Do You Keep a Journal?
They are great places to record your thoughts, feelings and insights about your daily life. Journaling isn’t just for teenage girls and aspiring writers. It helps with physical and mental health, emotional upheaval, productivity, and happiness.
Why Journal Writing is Helpful When You Have ADHD
If you are living with ADHD, it is easy to dismiss the idea of writing in a journal. At first glance, it seems to involve all the things that are hard for you like sitting, writing, focusing and daily discipline.
However, writing in a journal allows you to press the pause button on your life. When you take time out from being busy and spend time alone with just your thoughts and journal, you can actively reflect on the events of the day.
As a result you will …
People with ADHD often have short memories. You might not realize how frequently you call the locksmith because you lost your keys. Or you might forgive and forget Susan’s consistently rude comments. When you are writing things down, it’s easier to notice these recurring events and themes, and ‘Knowing is half the battle,’ as they say.
Whenever you have a problem, you can write it as a question in your journal. For example,
‘How can I stop losing my keys?’ Our brains love to answer questions, and your creative ADHD brain will come up with excellent solutions to every question you ask it.
You know the saying, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ Well, writing in your journal counts as sharing. Perhaps you feel embarrassed about something you said or didn’t do. Describing it in writing helps you to acknowledge what happened and process your emotions. A beautiful side effect is that by doing this often, shame fades away.
Break the Repetitive Thinking Loop
Writing your thoughts down, gets them out of your head and on to paper. One of the reasons thoughts are on replay is because they haven’t been properly dealt with yet. Just taking the few minutes to sort and process them in your journal helps them to disappear from your mind.
People often find falling asleep difficult because their mind is racing. It can be the first time they have chance to think about the day’s events. When you journal you dedicate a small slice of time to active thinking, which in turn means your mind is quieter at bedtime.
Anxiety and Worry
Journaling is very helpful if you are prone to anxiety and worry. Seeing your worries on paper puts them into perspective. It also allows you to identify any actions you could take to help relieve the worry.
Having time in your day to think in writing means you start to feel ‘ahead’ rather than behind trying to catch up. You feel proactive, rather than reactive, which in turns means life is less stressful and more fun.
My Experience With Journalling
One Christmas when I was about 10 years old I was given a 5 year diary. It had a red shiny cover and a lock and key. With a curious younger brother and sister, that security system seemed essential :). I hid my diary in a secret place under my bed and would write in it every day when I got home from school.
That little book was a safe place to write down all the usual concerns a pre-teen has. I reread it a little while ago and in one entry I explain how worried I was about writing an English S.A (essay). I had undiagnosed dyslexia so my spelling was not great, but that didn’t matter. I learned that writing things down, however badly, made me feel better.
In my 20’s I moved to Canada and found a copy of Julia Cameron’s, ‘The Artist’s Way.’ In it she describes a type of journal writing called ‘The Morning Pages,’ and I have been doing those ever since.
The Morning Pages
The idea of Julia Cameron’s morning pages is that you write 3 pages in a journal every morning. You write whatever is on your mind; it can be the most boring things, it doesn’t matter. No one will ever read it besides you, and even you might choose not to.
You don’t have to write perfectly, or get picky about spelling and grammar. Just do a brain dump on paper. Don’t censor yourself or edit. It feels great to free up your mind, and towards the end of the 3 pages you might have insights and aha moments.
Having a goal to fill 3 pages forces you to keep going, so you really do get everything out of your mind. It would be easy to stop at 1 or 2, but the real benefits come when you push yourself to write 3 pages.
Many famous people use the idea of the morning pages, from authors like Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame to entrepreneurs such as Tim Ferris.
Feeling Inspired to Start Journaling?
Here are some practical tips.
The Best Time of Day
The morning pages are supposed to be written in the morning. However, mornings are usually challenging when you have ADHD. If you are already finding it hard to wake up and get to work on time, it’s fine to write them later in the day. It would be a shame to miss out on the benefits of journaling because of logistics.
When you have ADHD the thought of sitting down and writing can feel overwhelming. Having a limit or goal is helpful as you know there is an end in sight, and you won’t be there all day.
Here are 3 ideas to limit your journaling:
Number of pages (e.g., 3 pages)
Number of words
Set a timer ( e.g., 30 minutes)
If you are upset about something, of course it’s fine to write more or to come back later and have a second sitting.
Paper or Pixel?
Purists would say paper is best. While I love notebooks and writing things down, for this type of journaling, I type out my journal entries on my computer. In the past I had boxes full of old journals. They wouldn’t have been particularly interesting, but if someone had read them, I would have felt very exposed.
One of my friends gets around this by writing her 3 pages and then shreds it straight afterwards. Experiment with a few options till you find what is best for you.
If you like the idea of typing your journal, there is lots of options to check out including 750 words. 750 words wasn’t designed specifically for ADHDers; however, it is very ADHD friendly. It’s simple, and clean and helps you to visually track the number of days you write each month.
Actions to Start Journalling
- Decide if you are going to journal on paper or online.
- Pick a time of day that would be best for you.
- Daily journaling is great, but if you miss a day, don’t let that deter you. Keep going.
- There is no right or wrong way to journal. Simply start writing, and you will develop a system that is helpful for you.