I've never really been one to keep a diary. Don't get me wrong, I've tried a bunch of times--there are dozens of composition notebooks decaying in my storage boxes with a bunch of "Dear Diary--I'm so excited to start writing to you!" entries and nothing beyond that. Inspired by books like the Princess Diaries series I convinced myself time and time again that I was going to become a better person by writing down all of my thoughts in my notebook....only to abandon the journal an entry or two later. This journaling apathy continued until about....I guess the start of Senior Year in high school. I don't really remember why, I just picked up one of the journals I had lying around my room and wrote a random prompt and boom! A nightly tradition was born.
Now....I'm not saying I'm an expert at journaling or that this will drastically change your life or that you can even stick to this routine. I am saying that this method has worked for me and I really enjoy collecting all of my thoughts at the end of my day this way.
Prompt yourself // I really keep two journals. One is the journal I can reasonably expect myself to write in every night. And so I don't ever go blank for words, I have three simple, one-sentence prompts I give myself: 1) Today I'm proud of myself for.... 2) Today I'm thankful for.... 3) Today I could have.... I like to start with something positive, slide into things I'm grateful for, and end with a personal note of what I can work on the next day. Try not to have too many "I could haves"--and don't limit yourself on what you're proud of! It could be something that seems small such as "finishing my history homework" or "getting that one problem right!" but always find something. It may be hard sometimes to find something to write in one of the categories but always try to find something. These little prompts help me to recap my day before I sleep and start the next and I find peace in that.
Go with the flow // Alternatively, if you don't feel like answering the prompts is enough to get out all your feelings about your day you can join me and have two journals! (Or, you know, just do this instead of the prompt journal) I use my second journal primarily when something big has happened in my life that day, if there's a problem I'm trying to work out, if I have a lot of feelings about something and want to express them all....basically if I feel like the prompts don't cover enough of my day. Move-in day here at school was a big moment for me so I wrote a significant amount on that day. Lately I've been writing about school and friends and basically anything I want to get out. Also I love to read old entries and see how far I've developed as a person....sort of like reading the earlier posts on this blog! (Some of them are filled with way too many exclamation points)
Don't force it // Have you ever been sitting at your desk, pen poised to write on the page....and nothing comes? Sometimes that happens and believe me the worst thing to do is force yourself to write. If nothing pops into your mind because you're too tried or because you just don't have anything particular to recall from that day, don't worry about it! Journaling is supposed to be a reflective, personal experience so forcing yourself to write something that you don't particularly care about only harms the process and will eventually get you to stop journaling altogether because it will feel more like a chore and less enjoyable.
The best way I keep my journal from becoming a chore is to not force it. Too tired tonight? Don't journal! I don't force myself to do it, although it may feel that way the first few entries. It should feel more natural and like something you want to do after that. If not don't sweat it--we can find another way to get all your feelings out at the end of your day. At the end of the day journaling is something that should feel natural and should be beneficial so don't try to force it or yourself to a rigid timetable.
Do you journal? Do you follow prompts or are you more stream-of-consciousness? Let's chat about it down below in the comments!