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Journalling is a great habit to get into. It can help you with lots of different areas of your life and is a very cathartic exercise. There is a lot of conflicting advice when it comes to how to start journaling, and how to stick to it!
We have put together this helpful guide for beginners with all of the best tips and tricks to get you started on your journaling journey. Keep reading to find out more.
Why Should You Start Journaling?
If you have never tried journaling before then you might be wondering what all of the fuss is about. Why should you bother to start journaling in the first place?
There are lots of different reasons that people choose to journal. Here are some of the common reasons:
- Mental health – Whatever mental health issues you might be facing, journaling can be a big help. You can track your moods, express and process your feelings in a safe way, and keep a record of your recovery.
- Motivation – Journaling can help you to stay motivated if you have a particular goal that you are working towards. You can keep a track of your progress and plan how to move forward to keep working towards your goal.
- Self-awareness – Some people choose to keep a journal to become more self-aware, and to get to know themselves better. When you write freely about how you feel it can open up new ideas and perspectives that you weren’t consciously aware of before.
- Memories – One of the most common reasons that people keep a journal is to write down memorable things that have happened to them so they can look back on it afterwards.
There are lots of other reasons that you might decide to start journaling. Think about what you want to start journaling and keep that in mind as you get into the swing of it.
Electronic Or Paper Journaling?
When you think of journaling, you are probably picturing a fancy notebook filled with handwritten pages. A lot of people choose to journal in the traditional way, but you can also journal electronically.
If you find typing easier, there is no reason why you can’t use your laptop or even your smartphone to keep a journal. But which one is better?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to whether paper journaling is better than electronic journaling.
It comes down to personal preference. In the end, you need to decide which method is going to suit you best and make it easier for you to keep journaling consistently.
If you do decide to journal electronically, consider backing it up using online storage. If your laptop breaks or gets stolen then you won’t have lost all of your journal entries.
What Time Of Day Should You Write In Your Journal?
Should you write in your journal in the morning, afternoon or evening? There are pros and cons for each option.
Journaling can be a great way to start your day. It can clear your head of any thoughts that are taking up a lot of space in your mind.
It can also help you to get you into a more positive mindset for the day ahead, especially if you use affirmations in your journaling. If you want to keep a dream journal, you should definitely do this in the morning.
The only downside to morning journaling is that you might not have a fresh memory of the events that happened the day before. You may also find some thoughts and feelings too much to process first thing in the morning.
A lot of people decide to write in their journal in the evening, or just before they go to bed. This can be a really good way of processing everything that has happened that day.
It also helps you to let go of any residual thoughts or feelings that might weigh down on you and stop you from sleeping well.
The issue here is that if you are tired, you might not have the energy to write much or get all of your thoughts down on paper.
You might also struggle to find balance and perspective when you are tired, which could lead you to focus on the negative things.
Depending on how your days are structured, you might be able to find some quiet time in the afternoon to write in your journal. This can be a great way to recenter yourself part-way through the day. It can also help you transition from one state of mind to another.
Perhaps you have finished work and you want to write in your journal for 20 minutes to let go of all of those thoughts and feelings so that you can relax for the rest of the day.
It can be difficult to stick to a regular time if you journal in the afternoon, as it will depend on what you are doing each day.
This could make it more challenging to be consistent with your journaling so that it becomes a habit and not just a passing phase.
All Day Journaling
Another less common option is to journal throughout the day. If you keep a small notebook on you, or use your phone, you can jot down your thoughts and feelings as and when they arise.
This gives you a ‘stream of consciousness’ type journal that is very present. This can be a great technique if you are struggling to be authentic when you write in your journal, and you find yourself holding back.
How Much Should You Write In Your Journal?
There is no right or wrong way to write in your journal. Journaling is a tool to help you in your life, so you should use it in a way that suits you.
You might be able to write pages and pages about how you feel, how your day has been, and what is on your mind. Other days, you might struggle to pick up your pen and write a single sentence. It doesn’t matter, as long as you keep going.
As long as your journal is authentic and you write in it regularly, then it doesn’t really matter how much you write. If you can sum up how you feel in a word or a few phrases then you don’t need to write more if you don’t want to.
You could even write ‘I’m finding it hard to write anything today’ – that is still an honest reflection of how you feel.
If you are finding it difficult to write in your journal or to get yourself started, why don’t you try the ‘one line a day’ technique.
All you need to do is write one line of your journal each day. It only takes a minute or two, and it will get you into the habit of journaling. As you get more comfortable, you can expand it to more lines.
