The pen and paper gym: treat your journal as a premium gym membership

Your journaling habit is like going to the gym

Are you struggling to find the time & energy to keep a journaling habit? If you want to be a person who keeps a daily journal but can’t seem to find the time & energy to do it, keep reading because today you will get a fun solution to your problem.

You have to start treating your journal like a premium gym membership if you want to exercise your mind and brain the same way you do your body. In this article I will give you some tools to do that, and we will discuss the benefits of treating your journal as a premium gym membership.

Different machines at the gym – different journaling prompts

Just as you don’t work out once at the treadmill and then never again, you don’t write one journaling prompt once and then never again. It takes practice and hard work if you want to get to any results. The gratitude prompt is a perfect example of this. You have to do this repeatedly if you want to train your mind to truly be wired towards gratitude and build that muscle.

The gym.

You can work out in classes, or lift weights by yourself. There are a myriad of machines and equipment, and you have to learn how to execute the exercises right for every piece of equipment so you don’t hurt yourself.

Some of us go there regularly, and other’s are just there for the vending machines. Doesn’t matter. What matters is: if you want to get in shape, a good idea is to visit the gym once in a while.

The thing with the gym is, that it’s quite expensive. Everytime you don’t go to the gym, you might feel that you’re actually losing money on the deal, right? It feels good to go, even if it’s not always the first thing on your list of priorities.

Treat your journal as a premium gym membership

If you do have a premium membership at your health club and don’t take advantage of it, you’re both losing money and the opportunity to get in shape guided by competent gym class instructors.

As you might know, I’m a keen advocate for a daily journaling practice. Preferably you journal every day, but if that doesn’t work it’s better to do it once a week than not at all.

Today I want to give you a laundry list of how you can compare your journal to a gym membership so that you can treat your journaling practice the way you would going to the gym:

  1. Why you should go to the gym (a.k.a. journal) every day (instead of once or twice)

If you do something regularly, it wires in new pathways in the brain.
If you’re a person who go to the gym regularly, you know that you “get into the zone” once you enter the doors to the gym. For the next hour or so, you will do whatever it takes to workout and burn those extra calories off your body.

Learn to use the different pieces of equipment

You can get all sorts of exercise at the gym: All from yoga classes to cardio and weight lifting, standing on the treadmill for an hour with your favorite playlist in your ears. There are so many different ways you can get your body in shape.

The same goes with the journaling. You have to get to know what machines and exercises you like and what part of your being you want to work out on in order to get that part in shape.

Go to the gym regularly if you want to get results.

Imagine for a minute that you would go to the gym every morning. Every single morning, rain or shine. (If you already do, yey! Good for you! I’m actually a bit jealous of you right now 😬)
With a daily journaling practice, you don’t just exercise your ability to connect to yourself. You also gain momentum, just the way you do if you go to the gym every day.

Get a good instructor

A way to get in shape if you don’t know at all where to start is to hop on a gym class with an instructor. You get the benefit of having a person guiding you along the way, and you really just have to do as they instruct you to do.
Journaling can be intimidating if you’re not used to it. During my 20+ years of journaling I’ve found a way and routine that works for me.
It was very helpful to have an experienced instructor by my side in the beginning. I’ve recommended Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way before, and I will do it again here. In my opinion, the Morning Pages method is by far the best way to get to know who you are at a deep core level. Talk about core workout!

Here are some pieces of equipment to help you with your journaling exercise:

  1. A journal and a pen.
    Pick out a nice notebook that sparks joy for you. Remember that your journal is your premium gym membership. Don’t settle with the shitty gym around the corner. You’re worth a premium health club. This doesn’t have to mean that you have to go bankrupt if you buy a notebook. But level up from the shitty stuff and get yourself a nice one.
  2. A “DO NOT DISTURB” sign.
    The gym might not be the most calm and quiet place you could ever visit, but the journaling gym should be. You have to make sure you don’t get disturbed during your journaling sessions. If you have a family, let them know that journaling is your own time, and if they want something from you, they will have to wait for an hour.
  3. Time.
    Carve out one hour of your time every day just as you would with your workout routine. Schedule it in your calendar to make sure you have the time to execute your journaling routine.
  4. The exercises.
    If you attend a yoga class, you will learn all sorts of different yoga poses, the importance of the breath etc. And if you want to gain muscles, you will approach some of the machines designed for specifically the muscle group you want to work on, right?
    The same goes with journaling exercises. There are tons of journaling prompts on the internet, and there are a lot of journaling exercises if you don’t know where to start. I’ve gathered a list of 100 journaling prompts for you to start with.
    Just as you would want to approach all the equipment at the gym with caution at first to get to know the equipment, you can approach every journaling exercise many times. You want to gain momentum with the exercises by doing them often.
  5. And last but not least…why not combine the two?
    Imagine that you go to the gym, work out for and hour or two, sit in the sauna and relax afterwards, get dressed and feel fantastic.
    When you exit the gym you’re in a fantastic condition, and your mind is calm. This might be the perfect condition to add the journaling habit. Sit in a café or go to the library. Sit with your journal after every gym session and see where it leads you. This might open up a whole new reason to go to the gym.

PS/ I’ve created a list of 100 journaling prompts that you can download below to get started. See it as a toolbox to help you get your mind in the best shape it can be 🤓

Related article: How the morning pages changed my life