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Why You Don’t Want to Journal and What to Do About It

Was journaling one of your New Year goals? Do you long to make it part of your self-care routine? Maybe you’ve read all about it, seen how popular it is on Instagram, and you’re convinced about the benefits?

So why can’t you get going? Perhaps you know how to create a journaling habit, but you’re still feeling blocked.

It’s not unusual for us to find it difficult to do things we know are good for us. You’re not alone in finding it hard. Building new self-care habits requires effort, time and commitment and a lack of these ingredients may be why you’re considering journaling in the first place! As Elvis would say, ‘you’re caught in a trap’! Or what we call a ‘vicious circle’ in CBT.

Let’s explore why you don’t want to journal and what to do about it…

I Don’t Have Any Time

If you don’t have time for 10 minutes of journaling each day, if you don’t stop and re-evaluate your priorities, you will end up requiring much more than 10 minutes self-care. A little investment now will go a long way towards helping you clear your mind and get a clarity on feelings overwhelm.

I’ll Get it Wrong

This sounds like perfectionism. If it’s getting in your way here, then I guarantee it will be present in other areas of your life too. It’s probably the perfect time for imperfect action. Pick up your pen and repeat this mantra – I’m aiming for progress not perfection.

I Procrastinate and Never Get Started

Often, it’s not the ‘doing’ that’s the problem, it’s the ‘getting started’. So, start small! Try the five-minute rule. Set a timer on your phone and when it sounds, stop and call it a success. If five minutes is too long, try three minutes instead.

What If Someone Reads It?

This concern initially stopped me from journaling too. I like my own thoughts safely in my mind, but they have a habit of running riot in there. I’ve learned how beneficial it is to get them out of my head and down on paper. Here are some tips:

  • Ask for privacy
  • Keep a journal for just 6 months then go over what you’ve learned, note down key points and shred the original if you feel you need to.
  • Devise a code or use pseudonyms.

Once you feel the benefits of journaling, there’ll be no looking back. I find my mind is quite messy, so good luck to anyone who tries reading my journal anyway!

I Won’t Learn Anything

Well, if you’ve made it this far, there must be something about journaling that’s piqued your interest! Are you experiencing a limiting believe or a negative outlook? Journaling might be just the tonic. There’s no pressure, just try. Give yourself a month and if you find it’s been pointless, put it to one side. It’s obviously not for you. Research suggests doing something for 90 days provides good evidence about its uses and benefits, so if you can stretch to around 12 weeks that’s great too.

It’s Another Thing to Do

If the task of journaling feels overwhelming in itself, let it go. At the same time, let go of other things too as it sounds like you’re already overwhelmed and need to listen to that voice. Stop, take a break, and re-evaluate what you need.

It Feels Selfish or Self-Indulgent to Focus on Myself

You sound like someone who never puts yourself first. Would you tell a friend journaling is a selfish task? If the answer’s no, then ask yourself why? You’re wise enough to know it could help others, so why not use it to help yourself. Investing in you is also a way of investing in the people around you. You cannot pour from an empty cup!

It Will Depress Me

I get it. Our mind is great at focusing on the negative. We must actively train it to see the positive. This is why I devoted an entire section to gratitude journaling in The CBT Journal. Read more about the practice here.

I Still Don’t Know How to Start Journaling

Something like The CBT Journal might be right for you as it teaches structure, giving you a strong foundation from which to start building your habit. In the meantime, here are some prompts that might help…

How am I feeling?

What has my mind been like today?

What stands out for me today?

What has gone well?

What am I grateful for?

Is there one thing I can do to day to make tomorrow better?

How did I cope when things got tough?

What would I say to a friend who had lived my day?

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Sarah Rees

Sarah is a fully accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and mental health writer delivering Modern Mental Health for you and with you in Mind. Sarah is the author of ‘The CBT Journal’ which helps you write for your wellbeing incorporating CBT techniques. For more information and to keep in touch have a look at