Journaling is an incredibly powerful tool that can help improve your mental and emotional well-being, boost your productivity, and increase your self-awareness.
But is it really as simple as sitting down and writing what you’re thinking?
If you’re wondering how to start journaling, then you’re certainly in the right place.
Below we will outline how to start journaling, give you ideas and inspiration for ways you can journal, show you examples of journaling and different journaling methods, as well as give you some essential tips to keep in mind.
Feel free to take notes, save this page, or even start journaling as you read along.
What is Journaling?
Your first step is understanding what journaling is.
Journaling is simply the act of recording (usually by writing down) your thoughts and experiences.
The most important thing to remember is that journaling is completely personal and doesn’t have to follow any specific rules or guidelines.
Some people choose to write stream of consciousness style, while others prefer to answer specific questions each day.
There are no wrong ways to journal, so long as you’re honest with yourself and write from the heart.
Studies have shown that journaling can decrease stress, improve your immune system, and help you sleep better. So basically, it makes you a superhuman.
Plus, it’s a great way to get in touch with yourself.
We’re constantly bombarded with input from the outside world, and it can be tough to process everything that’s going on.
Journaling gives you a chance to sort through your thoughts and feelings in a safe space.
And because there’s no right or wrong way to do it, it has a low barrier to entry, meaning you most likely have everything you need to get started right now.
Benefits of Journaling
One of the ways you can stay motivated in your journaling practice is by understanding the benefits that come along with journaling.
While you may not see these benefits after your first journal entry, by creating a daily journaling practice, you’ll start to notice the compound effect of these benefits and over time, start to see some amazing changes in your life.
Some of the benefits of journaling include:
1 – Reduces Stress
Studies show that writing about stressful experiences can help reduce stress and improve coping skills.
2 – Improves Goal Setting And Achievement
Having trouble achieving your goals? Journaling can help by clarifying your objectives and providing motivation to stay on track.
3 – Improves Mood
Expressive writing can boost positive emotions and decrease negative ones, leading to an overall boost in mood and an increased positive outlook.
4 – Increases Self-Awareness
The more you journal, the better you’ll get at recognizing your thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior. This can lead to greater self-awareness and understanding, both of which are essential for personal growth.
5 – Helps With Decision-Making
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by a decision, writing out your pros and cons can help you weigh your options logically rather than emotionally.
6 – Promotes Creativity
If you’re feeling stuck creatively, journaling can jumpstart your imagination by getting all those pent-up ideas down on paper (or screen).
7 – Fosters Emotional Healing
Working through traumas or other difficult life experiences can be painful, but journaling can help you process these emotions in a healthy way and eventually move on from them.
8 – Strengthens Relationships
Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others—even if they’re just written words—can deepen your connection with them.
9 – Improves Sleep Quality
If you struggle with insomnia or bad dreams, journaling before bed may help by providing a release for the fears and worries that are keeping you up at night.
So now you know what journaling is, and you understand the benefits, it’s time to dive into how to start journaling!
How To Start Journaling
If you’re like a whole lot of other people, you’ve probably tried to start journaling a million times.
And if you’re like many of those people, you’ve likely given up before because it either felt weird, you weren’t sure what you were doing, or you didn’t really see the point.
But that’s okay!
Because today is a new day and using the steps below, you’ll be more likely to actually stick with your journaling practice.
Step 1 – Create Your Journaling Intention
One of the best things you can do when starting a journaling practice is to create your journaling intention.
This is a simple statement that outlines what you want to achieve through journaling.
Some examples of journaling intentions include:
– I want to use journaling as a way to process my emotions and deal with stress in a healthy way.
– I want to use journaling to increase my creativity and come up with new ideas.
– I want to use journaling to get to know myself better and understand my thought patterns.
– I want to use journaling as a way to track my goals and progress over time.
Your journaling intention doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, but it should be specific enough that you can keep coming back to it when you need motivation.
