psyche instead of giving yes ­or ­no answers. What is currently occupying your thoughts? What are you struggling with most? How are you feeling? Where could you use some support in your life and why? Consider what kind of questions a therapist or a good friend might ask you when talking through a difficult situation with you. An authentic journaling session can feel like getting off the phone with a best friend after a long deep conversation because essentially journaling is a long deep conversation with yourself. You can be the most non-judgemental friend you’ll ever have and the one who knows you better than anyone else and journaling is the mechanism to have that dialog. 

Don’t edit.

We’re taught in English classes to analyze our words, sentence structure, and not to mention punctuation, spelling, and grammar. However, none of that matters when it comes to journaling. You can let it all go and freely write in exactly the way you’d speak and think rather than writing for an audience. This is a liberating act, but it can also feel very scary and odd at first.

Stop filtering yourself and just allow the words to flow. You can always go back later and edit if you really want to. But if you try to edit them as they’re coming out, they’ll only get stuck and pile up in your mind. Don’t stop the flow, simply let it out raw, real, true, messy.

Be honest.

Journaling is a complete waste of your time if you’re not being fully honest with yourself as you write. If you’re writing for someone else or ‘in case someone sees’, it’s just not journaling and it will never make a scrap of difference to your life. You must allow your journal to become your confidant with whom you can share your darkest secrets without judgment or having to explain.

Because what really stops us from feeling free and fully ourselves is what we are hiding: poor judgment calls we’ve made, things we’re embarrassed about, goals of ours that seem too unrealistic to claim. We bury them to ensure we don’t appear less than perfect—or get caught in the lie of trying to appear perfect. But when we let it out (even if it’s just to ourselves in our journals), we can breathe. By being vulnerable and acknowledging what we’re ashamed of, we let go of any guilt we’re holding on to. As Brené Brown teaches, shame cannot survive being shared, and admitting our shame to ourselves is the first step.

Just keep going.

As Kurt Vonnegut says in Mother Night, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Basically, he’s saying that it works to fake it till you make it. You will feel like a fraud, but so does everyone else.

The process of journaling and expressing your feelings honestly on paper might be brand­ new for you. If that’s the case, going this deep might cause some strong reactions such as the following:

a) Wanting to stop or quit.

b) Feeling like you’re a fraud or feeling super awkward.

c) Thinking you’re wasting your time and energy and could be doing something far more productive instead.

d) Turning off your new, heightened awareness and zoning out in familiar and comfortable habits such as watching TV, reading magazines, browsing online, anything to avoid that new feeling.

But don’t let any of these things stop you. It’s inevitable that you will struggle with emotions, habits or self­doubt when you start launch something new in your life. Instead of thinking you’re failing, notice how the change is really happening! Enjoy the incredible sensation of change, even if you’re struggling with uncertainty, feeling uncomfortable or find that expressing emotions in such an unrestrained way is turning you into a bundle of nerves. It’s perfectly ok.

When you reach this point, you must ask yourself: Do I want to have a deep life? Do I want to feel the richness of mad love and the sadness of heartbreak? Do I want to feel the full spectrum of emotions . . . or do I want to numb out?

Journaling really is as life­changing and powerful as they claim it to be, and you too can enjoy the benefits for yourself if you stop making excuses and just get started. Just ask yourself effective questions, be 100% honest with yourself, and keep going if it starts feeling tough, and you too will be able to create and benefit from your very own awesome journaling practice.