Make It Enjoyable
Journaling can be a cathartic exercise, and a form of self-care. It really helps if you make it an enjoyable experience. This will form a positive association in your brain, and you will be more likely to journal consistently. Here are some ideas:
- Make a nice drink – Before you sit down to write in your journal, prepare yourself a nice drink. It could be an iced coffee or a hot chocolate, some lemon water or perhaps a juice. Whatever you fancy.
- Light a candle – Set the scene by lighting a candle or burning some incense or aromatherapy oils. Choose a relaxing scent that makes you feel calm and comforted.
- Choose the music – It can be helpful to put on some relaxing music in the background while you write in your journal. It shouldn’t be so loud that it distracts you, but it can be great to find some music that helps you to connect with your emotions.
- Use nice stationary – Get yourself a good quality pen and a nice notebook to journal with. This can make the whole experience feel more enjoyable.
- Meditation & mindfulness – You could start or end your journaling session with some meditation or mindfulness to recenter yourself. Journaling can bring up some intense emotions and feelings, so it is good to end on a calm and balanced feeling.
Consistency Is Key
We have already used the word ‘consistent’ several times in this guide to journaling. This is because consistency is so important.
You will only feel the benefits of journaling if you stick to it as a regular habit. Journaling regularly helps you to stay in touch with your emotions, raises your level of self-awareness, and helps you to stay calm and focused.
Infrequent journaling often turns into a several page rant about repressed feelings and bottled up emotions, which tends to leave you feeling worked up and doesn’t really help you to process anything.
It doesn’t matter how much or little you write, or if what you are writing even makes sense. As long as you journal regularly, you will feel the benefit. If you want to stay consistent, tell someone about your journaling so that they can keep you accountable.
Perhaps you want to find a journaling buddy so that you can both update each other on your progress with your journaling journey?
Take Your Journal Outside
There will be some days where you feel a bit of a ‘writer’s block’. Perhaps the words aren’t coming out, your mind feels empty, or you just can phrase things how you want to. This is the perfect time to take your journal outside.
Writing in a different environment can unlock a new perspective and help you to get in touch with feelings you didn’t realize were there.
Find a space that inspires you, or brings you peace. Get into nature and write in your journal about how it makes you feel to be surrounded by trees, or looking at the ocean.
Head to a busy spot and watch the people around you going about their daily lives, then write about how that makes you feel about your own life.
There are lots of different places that you can write in your journal – don’t be afraid to try something new.
Don’t Hold Back
One of the most important things to remember when you are journaling is to not hold back. Don’t write your journal as if someone else is going to read it – write it as if it will never be read at all.
You don’t need to worry about grammar, you don’t need to find the ‘best way’ to describe something – just write from the heart.
Your journal is the perfect place to explore thoughts and feelings that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with other people. There is no judgment, only expression.
Perhaps you have an aspiration that you haven’t told anyone about? Maybe you feel mad about something but you don’t know who to talk to about it? Or you might have a thought or feeling that you are ashamed of.
Write it all down and be as honest as you can. This is the first step in acknowledging your feelings, processing them, and eventually letting them go.
If you are concerned that someone could read your journal, then there are a few things you can try to preserve your privacy.
Firstly, don’t tell anyone you are keeping a journal – people won’t go looking for something they don’t know exists.
Second, find a place to keep your journal where someone won’t stumble across it accidentally. The other option is to use an electronic journal- perhaps a document on your laptop that is protected by a password?
Experiment With Different Techniques
Journaling isn’t just writing down how you feel – there are so many different techniques that you can use to express yourself.
Experiment with different options and mix things up to see what works for you. Once you find something you like, keep challenging yourself to try different things now and again.
This will open up new avenues for self-expression and you might also discover a new hobby along the way.
Here are some ideas you could try.
Poetry can be a great way to get your feelings into words whilst encouraging creativity. Whether you write a rhyming poem, an abstract poem, or even play around with syllables by experimenting with haikus, you can create something special.
An interesting way to express yourself is to create a collage of things that you feel drawn to, things that inspire you, or things that reflect how you see yourself.
Collect images from various magazines and other sources and use them to create a collage in your journal. You can draw on top of the images, add some doodles, words, or anything else you want.
If you don’t know how to put your feelings into words, you can try to create a mood board. You can use colors, pictures, fabrics, paints, or any materials that fit with how you are feeling.
This is a really effective way of expressing feelings that you don’t feel ready to talk about.
Sketching & Doodles
You might want to try drawing about how you feel instead of writing about it. You don’t have to worry about whether your drawings are good or not – just draw whatever comes to mind.
You can draw in any style, using any colors, and even experiment with different materials – pencil, pen, chalk, charcoal, crayons and more.
