Learnings from 500+ Consecutive Days of Journaling

on April 11, 2024
Learnings from 500+ Consecutive Days of Journaling

Journaling is something I’d dabbled in throughout my life but had never really committed to. What did I even have to write about? Why spend all that time and effort? I couldn’t convince myself enough to get started, or if I did get started, I’d abandon the effort after one or two entries. I had a few notebooks, I think I made a LiveJournal at one point in my life (ha!), but nothing lasted. The importance of journaling just didn’t hit home until recently. Just over 3 years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Receiving the information that I had been living with bipolar disorder was earth-shattering. Suddenly I felt a deep, urgent desire to better understand myself. I used journaling, along with therapy, medication, and a few other key factors to help me manage my bipolar disorder.

As of the writing of this post, I have just under 1,700 unique journal entries written over the last 500+ consecutive days. What made me change? What enabled me to stick with it? A few things!

Here are a few things I’ve learned from my personal experience writing:

Avoid having any expectations for what you are writing as well as the result.

I am a firm believer that the way YOU journal is the right way to journal. Feel free to take inspiration from others, but do not let it limit you. I tend to write reflective entries that border on the stream of consciousness. I also use snarky language that I would not share with just anyone. This may or may not be right for you! Some entries are a single quotation I find fascinating, others are 14,000 words (no joke). Maybe you’d rather use prompts, or keep a specific themed journal, such as a gratitude or victory journal. Maybe you like to draw as part of your journaling! Whatever makes sense to you is the right way—just go for it!

Leverage your own preferences and strengths rather than doing what you “should” be doing for a journal. Be realistic!

I love the idea of a journal in a notebook. I use notebooks for lots of things! But the reality is, I wasn’t using a notebook to journal. I found that I am not someone who journals in the same place each time. For me, having the ability to start an entry on my phone and finish it on my laptop was valuable, as was the ability to search and tag entries with categories. (data nerd here!) Another element I realized was crucial for me was the visualized tracking. I already track many parts of my life for mental and physical health, so it made sense to think of it in that way. Gamifying the regular writing with a “streak” encourages me to continue to write each day. 

In case you’re wondering which app I use, it’s called Day One Journal app. I have it on my MacBook Pro and my iPhone, so I can update a post from anywhere. I also have a paid plan which allows me to shout at Siri to text entries directly into my journal from the shower and while I’m driving… though you don’t need to go to that extreme. ☺

Set yourself up for success and celebrate the little wins.

I aimed to do everything I could to lower the barriers between me and writing in this journal. I made sure to set myself up where I would have lots of exposure to my journal (who doesn’t have their phone almost all the time?) I set up reminders for me to journal, where the app sent me little texts.

When thinking about success, focus on rhythm and frequency over length. Sometimes I wrote posts that were just a sentence if I wanted. I also found more joy in some of the small wins than I expected—they can be really rewarding.

Find the value journaling brings for you in managing your mental health and bipolar disorder.

When it all comes down to it, you’re not going to build a habit that doesn’t have value and meaning. It’s important to determine what you are gaining from writing. Is it additional insight? Ability to defuse from your thoughts more readily (journaling as a form of mindfulness?) It could be having a record of what’s going on (especially through mood changes!), or processing ideas that have been hanging around a while. There are so many reasons to do it and it doesn’t have to be just one. For me, I love the record of what’s going on. As I mentioned, it’s helpful to see how I was feeling and thinking at that time. It’s also a great place for me to vent, celebrate, mourn, and process events. And I have become much more open in my ability to communicate my thoughts and feelings in the last year since I started journaling every day.

As you can tell, I have truly found a home with journaling. I’m not saying you must immediately dive in deep like me, though the water’s fine! You can gain benefits from journaling in any way that works for you. 

For anyone looking to start, or start again, I highly encourage you to take the plunge! Make an email account strictly for journaling to send entries to, download a journaling app, grab a notebook, whatever makes sense and make a small, manageable goal to write.

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