Not so long ago, I discovered buried in the bottom of a desk drawer, an essay I’d written while taking Lamaze classes. I wrote about my fears, my anxieties and ultimately my joy about becoming a new mom. My son is now 22, and that journal entry became a chapter in my first book.

Pockets of Joy: Deciding to Be Happy, Choosing to Be Free tells the story of how I raised my little boy while working as a television news journalist. I was also a divorced single mom at the time. Six weeks after it’s release, Pockets of Joy hit #5 on Amazon’s bestseller list of single parenting books. Yeah, right? Wow. And it all started with a journal entry I wrote more than 20 years ago.

I think you see where I’m going with this. Not that we all aspire to be bestselling authors, but I think the role of self-reflection is even more important now than ever, especially in this social media crazed digital world we live in. Consider the current reality that some millennials don’t know how to stamp and mail a letter, or write a handwritten thank you note. Just send an e-mail right? And why journal when you can post or tweet?

I just think there is something about seeing your own handwriting on the written page. The curve of the letters, word choices, punctuation and your personal reflections all say a lot about who you are. And journaling captures it all, forever, in one place.

Pockets of Joy Journal Roxane BattleMy second book, the Pockets of Joy Journal, encourages people to be intentional about discovering pockets of joy in their lives—those moments, however fleeting, when they felt truly happy. My advice: write it down!

I never imagined my personal reflections from so many years ago would become a touchstone for my life, a thread from the past now beautifully woven into my present and future. A marker that will forever evoke gratitude and yes, joy. So you want to get started?

Here are 6 journaling tips to help you on your way:

1. A short pencil is better than a long memory– Gotta love who ever said that. It’s true. Have an interesting thought? A life changing epiphany? Catchy song lyric? Don’t try to remember it for later, write it down right away! Which leads me to tip #2…

2. Don’t leave home with out it– Credit card slogans aside, how are you going to capture the moment if you don’t have your journal with you? Take it everywhere and be ready to jot down inspiration on the fly.

3. You’re a poet and your feet show it because they’re long fellows– okay whatever. So maybe you’re not the best writer, and you find it hard to turn a phrase. Doesn’t matter. Write anyway. In your own words, in your own voice. Be you. Your authentic, at-times-grammatically-challenged self. The goal is to capture how you feel and what you’re thinking when you think it. Leave the poet laureate honors to someone else.

4. Just do it– okay, somebody already thought of that too, but it’s true! Just write. And write often. (Am I starting to sound like your mother?) The whole point of journaling is to create a record of your thoughts so you can reflect on them later and hopefully be inspired by your own growth and self-awareness. Which is really good for you. (Okay, now I’m really starting to sound like your mom huh?)

5. Be in the moment– Learn to harness the power of observation. Zero in on key sights, sounds and even smells and write them down. Your keen observations will help you go back in time and vividly remember those special moments in your life.

6. Choose wisely– If you don’t like the look and feel of your journal, you’re never going to use it, so pick the one that’s right for you. Do you like blank pages or lined pages? Hard cover or soft cover? There are lots of choices out there.

{Image credit: Carli Jean}

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