Step 2 – Have An Idea Of What You Want Journal About
One of the quickest ways to give up on journaling is to sit down at your desk, open up the first page of your beautiful new journaling notebook, and have no idea what you want to write about.
A way to avoid this is to have an idea of what you want to journal about before you start.
This would often be tied in with your journaling intention and could include things like wanting to write about your emotional experiences if you’re wanting to process your emotions or as a tool for dealing with stress, or your past experiences if you’re wanting to get to know yourself better and understand your thought patterns.
If you’re still not quite sure what to write, you can use journaling prompts as a guide. You’ll find tons of journaling prompts for specific areas of your life you might want to focus on, or you can simply use general journaling prompts and see where they take you.
Step 3 – Choose A Type Of Journaling
There are endless ways to journal, so it’s important that you find a format that works for you.
Some people prefer traditional pen and paper journaling, while others prefer to type out their thoughts on a computer or mobile device.
There’s no right or wrong answer here, so it’s really about finding what feels best for you. If you prefer to write by hand, go for it! But if you find that you can’t stick to a journaling practice because you hate writing by hand, then there’s no point in forcing yourself to do it. Instead, try typing out your thoughts or even speaking them into a recorder (more on this a little later…).
There are also different types of journaling you can try, such as stream of consciousness journaling, gratitude journaling, dream journaling, and more (again, more on these later…).
The kind of journal you choose may also be related to the intentions you have with journaling, so be sure to keep this in mind and don’t be afraid to try new ways of journaling if what you’re doing isn’t quite working for you.
Step 4 – Allocate Time Each Day
In order to take your journaling practice from something you do occasionally when you remember, to a real life-changing journaling habit is by allocating a dedicated time each day to complete your journaling routine.
One little thing that can make this easier is to stack journaling into a routine you already have, by adding it to a habit you already do without thinking.
For example, you could journal when you have your morning coffee instead of scrolling social media.
Or you could keep your journal next to your bed so when you climb into bed at the end of the day, you could write in your journal for 5 minutes before reading your book.
Adding journaling to a habit you already have means that during the busy or hard times, you already have these habits in place so you are more likely to keep sticking with them.
Step 5 – Limit Yourself To 5 Minutes
If you’ve never journaled before, the idea of sitting down and writing for 10, 20 or 30 minutes can be overwhelming.
One way to make it less daunting, and one of the best ways to make your new daily habits stick, is to start with just 5 minutes.
Your journaling session doesn’t have to take a lot of time in order for it to be effective.
Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes and see what comes out. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to make sense, and you don’t even have to finish your thoughts. Just write for 5 minutes and see what happens.
You might be surprised at how much you can get out in just 5 minutes, and once you start getting into the flow of things, you might find that you want to keep going for longer. But 5 minutes is a great place to start.
Step 6 – Avoid The Urge To Edit
When you first start journaling, it can be tempting to go back and edit your thoughts or censor yourself in some way.
But the whole point of journaling is to get your thoughts and feelings out without judgement, so it’s important that you allow yourself to do this.
Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, and don’t worry about whether or not what you’re writing makes sense. Just write whatever comes into your head, and trust that the process will be beneficial for you, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
It can also be helpful to remind yourself that nobody else is going to see what you write (unless you want them to), so you don’t need to worry about anyone else’s opinion. This is your journal and you can write whatever you want in it.
This can be helpful, particularly when journaling through negative emotions, or things you’re still trying to wrap your head around. Writing without editing yourself can be incredibly beneficial and you might be surprised at what comes up.
Different Types Of Journaling
As I mentioned before, there are different types of journaling and different ways to journal that you can try depending on what you’re hoping to get out of the process.
Here are some different types of journals you can use:
A personal journal is a great way to get to know yourself better, work through your thoughts and feelings, and process whatever is going on in your everyday life.
You can write about anything you want in a personal journal, and there are no rules about what you should or shouldn’t write.
This type of journaling can be incredibly therapeutic and can help you to work through anything that’s going on in your life, both good and bad.