Scrapbooking is a great technique to use if you want to capture memories in your journal. You can use photographs, small descriptions, stickers, and whatever you want to decorate the pages.
Think outside the box – maybe include a leaf rubbing from a walk you went on, a ticket for an event you attended, or even a snack wrapper from your picnic.
There are so many different journaling techniques you can use. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new things. You will be amazed at how many ways there are to express yourself.
Keep A Balanced View
Your journal needs to be an authentic expression of your thoughts and feelings. However, you should always try to find some element of balance. If you only ever think about things from your perspective, you run the risk of becoming self-centered and narrow minded.
Once you have expressed all of your feelings about a situation, take a moment to think about it from another perspective. Imagine you are the person on the other side of the debate – how do you think they feel right now?
What do you think caused them to behave this way? Try and see the bigger picture, and approach it with empathy and kindness.
This helps you to keep a balanced view of the world and of the people around you, and leaves room for the complexities of reality rather than seeing every situation as black and white.
It can also help you to take a step back from the situation and take things less personally, which reduces your pain.
What Should You Write About In Your Journal?
There are so many different things that you can write about in your journal – it’s not just about thoughts and feelings. Here are some ideas for topics you can write about in your journal.
Writing about the things you are grateful for is a great way to put yourself into a positive mindset. If you are struggling with negative thoughts or mental health issues, focusing on gratitude can make you feel a lot better.
Try making a list of the things you are most grateful for in your life, or starting off each journal entry with something that you are thankful for.
Hobbies & Interests
You can use your journal to write about your hobbies and interests. Perhaps you love food and cooking, so you use your journal to write about all of the tasty meals you have enjoyed recently and to make a note of recipes.
If you are enthusiastic about music you could write down your thoughts on new songs or albums you have listened to, and your experiences of watching live music and concerts.
If you love reading, you can start a book journal and write down each book you read and what you thought of it. There are so many ways to tie in your journaling with your hobbies and interests.
Goals & Priorities
Journaling can be a great way to stay motivated when you have a goal or a target that you are working towards. It can also help you decide what to focus on, as you can make a list of your priorities to keep yourself moving in the right direction.
Track your progress and write down your plan for how you are going to achieve your goals. Think ahead and make a list of any obstacles you are facing, and brainstorm some ideas to help you overcome them.
Achievements & Challenges
It is a good idea to make a note of any achievements in your journal. Celebrating your successes will help with your self-esteem and confidence. It can also be good to look back on when you are feeling down or you are facing a difficult time.
You can also use your journal to work through any challenges you are facing. Perhaps something hasn’t quite gone to plan, and you need to write down your feelings so you can pick yourself up and try again.
Experiences & Memories
Many people keep a journal so that they can remember all of the details about their life. There might be small things that happen to you throughout the day – conversations, things you have seen – that seem insignificant but are very special to you when you look back on them.
A joke shared with a friend can bring a smile when you look back on it years later, or a day out with a loved one could be a precious memory to read about when they are no longer with you.
It can be very special to share some of your journal entries with your children, so that they can have an idea of what your life was like when you were younger.
It is also very interesting to look back and see how much your life has changed over the years.
Planning & Organization
If you like to stay organized, your journal can be a big help to you. You can use it to make lists of things you need to do, or to plan your time. You can use a journal to keep track of your schedule or even your budget.
If you have a project to work on, you can use your journal to plan the various stages and keep track of your progress. Staying organized is a great way to reduce stress and improve your mental health.
If you have a trip coming up, why don’t you try keeping a travel journal? It’s a fantastic way to record all of your memories of your vacation, and to take time to reflect on your experiences.
You can look back on it later to remember what a fantastic time you had, and even add in some photographs.
Where Should You Start?
If you are still struggling to get started with journaling, why don’t you try using some journal prompts. Start with something fun and light-hearted, then gradually move on to some more challenging topics. Here are some ideas for you to try.
Fun Journal Prompts
- Think of alternative ending for your favorite movie
- Rewrite the lyrics to a song you like to make it about you or your friend
- Write about one of your funniest memories
- Imagine a ridiculous scenario that would never happen – the sillier the better
- Make a list of how you would spend one million dollars
Reflective Journal Prompts
- Write about a time when your friend was there to support you
- Describe how you felt the last time you cried
- Write about someone in your life who inspires you
- Describe your life as it is now to your 13 year old self
- Think about the last time you felt truly relaxed and happy
Inspirational Journal Prompts
- Write about what you want to achieve in the next 5 years
- Plan your dream vacation
- Describe how you want other people to see you
- Write about what success means to you
- Think about a dream that you have never told anyone about
Journaling is an excellent habit to get into that can help you in so many different ways. This guide will get you started on your journaling journey.