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How to Start a Journal (That Improves Your Life)

How to start a journal

A Complete Guide to Journaling for Beginners

Maybe you’ve heard about the awesome benefits. And, perhaps you gave it some thought, but never really knew how to start a journal.

Let’s change that today.

It’s time to join the ranks of the great women and men of our history. Folks like…

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Albert Einstein
  • Marie Curie
  • Thomas Edison
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Leonardo Divinci
  • Virginia Woolf

– all found incredible value from a journal.

This post contains affiliate links, and I may earn a commission. However, I only mention products I love. See my disclaimer for more.

How to start your journal

But often, journaling gets a bad rap. We envision it as a daily diary. And while it certainly can be, but there are many different ways to use and benefit from a journal. There are no rules!

First, let’s dig into why you should be journaling just like the greats.

Why Should You Journal?

Of course, a journal gives you a space to record your history, but it can also bring massive appreciation to your life and help you make tough decisions.

It dramatically improves your health & well-being.

Science shows that it’s an effective stress management tool and it helps us clarify and solve problems (source). Additionally, it’s an incredible way to get to know ourselves better, which leads to better awareness and decisions.

Plus it’s FREE! And only takes a few minutes a day. What’s better than that?

Step 1: The Ways to Use A Journal

journaling for beginners

A journal can serve one purpose or many.

Below are nine different ways to benefit from your notebook. Pick several and experiment with what feels right to you.

Write Down Your Feelings

Holding in feelings of anger, anxiety, and sadness are what lead to bouts of depression. So, use a journal to write down how you’re feeling and why. Express what scares you and what pulls you down. Imagine all of your toxic emotions sinking into the pages. In this way, journaling is a therapy to help you let go.

(Check out this free mind dump template for this too).

Write Down Your Thoughts

Additionally, writing your thoughts can clarify big life decisions. The scattered web of our thinking untangles on the page to reveal the right moves.

Even a simple “pro and con” list can be what you need to make progress on that big life goal.

Record Your Gratitude

One of the exceptional benefits of a journal is to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Gratitude makes us happier and reminds us of all the beauty in our world.

For a second, imagine writing about the warmth of your morning coffee, the smell of the outdoors after it rains, and the sight of your child’s eyes when she’s excited.

How often do you truly notice these things?

It’s impossible to appreciate the simple moments until we train ourselves to do so. So, start today. List three to five things you’re grateful for every day. Or use these journal prompts to guide you.

Dig deep. And make sure they’re different on a daily basis.

Related Posts:

Take Notes

How to start a journal

Have you ever read something you loved only to forget it ten minutes later?

I do this. Often.

When you hear or see something that inspires you, write it down! Keep a special notes section or a separate journal for all of the things you want to remember. Then, reflect on it later.

“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Oscar Wilde

Plan Your Day

Now, let’s clarify that a journal is NOT a detailed planner. But you can use your journal to reflect on how you want your day to go. What is the perfect day to you? How do you want to act during it? How would you love to spend your time?

Planning and visualizing your best day gives you a much better chance of living the day in a way that aligns with your values and goals.

Related Post: Morning Affirmations to Start Your Day Well

Reflect on Your Day

As Benjamin Franklin did at the end of his days, reflection can be a beautiful opportunity for growth. He often asked himself “what good have I done today?”

Answer this question in the evenings or jot down some general notes about your last 24 hours. What happened? What was amazing about it, and what could you improve for the coming days?

Read: 11 of the BEST Things to Do at Night for more nighttime success.

Ask Yourself Questions

Sometimes with journaling for beginners, we get stuck. No worries, because a few questions can pull us out and get deeper thoughts flowing again.

Try a few of these journal prompts:

  • Where do you want to be in 1 year? 5 years?
  • What would you do if you found out you had 3 years to live?
  • What advice would you give your younger self?
  • How will people remember you?
  • What are you holding on to that you need to let go?
  • What does my ideal day look like?

Check out: How to Plan Your Year for more reflection questions or get super creative with thoughtful what if questions that help you think outside the box.

Write Down Your Goals

Studies show that those who regularly write down their goals are 33% more likely to accomplish them. If you have something you’re aiming for, jot it down during your journaling to remind yourself of your beautiful ambitions.

Record Your Ideas

And finally, a journal can be a catalyst for great ideas. One prolific writer aims for 10 ideas a day in a journal he carries with him. In this way, it’s used to get the creativity flowing.

Step 2: Dedicate a Special Time & Place

journaling for beginners

Now that we know how to start a journal, we need to make it a daily habit. It’s essential to schedule in a time that works on a consistent basis. Often, morning and night are great opportunities to write.