You might find it helpful to keep a personal journal if you’re going through a tough time, or if you’re trying to make a major life change as it is more specific to your personal life and your own personal experience.
This type of journaling focuses specifically on gratitude, paying close attention to the little details in life, and having an overall positive vibe.
A gratitude journal can take many different forms, but the basic idea is that you spend some time each day thinking about and writing down things in your life that you’re grateful for.
This can be anything from big things like your health or your family, to small things like being able to afford your coffee habit or getting a good parking spot.
The key is to focus on the positive, even when things might not be going the way you want them to.
Dream journals are documents of the dreams you experienced the night before, your own interpretation of those dreams, and what you believe them to mean.
There are many different beliefs when it comes to dream interpretation, with many suggesting that our dreams are windows to our subconscious mind.
This is less about being right in what different things in your dreams mean, and more about what you believe the events and symbols in your dream to represent.
You can use dream interpretation tools to help you if you want, and journal your response to these interpretations.
Stream Of Consciousness Journal
This is a type of journaling where you simply write down whatever comes into your head, without editing or censoring yourself.
The goal is to just keep writing and see where your thoughts take you. This can be helpful in uncovering any buried thoughts or feelings you might have, as well as helping you to brainstorm ideas.
Morning pages are a form of stream of consciousness journaling that is specifically handwritten, limited to 3 pages long, without editing or reading back on what you have written, and as the name suggests – done first thing in the morning.
This is a powerful type of journaling that can help to clear your mind, and get rid of any mental clutter before starting your day.
A guided journal comes with specific instructions or journal writing prompts that you need to answer.
By using journal prompts like this, you can explore different topics that you might not have thought to write about otherwise.
This type of journaling can be helpful if you’re struggling to come up with things to write about, or if you’re looking for a specific type of journaling challenge.
It can also be helpful to know that when you sit down to journal each day, you don’t have to come up with something to write about, you simply read the prompt and write whatever comes to mind.
One Line A Day Journal
This type of journaling is exactly what it sounds like – you write one line each day, documenting something that happened that day, or how you’re feeling.
You can use this type of journal to document anything from your daily routine, to more significant life events.
This can be a fun challenge and can help you to be more creative and explore different ways to document events, emotions, feelings, or anything else you want to write.
The key is to be consistent and make sure that you’re writing something down each day, even if it’s just a few words.
Five Minute Journal
The five minute journal is exactly the type of journaling most people should start with as journaling for five minutes is a whole lot easier to get started with.
The basic idea is to set a timer for five minutes and just write.
You can team this with other journaling styles, but the key is to ONLY write for five minutes, even if you want to keep going.
Over time, this can help you to develop the ability to organize your thoughts more quickly, and become more clear in your communication (as well as all the other benefits of journaling).
An art journal is a type of journal that combines written words with drawings, paintings, or other forms of visual art.
This can be anything from stick figure doodles to more elaborate pieces of artwork, and everything in between.
Art journaling can be a fun and creative way to express yourself, and can be helpful if you’re someone who struggles to put their thoughts into words.
It can also be helpful in developing your creative skills, and can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity.
A photography journal is a type of journal that combines written words with photographs.
This can be anything from photos you take yourself, to photos you find online or in magazines.
Photography journaling can be a fun and creative way to express yourself, and can be helpful if you’re someone who struggles to put their thoughts into words.
You can even challenge yourself by answering journal prompts with a single or a series of photographs.
A goal journal is a type of journal that helps you to track your progress as you work towards a specific goal.
This could be anything from a personal goal, like running a marathon, to a professional goal, like starting your own business.
Goal journaling can be helpful in keeping you motivated and on track as you work towards your goal.
It can also be helpful in providing you with a sense of accountability, as well as helping you to track your progress and celebrate your successes along the way.
Also, research has shown that paying attention to your goals, writing them down, or repeating your goals daily, like in your daily journaling practice, makes you far more likely to achieve them.
A digital journal is a type of journal that is written or created digitally. You can use an online writing software like Google Docs, or use an app like Goodnotes to create your digital journal on an iPad or tablet.
