Overcoming journaling roadblocks

Overcoming Journaling Roadblocks

Self-improving journeys like trying to maintain a journaling habit can be hard sometimes. It can be frustrating to fail at something that barely takes any time and helps us master ourselves. Right?

But worry not! We all lose inspiration and motivation to face our emotions every day. Journaling might seem easy but it has its many roadblocks that we can explore in this article!

Common Roadblocks: Techniques tailored for each road-block

While journaling is an excellent tool to manage our emotions, it can be hard to make it a consistent habit. 

Let’s quickly explore some of the common journaling roadblocks and strategies to deal with them:

Roadblock #1: Feeling Stuck: What to write about when I feel stuck?

We all face writing blocks or feel stuck staring at a blank page. It can be overwhelming to some people. Sometimes we might not feel like writing about our day/emotions. 

“Structure can be a powerful tool for overcoming the blank page. Even a simple prompt or a set of questions can get your thoughts flowing.”

Mason Currey, author of “daily rituals”

Strategies to Overcome the Journaling RoadBlock #1: Feeling Stuck

  • Use Journaling Prompts:
  • Start Small: You do not have to fill pages of your journal. Somedays, just a few bullet points should get the ball rolling.
  • Reframe your journal as your friend. Have casual conversations with it whenever you feel like it. 
  • Brain Dumping: Just dump down or write down everything that comes to your mind. It can be as random as possible. Getting down everything will help with the flow of thoughts

Roadblock #2: Perfectionism: How do I overcome perfectionism and just start writing?

People might want to be perfect and that stops them from journaling because they worry too much about how perfect and effective their journal is. 

The Amygdala, the fear center of our brains gets active whenever perfectionists come across any flaws or imperfections in their work or life. This increases anxiety and hinders creativity which can discourage journaling.

Remember, journals are meant to be your safe space, where you get to express yourself without judgment from yourself.

Strategies to Overcome the Journaling RoadBlock #2: Perfectionism:

  • Focus on the process rather than the outcome: You will not have a deep and impactful journaling session every time. Focus on the process and the outcome will add up with time. Journaling is for personal exploration and not professional achievement.
  • Practice embracing imperfections: Start tolerating imperfections in your life so your core desire to be perfect will slowly start losing its grip on you.
  • Perfect expressing yourself:  If it’s really hard to get over your need for perfection, then shift your focus to perfect expressing yourself instead of obsessing over unnecessary things that don’t matter.

Roadblock #3: Lack of time: I do not have time to journal every day. How can I make it work?

When life gets busy, we might not have time, energy, or a peaceful mental environment to spend time for ourselves. Right? 

“It’s funny how we stress and worry about our work’s daily and weekly check-ins but we barely check in with ourselves for our personal and emotional growth”

Research-Backed Insight:

  • Our brains are wired to prioritize urgent tasks over ones that provide long-term benefits. This makes journaling less urgent and attractive to our minds, especially in the mornings when we have a lot of chores to take care of.

Strategies to Overcome the Journaling Roadblock #3: Lack of time:

  • Use Google Calendar – Schedule 5-10 minutes in your calendar for morning and night – you can decide when you can 
  • Integrate into our daily routines – If we have strong morning, evening, or night routines, it’s good to stack our habits together so one triggers the other!
  • Micro-journaling: A study by the University of Rochester shows that people who journal for at least 5 minutes a day have been shown to have a better quality of life. See? Just 5 minutes!
  • One-minute Journal: Gretchen Rubins recommends one-minute journaling where we focus on three prompts each day.  It could be as simple as:
    • grateful for
    • what would make today a great
    • daily affirmation

Roadblock #4: Digital Vs Physical: Is journaling digitally effective, or should I use a physical notebook?

It’s important to identify which journaling method works best for you. Some people prefer completely physical journals and they are more accustomed to it or prefer it for self-expression over the various digital options.

You need to understand and identify which works best for you.

Personal Vs Expert Opinion:

I prefer physical journals but I use digital ones because of the privacy I get with the digital ones. As in, the chances of people reading my digital journal is very less compared to my physical ones. These kinds of conflicts could occur leaving us with an option we might not prefer. 

Dr. Kimberly Young, suggests that digital devices are loaded with endless distractions which can take your mind away from journaling.

Meanwhile, educational psychologists like S.K. Knecht recommend physical journaling as the act of physical writing activates different parts of our brains which could potentially lead to deeper processing and memory consolidation.

Strategies to Overcome the Journaling RoadBlock #4: Digital vs Paper Journaling:

  • Experiment with both
  • Consider your needs and pick something that works best for your needs
  • Consider using a hybrid method: Where you can use both a physical and a digital diary

Roadblock #5: Lack of Motivation:

Our motivations might go on vacations quite often when it comes to journaling. Why?

