30 Days of Journaling

This is part of my series on 30 Day Challenges in 2019.  I start the year off with journaling so that you can develop a good habit.  Hopefully by the end of 30 days you will be so used to journaling that you keep your journal going throughout the rest of the year!

As an accountant, I’m a big fan of notebooks and journals.  I tend to collect them, but I also fill them.  Even so, journaling is a habit that is hard for me to stick to.  Often, I fill my journals with catch-up entries, usually after a vacation or large family gathering.  I’d love to develop the habit of journaling every day, even if it’s just a little, wouldn’t you?

Here are some styles of journaling to consider:

Weather Journal

It may seem odd to keep a weather journal when we have the daily weather, along with historical weather data, at our fingertips.  However, it seems to me that every great journal entry from ages past includes some reference to the day’s weather.  “Hot today.  Took the cattle out for a drink.”  Keeping a weather journal can serve two functions: it records how you feel about the weather, and it shows the impact of the weather on your day.

Here are some ideas for starting a weather journal:

  • Make the opening sentence or line of your daily journal a reference to the weather.  “It snowed all day….We woke up late and had pancakes for dinner.”
  • Use Excel to record daily weather data.  Then create charts and graphs for your own visual representation of the year.
  • Make a statement about how the weather made you feel – was it a lovely day, or was it too cold?  Use these statements to determine your ideal climate.
  • Keep a comparison to another place – perhaps a relative’s home on the other side of the country, or a country you would love to visit.  Who really has the better climate?
  • Draw a picture of what the weather was like.

Calendar Notation

Make journaling a 2-second event.  Take a regular wall calendar and simply add one item per day.  Choose a quote that was funny, something really special that happened, or a thought that you had.  Use some of the other ideas in this post for inspiration for what to write.  Just make sure you add one thing per day so that by the end of the year, your calendar is full of the life you lived.

Happy Sad Journal

Sometimes journaling can be as simple as a happy or sad face.  I use this method when I am struggling with an area of my life and looking for a change, such as a job.  Every day I had to decide was it a good day or bad day?  There was no room for in-betweens, I had to make the judgment.  Then I marked the day with happy or sad, or perhaps I colored it in on the calendar.

What this process did for me was to help put my bad days in perspective.  Are there 14 in a row?  Consider contacting a doctor about possible depression.  What about 80% of your days?  I live by the 80-20 rule, so if 80% of my days are bad, something has to change – in this example, it’s time to look for a new job.  What if your sad faces are 50-80% of your days?  Perhaps you can find little changes and see if there is some improvement.  If not, consider something life changing.

Daily Recap

A daily recap is just my way of describing your typical journal.  At the end of the day, you sit down and write a paragraph to a page about the events that happened.  Be as broad or specific as you want.  If you start to write about your feelings, hopes, and dreams I call that a diary!  Here’s the challenging part – if you choose to start a daily recap journal this January, are you prepared to write in it every day all year?  I hope so – and it can be pretty fun if you do.

It’s a fine line to walk between writing in a physical journal and writing on the computer.  I love the feeling of a physical journal.  I love taking a blank page and filling it with words.  However, I also have to look toward the future.  What’s the point of my journal?  Do I want to leave a legacy for my children about how life was?  Then perhaps I want that legacy to be in an easy to read and access form.  I find that in my (not-so-abundant) spare time I tend to transcribe my journals to my computer.  For some, it might be easier to simply start there.

Family Journal

Are your children old enough to write or even draw?  Set your journal in a public spot and have everyone in the family take turns making entries.  Your littlest ones can write with your help or draw pictures of what happened.  You will get the benefit varying perspectives about the events.

Gratitude Journal

As we go through life, it’s important to be thankful for our many gifts.  A gratitude journal is easy to start.  Every day say 3 things you are thankful for.  Get your friends and family involved.  I send a daily group text to my mom and sister about what we are thankful for.  The text message is wonderful because it also allows us to update each other on what is going on in our lives.  Here are some more hints for your gratitude journal:

  • Post the three things you are thankful at the end of your daily recap
  • Try not to repeat, and if you do, look for unique reasons.  For instance, it’s easy for me to be thankful for my husband every day.  However, if I want to repeat being thankful for him, I should come up with a new reason why.  “I’m thankful for my husband because he put the baby to bed.”  “I’m thankful for my husband because he makes me laugh.”
  • Find gratitude in your struggles.  Especially if you feel like you had a bad day, look back to find the things that were hardest for you.  Find a way to be thankful for those difficulties.  For instance, when I was struggling with my job, I had to be thankful I had a job.
  • If you’re struggling for something to come up with, change the wording to, “Three Good Things.”  We should be thankful for anything good that we have in our lives, but sometimes the lofty language of “thankfulness journal” makes us struggle to come up with something dramatic.  Something good can be as simple as your favorite scarf.

Doodling Journal

If you’re more artistic than wordy, try a doodling journal.  For 30 days (and hopefully for the entire year) draw a picture representing how the day went.  This can be a fun challenge even if (or especially if) you are not good at drawing.  Take a drawing class to help you get started.  Or just delight in your imperfect scribbles!  Your picture doesn’t have to be world class or even thought provoking.  Perhaps it snowed all day and you were stuck in the house.  Draw a house with snow falling outside.  Or draw kids sitting on the floor looking bored.  Or just draw a cup of hot chocolate.

Food Journal

Speaking of hot chocolate, consider a food journal.  In January we all start to make resolutions to diet and exercise.  One of the best ways to cut your calories is to write down all the food you eat.  In the past, I have been prevented from eating certain foods just because I felt like writing them down would take too long.  Perhaps you are not as lazy as me.  You’re willing and able to write down every morsel, every one-off marshmallow you pop in your mouth.  At the end of the day you will have a pretty interesting list to review.  Are you happy with what you see?  What do you want to do better?  Food journals are great tools to help retrain moderation in eating.

If you really want to make a difference, add a column to your list and record the number of calories you consumed!

Personal Progress Report

Are you working toward a goal?  Try recording your progress every day.  Start the month by setting your goal and listing what it will take to achieve it.  Then give a daily update.  For instance, you run a marathon.  Every day for a month write down what you did to accomplish that.  “Ran two miles.”  Even if you are taking a break for a day, add that to your progress report and why.  “Took a day off.  Prepped some high energy meals and snacks to eat this week.”

Prayer Journal

Why not bring it all together with a prayer journal?  Sometimes my mind wanders when I pray, and I often end up making really short, usually selfish prayers.  But if I journal it out, then I feel like I’m having a real conversation where I bring all my troubles and praise to God.  A prayer journal can include so many parts of your life: thankfulness, a daily recap, personal progress, even the weather.  You can bring it all to God.

But what do you do with your prayer journal?  That depends on how private a person you are.  I am currently reading through some prayers I wrote 10 years ago.  I can’t believe that I had such a strong desire to be with God back then.  I need to get back into that state of mind.  On the other hand, I don’t really want anyone else to ever read those prayers.  The book will go into the shredder when I have finished it.  So just be aware that whatever you write can be read by someone else someday.

Perhaps you want to leave your prayer journal – to show your children and grandchildren what a prayer filled life is like.  You can use your prayers to help form daily devotions for your family.  I think that’s a great idea, too!

 

These are just a few ideas of ways you can start a journal in 2019!  What are your favorite ways to journal?

 

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