This can be helpful if you want to be able to access your journal from anywhere, or if you want to share it with others.
It can also be helpful in keeping your journal organized and in one place.
You can also use digital journals, like ones created for Goodnotes, to combine journaling styles, such as writing with journal prompts, or stream of conscious journaling, while also being able to easily add creative elements such as stickers, art, or photographs.
A bullet journal is a type of journal that uses a specific system of symbols and abbreviations to help you organize your thoughts, ideas, and tasks.
This system can be helpful in keeping track of your thoughts, goals, and to-do lists, as well as helping you to brainstorm new ideas.
Bullet journaling can be a bit more challenging than other types of journaling, but it can be very rewarding and helpful in keeping your life organized.
If you’re looking for a more structured and organized way to journal, then bullet journaling might be for you.
Remember, you don’t have to stick to one type of journal. You can mix things up and try different types of journaling depending on what you’re hoping to achieve or what you’re feeling in the moment.
The important thing is that you find a journaling method that works for you, and that you make it a part of your daily routine.
How Often You Should Be Journaling
There is no set rule for how often you should be journaling, but if you’re wanting to see the most benefits from journaling, and make it a habit, then you should be aiming to journal daily.
If this feels like too much of a commitment for you, and if aiming for daily journaling is enough to make you run for the hills, then starting out smaller and just dipping your toe in the water may be the way to go for you.
Start by journaling once a week, but be sure to pick a day and time that works for you, and stay consistent with it.
You can always increase the frequency of your journaling later on, once you’ve gotten into a good routine.
The important thing is that you make journaling a part of your life, and that you find a journaling method that works for you.
When Is The Best Time Of Day To Journal?
The best time to journal is whenever you can fit it into your day, and whenever you feel the most comfortable journaling.
Some people like to journal first thing in the morning, as it helps to set the tone for their day.
Others prefer to journal at night, as it helps them to process their day and wind down before going to sleep.
Some people like to journal during their lunch break, or while they’re taking a walk.
It really doesn’t matter when you journal, as long as you find a time that works for you and that you can stick to.
How To Maintain A Journaling Practice
As with so many habits that are good for you, many people often start out strong and keep at it daily… and then something comes up and they skip a day… and then another… and before you know it you haven’t opened your journal for a month.
Here are some tips for staying motivated to journal and to maintain your journaling practice:
- journal at the same time each day so you don’t have to think about when you can fit it in
- set an alarm to remind you to journal
- use a habit tracker to keep track of the days you journal and reward yourself when you reach certain milestones
- find a journaling buddy to help hold you accountable
- use beautiful stationery to make you excited to journal
- be kind to yourself, creating a habit takes time
- keep going even when times are hard or when you don’t want to – that’s when you see the biggest benefit.
- make journaling enjoyable! Have your favorite drink, drink your coffee with the special syrup in the fancy mug, or sit outside in the sun while your journal.
Journaling when you’re excited about it, when it’s new, or when you know exactly what you want to write is easy. But you’ll likely see the biggest benefits when you keep journaling, even when you don’t want to or when it’s hard.
How To Journal When You Don’t Know What To Write
One of the most common reasons people give for not journaling is that they don’t know what to write about.
If you find yourself in this boat, here are some ideas for what you can write about in your journal:
- Write about your day – what you did, how you felt, any thoughts or insights you had
- Write about what you’re grateful for
- Write about your goals and what you’re doing to achieve them
- Write about a problem you’re facing and brainstorm solutions
- Write about a challenge you’ve overcome
- Write down ideas for articles, blog posts or stories
- Write about something that’s been on your mind
- Write stream of consciousness style – just write whatever comes into your mind, without overthinking it
The important thing is to just start writing, and to not worry about whether or not what you’re writing is good.
No one else is going to see it, so you can write whatever you want, without judgement.
And if you really can’t think of anything to write, there are plenty of journal prompts you can use to help get the words flowing.