The reasons might vary among individuals based on their goals and aspirations behind the habit. But based on my personal experiences, here are some reasons why we might not feel motivated to journal:

  • Fear of Emotions and Judgement: Many people struggle to truly accept themselves in this world. Many might fear re-reading their past entries which might bring out a lot of emotions. We will cover this in detail in the next point
  • Dopamine Dysregulation: When we tune our minds to constantly seek dopamine with the endless activities that give us instant gratification, we might not feel motivated to work hard on something like journaling which gives us long-term benefits!
  • Journals can change your state of mind: Sometimes journals can bring out a lot of memories, experiences, ideas, and thoughts that were on your mind. While journals are great places to process all these unresolved emotions, it could also potentially distract you and take your focus away from your work. This makes people avoid journaling.

Strategies to Overcome the Journaling Roadblock #5: Lack of Motivation:

  • Identify your Purpose: Why do you like to journal and what do you wish to get out of it? Understand the reasons or values in your life that are pushing you towards this.
  • Practice Self Compassion and Self Acceptance: Journaling can be scary if we are not ready to accept and love ourselves for who we are and what we do in our lives. Journaling is an excellent tool to achieve self-acceptance but the journey might not be very smooth. Be ready to face your emotions and thoughts without judgment and with time you will accept and love yourself for who you are.
  • Journaling Community: You can join online or offline communities where people discuss journaling. Here’s one that I like “r/Journaling
  • Quit and see how life is: Our minds can be complex. Our journey of self-discovery and improvement might be tough and we might not feel like it at all. But try quitting and dreaming about a better version of yourself and see how life is to understand the importance and significance of such tools in our lives.

Roadblock #6: Fear of Emotions:

Journaling can bring up a lot of emotions, like sadness, regrets, fears, and desires. Most of us actively try to avoid our emotions because we fear them to a certain extent. 

Why do we fear emotions?

  • Unprocessed Experiences and Trauma: People who have been escaping their unprocessed fears, traumas, and heartbreaks will have a strong fear of emotions. 
  • Social Conditioning: We might have in-built beliefs from our childhood about how expressing our emotions might be seen as a weakness and we might shy away and use escapism to deny their existence. 
  • Avoiding Strong Emotions is built in us: Whenever we face strong emotions, our fear center (Amygdala) can perceive it as a threat and trigger the fight or flight response which could cause the avoidance. Strong emotions overload our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for emotional regulation. All these can cause us to avoid journaling.

Strategies to Overcome the Journaling Roadblock #6: Fear of Emotions:

  • Acknowledge Without Attachment: Acknowledge these emotions without judgment. Remember, journaling is a safe space for us to process our emotions better. It’s not a space to 
  • Self-Compassion: We need to learn to love and accept ourselves for our imperfections and past mistakes or the bad traumatic things that happened to us. Being compassionate and kinder to ourselves will help us face our vulnerabilities and emotions from a position of strength.
  • Professional Help: You can always talk to a therapist to help navigate the complex paths of our emotions. The professionals would give you personalized plans and tools and hold you accountable for your self-improvement journey which will be a huge push forward.
  • Focus on the present moment: If the past brings up too many negative emotions, start slow by focusing on the present moment and the things you feel and appreciate right now. Ground yourself to the present moment as it helps you process your emotions better.

Benefits of Journaling:

We must be aware of the numerous benefits of journaling like;

  • Reduced Stress and Anxiety
  • Improved Emotional intelligence
  • Better Self Awareness of our values and goals
  • Help improve gratitude
  • Longer life – Gratitude journals are a game changer when it comes to our quality of life. This improves our overall mood and puts us in a gratitude mindset which could lengthen your life. Happy people have always lived a longer life! (Source)
  • Memory Enhancement – Studies have proven that people who journal have better recall of the things that happened in their lives as the process of writing things down will enhance our memory significantly (Source)
  • Improved Immune System – Expressive writing often leads to strong Immune systems in humans (Source)

Resources for Professional Help:

Suggested Apps:

If you prefer Digital Journaling, feel free to try one of these apps. Just the act of installing an app can help you stay committed to this journaling project since it could potentially add a sense of excitement in your life.

Day One: 

A user-friendly app that allows for text, photos, and audio recordings, catering to different journaling styles.

Penzu: 

Offers password protection and encryption for those seeking a secure journaling space.

Momento: 

Creates a visual timeline of your journal entries by integrating photos and videos.

Suggested Books:

“The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron: 

This classic book uses journaling exercises to help unlock creativity and overcome creative blocks.

Buy on Amazon

“Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg: 

This guide offers practical advice and encouragement for developing a consistent journaling practice.

Buy on Amazon

“The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll: 

This book outlines a specific journaling system that combines task management and reflection for increased productivity.

Buy on Amazon

AUTHOR SECTION

Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

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