What falls under the umbrella of self-care often takes the form of things like skincare, meditation, and eating healthily, but there’s something else that is deserving of the same amount of attention: journaling. This form of self-expression may conjure an image of grade school assignments from your yesteryear, but journaling is just as beneficial to partake in as an adult.

Journaling can be used as an organizational methodology (bullet journaling, for example) or for creative purposes. One of the best parts about it is there are no rules. As someone who has been writing in a journal since I received one for my eighth birthday, I can attest to the positive effects this practice has on your life. I tend to journal in more of a stream-of-consciousness way than in an organized way, and regular journaling has taught me a lot about the way my mind works. However, if you’re a writing newbie, have no fear. Laura Rubin, the founder of notebook and creative coaching company AllSwell Creative, has some sound advice for those looking to get into this practice:

“Journaling is for everybody, whether you’re a good writer or not. You can become a more visionary leader, a more empathetic manager, a more focused individual, and operate with a greater awareness overall. There’s a lot of real-world application to be found.”

As Rubin touches on, the importance of soft skills in the workplace is not to be underestimated. Journaling can help hone skills such as accountability, honesty, empathy, and listening. Without even realizing it, an argument with a loved one or an overwhelming calendar can bring unwelcome feelings to the surface that, in turn, can be projected onto those you work with. Writing down those experiences and feelings can help you reflect and grow. Leaders all over the world, both past and present (including Oprah), have turned to journaling to help them be more effective in everything they do. It’s often used in coaching techniques for that very reason.

When asked about the workshops and coaching sessions she leads at AllSwell, Rubin mentions how many participants are business leaders. “I work with a lot of entrepreneurs who want to hone their brand’s vision,” she says. “I also do creative coaching for executives of top companies who need better support on being more creative. In the process of talking about their feelings, people find it helps connect with that innate creative voice. It’s a grounding experience.”

Writing can help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as help you identify what is causing those feelings in the first place. If you typically find it difficult to talk about your emotions or tough experiences, writing could be the answer to get you in an emotionally healthier place. One fact that will help give you a push is realizing that there is no third party that will see these entries—unless, of course, you want them to. Journaling is a very personal experience. Aside from being a catalyst in bettering your emotional well-being, it can also help with things like confidence and self-awareness. Instead of obsessing over destructive thoughts, you’re writing them down and releasing them. You’re telling these behaviors and negative thoughts that they no longer serve a purpose swirling around in your head all day and will live inside the pages of your journal instead.

While there are no concrete rules to journaling, there are things you can do if you want to get the most out of this practice. First and foremost, be as unfiltered as possible. This goes back to the ‘no third party’ reminder; no one will see this but you, so if you hold back, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Secondly, limit distractions in your space. If the TV is on in the background or there are kids running amok, it can be hard to focus on the page in front of you. Pick a time of day when you know you can sit down in an environment conducive to this practice. Lastly, read and reflect on what you’ve just written. If you wrote about an argument with a close friend, think about how you could turn those thoughts and feelings into actions that will help you resolve and move on from this issue.

Whether or not you’re a writer at heart, following a journaling prompt can often help you identify with and reflect on something more specific.

For when you want to be more grateful:

  • Describe something that happened today that made you smile.
  • List five to ten things you are grateful for.
  • Describe a moment that made you feel successful.
  • Write about a person, place, or hobby that makes you happy.

For when you want to be more introspective, ask yourself:

  • Who am I? How do other people perceive me?
  • Who are people I struggle to be empathetic toward? Why?
  • What am I afraid of?
  • What makes me happy? What makes me sad?

For when you’re struggling with your mental health:

  • Identify your typical coping mechanisms. Are they good or bad? Do you want to change them?
  • How do you feel in this moment?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Pinpoint and describe short-term and long-term goals.

Generic prompts for any time:

  • Describe a trip that really stuck with you. What made it special?
  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • Who or what could you not imagine your life without?
  • Write a letter to your childhood or teenage self.
  • What does success look like to you?

The power of putting pen or pencil to paper can produce results of the highest significance. Even taking the smallest window of time in your day to journal can make a huge difference in how you feel. Rubin recommends beginning with a 4/4/4 rule: four minutes a day, for four days, over four weeks. You’ll soon realize that this outlet will put you in touch with your innermost self and leave you with passages to look back on throughout the rest of your life.

For more info, visit allswellcreative.com