For a lot of us, the last time we picked up a pen and truly wrote something was in school. Writing is most definitely not like riding a bike - it is a skill that must be continually practised in order to remain proficient. But why is writing important? Using a keyboard is much quicker & easier, no?
In actuality, this is far from the truth. Multiple studies have shown that writing down information forces the brain to engage with it in a way that typing could not. The slower pace of writing naturally allows you to process and dissect your thought processes, and places the brain in 'optimal conditions for learning'. The science is clear - so how will this help declutter my head?
Journaling as a ritual
Ritualistic habits are the ones we find so difficult to break (for better or for worse) - if you drink a glass of wine on the couch every night at 9pm, the next time you place yourself in that environment you'll undoubtedly feel the urge for a drink. The same applies to journalling - when you start to write down your emotions and experiences on paper, you'll naturally begin to pick apart and reconstruct your ideas, often discovering things about yourself you weren't even conscious of.
When you set out a specific time or environment to journal each and every day (i.e, I'm going to journal every morning whilst I have my coffee), you'll associate the practice of journaling with tranquility and emotional release, making it a much more desirable activity to your brain. Burning sage is a pertinent example of this - there is no scientific evidence to support claims of detoxification of air or 'energy', yet the simple fact that these sage burners associate the act with a fresh start can often provide all the clarity they need.
How do I get started?
I made a point of buying a nice, sturdy A4 journal - quality paper isn't much of a premium but makes the world of difference to your writing experience. Then, every morning, I would write down what I planned to do for the day (my intentions), how my sleep was and how I am feeling today. On some days, I'd write 7 or 8 lines. On others, I'd fill the page. This is completely normal and a true reflection of life - sometimes there's just not that much going on, sometimes it is chaos.
Applying the concept of 'habit-chaining' popularised by James Clear has really helped me to adhere to writing every day - the basic principle is this: Find an activity that you already do, day-in, day-out. It could be brushing your teeth, getting dressed, or getting into bed. Then, commit to journaling immediately before, after or during (if possible) that task. That way, you're more time efficient and you get a weight off your chest - it's a win-win.
Remember, only you can see your Journal
When I first started to journal, I noticed that I was putting somewhat of a front on. Reading back, I was clearly projecting how I wanted myself to feel, instead of noting how I actually felt. Sometimes it can be difficult to bring some of your negative thoughts to life on a page - feelings are very different when you read them back, and so it is natural to have your guard up as you get into the swing of things. Remember, this journal is for you, so make sure you're brutally honest about how things are going.
Simply writing down your thoughts can bring some relief, but in order to truly progress you must review your journal at the end of each week. That way, you're able to get a better picture of how the week has went for you as a whole, and what negative or positive behaviours have influenced the productiveness of the week. Over larger time frames, you'll be able to see your shift in character and attitude as you continue to evolve your thinking skills.