Daily Journal Guidelines

I. Why write a daily journal?

Your journal is a tool for self-discovery which helps you concentrate, clarify and explore emotions and ideas, and make sense out of your experiences. Journaling for most individuals is one of the more powerful parts of recovery from mental health concerns and addictions.

Writing in a journal is therapeutic, and one of the greatest benefits is spiritual growth.

Another benefit from writing in the journal is that it is a vehicle for getting out feelings that are inside of you. It is wonderful to talk the feelings out with a family member, friend or therapist; however these conversations may not be held on a daily basis. You can, however, write the feelings out daily in your journal. It is also your choice to keep the journal as private and confidential as you like.

II. What should I write?

Starting with how you feel is always good. If you need help (no, I’m not kidding) use this list.

Then, write about specific areas which would benefit you with your particular concerns. There is no right way to complete a journal. It is helpful to develop an approach that will work best for you. You may want to write more about what happened inside of you during the day, rather than the facts of the events. A good question to ask is “What was meaningful and memorable for me today?” This may include emotions, dreams, insights, conversations, memories, questions or ideas. Above all, you must be honest.

Write with an open heart

Experiment with how and what you write. Some people draw pictures or doodle along with their writing; others compose poems or songs. One approach is to write as if you are having a conversation with the journal itself, with a person, or with your Higher Power. Another is to simply record your information. Again, there is no right way–only what fits for you.

III. How much should I write?

This is ultimately up to you, and how much you feel you need to write. Most people gain the most from limiting their writing each day to 30 minutes or less, and to no more that three journal pages. The least should be five minutes focused on the journal, and a written paragraph. Lengthy rambling or just a word or two generally miss the point of journaling.

IV. Getting started

Never wait until you feel like it–that time will probably never come. Pick a time and just do it. Go through the motions, and you will get the emotions once you are underway.

Start from where you are at, and write whatever comes into your mind. Don’t try to compose or edit, just write. Some people like to begin by scribbling whatever comes into their minds on a piece of scrap paper, and then once they are warmed up, they go do their journal and copy any items from the scrap paper that seems worth keeping.

Some questions to consider when you are getting started are:

a. If I could sum up the emotional course of my day what would I say?

b. In what way was this day unique, or different from other days?

c. What were my emotional high and low points today? Why did I feel as I did?

d. What did I learn today that was of personal importance?

e. Did I have any insight into myself or another person, that I want to preserve?

f. What would I do differently if I had today to live over again?

Some suggestions

A journal has nothing to do with good writing or grammar, spelling, and everything to do with self-exploration. The journal is simply a tool. Avoid being perfect, rewriting, or editing. Avoid being critical of what you write.

Be honest. Record what you think and feel, not what you believe you ought to think and feel. Trust your flow, no matter what comes out.

Get at the feeling level. Let your emotions get into your journal. Don’t protect the page! What an event means to you is the point; not just a description of facts and details.

Experiment and follow your instincts. Make the journal yours.

Don’t take your journal too seriously. Go at it in the spirit of creative play and self-exploration, not as a grim chore.

You can also use your journal to work out decisions; write “unmailed letters” (usutally expressing emotions); clarify your beliefs; or as a way to communicate with others by reading it to them.

Persist, don’t resist! Give yourself at least two weeks of writing a daily journal before determining whether it is helpful to you or not.

Some people find it beneficial to write in the journal, but not to read the entries right away. At some point, they go back and read the journal to see how far they have come in their healing journey.

Nurture an awareness of when you avoid writing your journal because you don’t want to deal with something uncomfortable in your life. Consider that the primary goal of therapy is to turn and face those things which you have been running away from. Healing and self-knowledge are seldom comfortable, but always rewarding if we take risks and face our fears.