If you’re like most women, you love the idea of journaling. You might have a collection of beautiful blank journals gathering dust on your bookshelf, just waiting to be filled with your deepest thoughts and musings
But for some reason, you just can’t seem to make it happen. You sit down to write, and the words don’t come. Or if they do, they feel forced and inauthentic. Why is journaling so hard for you—and what can you do about it?
The first step is to understand why you might be secretly resistant to journaling in the first place. Here are a few common reasons:
You’re a perfectionist.
If you’re staring at the page but can’t get started, chances are that you feel like you’re going to be graded or that it needs to be worthy of publishing. You might think that your journal entries have to be deep and profound in order to be worthwhile, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, some of the best journal entries are the ones where you simply capture what’s going on in your day-to-day life.
We highly recommend using the brain-dump method where you write down anything and everything, including to-do lists, that are swirling in your brain. Bullet points are a great way to get started and help the ideas flow.
Don’t feel the need to create prose or illustrative language. This is your permission to be messy and scribble.
You’re worried about what other people will think.
Another common reason that women resist journaling is because they’re worried about what other people would think if they were to read their entries.
Let’s unpack those worries. Where else in your life have you been afraid to express and expose your true feelings? Why? This could be a journal entry unto itself. When a blank book asks us to share ourselves, it allows us to be vulnerable in a way that we’ve been shoring up for years so no one can hurt us.
Our best advice here is to go slow to go fast. Try for a small amount of time or one specific topic at a time rather than attempting the daunting task of journaling for an hour with no direction.
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, or shutting down, don’t try and force the words, instead, sit with the feeling and explore where else in your life you feel unsafe being your true, authentic self.
If you are truly afraid someone might read your journal, rip out the pages and throw them away as you write. This is the reason we love a spiral-bound journal over a perfect-bound journal – it’s easier to scrap a page should the need arise.
You don’t think you have anything important to say.
If you don’t think you have anything important to say, chances are you’re not giving yourself enough credit. We all have unique stories and experiences to share—you just need to find a way to tap into yours. One way to do this is by focusing on a specific goal or question you’d like to explore through journaling.
For example, if you want to learn more about yourself, try writing stream-of-consciousness style entries in which you explore your thoughts and feelings, without censoring yourself.
Because this is easier said than done, we’ve created a self-coaching journal designed to guide you through the process of self-exploration. It’s complete with guides, prompts, charts, and instructions to help you find your words and let them all out.
You need to shift your focus: Instead of channeling gratitude, focus on rage.
Skip the gratitude and affirmations, especially if you’re deep in burnout. Not only can you not access these emotions, but it does nothing to say and write them without being able to FEEL them in your body. The positive effects of journaling can only be found when we experience a feeling – and rage and anger are valid feelings!
Instead of trying to force gratitude, focus on letting out all your frustration. It doesn’t have to be legible, or even coherent; the idea is just to let the page be a witness to how you feel.
If you’re afraid that someone will find your angry rants, we urge you to tear them out of the book and rip them up, burn them (safely), or just throw them away. There is no rule saying you have to keep anything you write. We’re not documenting history, we’re releasing emotions.
You simply forget.
If you find yourself wanting to journal, but not remembering to do so, try habit stacking.
This is where you build a new habit into an already existing routine. The key here is to do it at the same time every day and build in a reward for yourself.
For example, journaling at night before bed is an incredible way to support your sleep. If your current routine looks like brushing your teeth, plugging your phone in next to your bed, then going to sleep, you can add journaling between the two.
After brushing your teeth, set aside 10 minutes to journal. After those 10 minutes are up, plug in your phone and then go to sleep. Leave your journal and pen on the nightstand for easy access the next day. By sandwiching journaling between two existing habits (brushing your teeth and charging your phone), the cue of walking into your bedroom to plug in your phone and seeing the journal will trigger the reminder to write. Your reward? A more restful sleep.
On the other hand, if you think you’d like to try journaling in the morning, tie it in with something you already do as a reward. While brewing your morning coffee, you can sit at your dining room table and journal. The reward is a hot cup of coffee.
If you can identify with any of these reasons not to journal, don’t worry—you’re not alone. The good news is that there are ways to overcome these obstacles and start getting your feelings out successfully. Anyone can become a seasoned pro at journaling by understanding why you might be resistant and taking concrete steps to counter their tendencies.