Keep the journal by your bedside table with a pen ready, or on the desk you want to use. Make your new habit as easy as possible! And find a spot that makes you look forward to your notebook, whether that’s cozy in bed or in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee.

Step 3: Find a Journal That’s Right for You

Confused about which journal to buy? Check out these different options to start your journal today.

A Blank Notebook

How to start your journal

A blank notebook gives you the freedom to write. It’s great for taking notes from books or writing down thoughts and feelings.

When picking out a blank journal, go for simplicity, beauty, or inspiration. Choose a simple leather notebook or one with a unique design. Above all, do what speaks to you. Check out the one above HERE.

“In the journal, I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”

Susan Sontag

The Five Minute Journal

The Five Minute Journal is my go-to for daily gratitude and reflecting on how I want the day to go. The best part about this journal? It takes, you guessed it, five minutes. Easy, peasy, and you’re on with your day.

It has also made all the difference in building a gratitude habit that STICKS because it has guided sections. I wasn’t nearly as consistent without it.

The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal

how to journal

This specific journal includes lined pages and quotes. It promotes long-form writing and planning. It’s a great way to get your emotions, ideas, and daily events down on a page.

Other Unique Journals You May Like

Today I Affirm

how to start a journal

Check it out HERE

One Question a Day

Check it out HERE

I Am Here Now

journaling for beginners

Check it out HERE

Fantastic Online Journals

If you prefer to write online, check out these options to start your journal. Then, you can decide to share or keep your thoughts private.

7 Tips to a Great Journaling Habit

And finally, these tips will help move you from how to start a journal to advanced journal keeper in no time.

tips for your journal habit

1. Try Different Journals

You can have everything together in one spot. Or you may love having one journal to take notes, one for gratitude, and one for recording the events of the day. Do what works for you. There’s no right or wrong way here!

2. Keep it Private

If you are recording your feelings, make sure this journal stays private. This is important because you want to be fully honest with yourself and how you feel. Nothing in your journal should be censored.

Sometimes you need to let go of the past, and the process can be ugly.

3. Just Write

Punctuation doesn’t matter. Nor does your handwriting. Nor the run-on sentences filling up the page.

This is a cathartic exercise, so don’t overthink it. You do not have to write well to keep a journal!

4. Date your Entries

If you don’t date your entries, it’s difficult to find and reflect on past events. You may not care now, but in three months there will be something specific you’re looking for.

5. Focus on the Habit, Not the Product

Next, focus on writing something every day. It does not have to be a five-page essay. Some days you may only feel like one sentence or a picture, and that’s ok.

It’s important that you keep going and over time you’ll build a habit that improves your wellbeing and gets you through your hardest times.

Just like all good things, it takes time.

6. Keep a journal With You

We enjoy distracting ourselves when we’re bored. That usually takes the form of mindless phone scrolling.

Instead, get in touch with your thoughts and ideas. Keep a small notebook in your purse, pocket, or car. When you’ve got time, write. You’ll find that some of your best ideas come in these in-between moments.

7. Set Reminders

Like all new habits, we sometimes forget and that can derail any progress. So, set up alarms or reminders to keep you going on a consistent basis.

This free habit tracker and this free self care checklist work well too! Using rewards for adults that aren’t food can really boost you too!

Something to Consider With Journaling

If all else fails, use it like author David Sedaris

“I’ve been keeping a diary for thirty-three years and write in it every morning. Most of it’s just whining, but every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote. It’s an invaluable aid when it comes to winning arguments. ‘That’s not what you said on February 3, 1996,” I’ll say to someone.”

Winning arguments aside, this one practice can make a huge positive impact on your life. So, pick up your pen and start the habit today. Your bright future awaits!

How will you start your journal?

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  1. Excellent, thorough article! I used to journal a lot, but got away from it in recent years. It’s time to get started again – your post is very motivational! Thank you for a good read!

  2. The Artist’s Way was a game changer in my journalling practice! Before that, I stuck to gratitude writing for years, on and off. You’ve offered some great hacks, thank you! 🙂

  3. I think I’ve tried every journal out there. I love having a record of my thoughts and feelings throughout the years!

  4. I have never gotten into the habit of writing in a journal. My daughter does it, and love it! I never really realized all of the benefits, and love the writing prompts!

  5. I love to write in my journal – although I don’t always get to it every morning. I also love to look back over the years and read through the things I wrote down then. It’s a good way to practice thanksgiving!

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