How to Start a Journal: 7 Simple Tips

Collage of woman journal writing in journals or notebooks.

What Is a Journal?

A journal is a personal space to write down what’s in your head. Your thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences, dreams, even doodles….can all be captured in one place. 

Why Start a Journal?

Daily adulting can easily make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Journaling is known to increase self-awareness and reduce stress. Here are five more incredible reasons to keep a journal:

  • Focus your mind and get clear.
  • Help you face your fears.
  • Shift your perspective.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Capture meaningful memories and insights.

Who Should Keep A Journal?

Everyone! Even babies!

Ok. We’re a little biased. But, if you’re a person going through a human experience, your life is full of lessons, memories, challenges, and successes unique to you.

No one will ever live your exact same life. Your life experiences form the unique history of you. We believe all of it is worth writing down on paper.

The best part? Since your journal is not shared with other people, what you write is from you, to you, and for you.

How Often To Write

Daily journal writing for 5 – 15 minutes is most beneficial. Every day contains something worth writing down. And, the “something” doesn’t have to be a major life event. It can be a funny joke that makes you laugh. New knowledge you’re learning. An inspirational quote that helps you get through difficult times. Or a problem you need to work through. Or, someone you meet for the first time or a friend you reconnect with again.

Although daily writing is most beneficial, how often you write is solely up to you.  Find what works best for your day-to-day but try to write consistently. Example: writing the same day of the week, and, if possible, same time of day. Consistency will help make journal writing a life-long habit you enjoy.

What To Write

Journal writing gives you freedom to write about anything you want! That includes the on-going conversations taking place in your head. Why not capture those on paper?

No matter what you write, your writing will fall into one of these four categories:

  • Freestyle. Mental wandering with words. Write what’s on your mind real time, as it’s happening.
  • Guided. Use of thought-provoking questions (prompts) to mentally focus on a specific topic.
  • Visual. Mental wandering with pictures. Doodles, scribbles, sketches, and photos that visually capture what you’re thinking. Can be freestyle or guided, too.
  • Combo. Use of words and visual in freestyle or guided mode to capture what’s on your mind.

Explore all four to discover which you enjoy.

Remember, what you write in your journal doesn’t have to make sense to other people. Write what makes sense and has meaning to you. You’re the only one who will see it.

7 Tips To Get Started

If you’re not used to capturing your thoughts on paper, keeping a journal can be intimidating at first. The following steps will help you ease into journaling:

Keeping a journal can be intimidating at first particularly if you’re not used to capturing your thoughts on paper. The following steps will help you ease into journaling:

  • Pick a journal or notebook filled with paper. Basic, fancy, or somewhere in between – there is no one “right” journal. If it’s meaningful to you and inspires you to write, it’s perfect. Celebrate your personality by adding stickers to it, if desired.
  • Grab your favorite pen. We all have one. Our one, go to writing tool! Pens are best for journaling, but pencils work too, especially if you like to doodle, scribble, or sketch. Be aware pencil may fade over time.
  • Find your favorite location. A well-worn chair on a patio. A park bench. A café. A window seat on a bus. Find a spot that helps you get lost in your thoughts. Music, favorite drink, fuzzy slippers, optional.
  • Set a timer (or not). Five to fifteen minutes of journal writing is recommended, but let’s face it: who has that kind of time?! Using a timer is beneficial overall, when you want to journal but only have a few minutes to do so. The rule: whenever you use a timer, try to keep writing until the timer chimes. Journal writing is a personal and often deeply mental and emotional activity. If you feel uncomfortable or distressed when writing, show yourself grace by putting the pen down and going straight to tip #7.
  • Record the date and write stuff down. No filters. No judgement. No erasing. Just write. If the first blank page is hard to tackle, give yourself permission not to write on it. Doodle, scribble, color, or post a picture on it, instead.
  • End with gratitude and self-appreciation. Pen down, journal closed. Take a few deep breaths to quiet your mind. Then, celebrate and appreciate yourself for what you’ve written and the growth it will bring to you.
  • Journal Consistently. Find what works best for your day-to-day but try to write consistently.

Bottom Line

Anytime you put pen to paper to write what’s on your mind, you are journal writing.

Journal writing is you giving yourself permission to be you, see you, and love you in a space all your own. Void of other peoples’ judgements and opinions.

We hope this post inspires you to get to know yourself better through journal writing.

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