How To Journal When You Don’t Like Writing
If you don’t like writing, or if you find it difficult to get your thoughts down on paper, that’s okay.
There are plenty of other ways you can journal, without having to write a word.
Here are some ideas:
- draw or paint in your journal
- record yourself talking about your day or about your thoughts and feelings
- take photographs to document how you’re feeling or your experiences
- create a collage of images that represent your day or how you’re feeling
- write down quotes that resonate with you
- use a journaling app on your phone or tablet.
The important thing is to find a journaling method that works for you and that you enjoy.
Don’t force yourself to write if you really don’t want to – there are plenty of other ways to journal, and you’re more likely to stick with it if you’re doing something you enjoy.
Journaling Tips For Beginners
Finally, these are tips great for any stage of journaling but are incredibly helpful if you’re new to the practice.
1 – Keep It Simple
When you first start journaling, the temptation will be to go overboard and try to write War and Peace in a single sitting.
Resist that urge!
Just start with a few sentences about how your day went, or how you’re feeling at that moment.
Keep it light, keep it easy. The goal is just to get into the habit of writing regularly.
2 – Don’t Overthink It
One of the great things about journaling is that there are no rules.
Write in pen or pencil, on lined paper or blank notebook pages – whatever feels right to you.
And don’t worry about grammar or spelling, either – this is for your eyes only!
Just let your thoughts flow freely onto the page without editing or censoring yourself.
3 – Make It A Regular Habit
The key to successful journaling is consistency.
Set aside time each day – even if it’s just 5 minutes – to sit down and write.
Morning or night doesn’t matter, just find a time that works for you and stick to it as best as you can.
Soon enough, it will become second nature.
4 – Get Specific
When describing your day-to-day experiences, try to include as many details as possible.
Where were you when something happened? Who was there with you? What did they say? How did you feel?
The more specific you can be, the more vivid your entries will be, and the easier it will be to look back on them later and remember exactly what was going on in your life at that time.
5 – Be Creative
If traditional journaling doesn’t appeal to you, get creative!
Draw pictures, write poems, experiment with different mediums – there are no limits here!
The goal is just to express yourself in whatever way feels natural and comfortable for you.
6 – Don’t Be Afraid To Vent
Sometimes life gets tough and we need to let off some steam.
If you’re feeling angry, frustrated, sad, or any other negative emotion, don’t bottle it up!
Let it all out on the page – chances are you’ll feel better once you’ve gotten everything off your chest.
7 – But Also Journal The Good Times
It’s also important to document the good times!
When something great happens – whether it’s landing your dream job or finally completing that project you’ve been procrastinating on – make sure to write about it in your journal so you can look back on those happy memories later on down the road.
8 – Challenge Yourself
If journaling has become too routine for you, mix things up!
Write from a different perspective, experiment with different genres, set goals for yourself (like writing 500 words a day), or even start a dialogue with yourself and reply to your own entries.
With so many creative ways to journal, there’s no need to get bored!
9 – Be Patient
It takes time and practice to get comfortable with journaling, so cut yourself some slack. It’s not going to be perfect from the get-go.
Just keep showing up for yourself, day after day, and eventually it will become easier …
Also, don’t expect to have your life completely changed after your first journal entry.
Journaling is a marathon, not a sprint – the benefits will come with time, so be patient and enjoy the journey!
10 – Make Journaling Enticing
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to journal, make it more enticing!
Invest in a beautiful notebook that you’re excited to write in, light some candles, play some calming music – do whatever you need to do to make the experience enjoyable.
The more you look forward to journaling, the more likely you are to actually do it.
11 – Just Start Now
Your first entry is always going to be the most challenging, but once you’ve done it, you’ve officially overcome the hardest part of journaling so now everything else is going to be easier!
All you need to do is start… right now…
Starting a journaling practice can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing things you can do.
Now you know how to start journaling, and why you should, it’s over to you to get started.
Remember, there are no rules here – just do whatever feels right for you.