How to Start a Journal That Improves Your Life in 2024

A Complete Guide to Journaling for Beginners

Maybe you’ve heard about the amazing benefits. Or tried a time or two. Let’s learn how to start a journal and build the habit for good!

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.

How to start a journal for beginners

But often, journaling gets a bad rap. We envision it as a daily diary. And while it certainly can be, 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.

This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn a commission. See our disclaimer for more.

How to start a journal for beginners; journaling materials

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 (How To Start a Journal)

journaling for beginners; 2023 bullet journal; daily

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. Use these gratitude journal prompts to guide you. Also, consider journaling powerful gratitude affirmations.

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

Dr. Kelvas M.D. recommends gratitude journaling for improved mood and outlook. She says, “Get a journal and each day list 5 things that you are thankful for. After doing this for a few weeks, start adding 1 or 2 lines of things that you like about yourself.”

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: Daily Journal Prompts

woman sitting on the floor journaling; daily journal prompts; gratitude; morning

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 daily 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?

Try out a morning journal prompt before your day begins:

  • What is one thing you learned about yourself yesterday?
  • What does my ideal day look like?
  • What do you need to start saying yes to today?
  • Where will you devote your time today?
  • Who will you make a priority to spend time with today?
  • What activity that brings you joy will you make sure to do today?
  • How can your show your body gratitude today?
  • What compliment can you give yourself today?

Find more daily self-love journal prompts to help you in your journaling.

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.

how to start a journal for beginners; manifesting

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.

How To Start A Journal Video

Get some extra tips for how to start a journal and then keep reading to see some great journal options below.

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

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

A Blank Notebook

A Blank Notebook

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: How To Start a Journal

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

The Artist's Way Morning Pages; 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.

Daily Bullet Journal

Daily bullet journal; premade; 2023

This premade bullet journal features a dot grid for various layouts and is perfect for new and experienced bullet journalists.

Other Unique Journals You May Like

Today I Affirm: How to Start a Journal

Today I affirm; how to start a journal

Check it out HERE

One Question a Day

One Question A Day

Check it out HERE

I Am Here Now

I Am Here Now; journaling for beginners

Check it out HERE

Spiritual Journal

spiritual journal for women; how to start manifesting

Use mindfulness, gratitude, and meditation practices and be inspired with this spiritual journal for women.

Visual Journal for Drawing and Sketching

visual journaling for drawing and sketching; materials

If you would rather draw or sketch than write, visual journaling is a great way to express yourself. Use this travel size notebook for your visual journaling.

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!

Related: Awesome Reading Journal for Book Lovers

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 To Start A Journal

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!

tips for how to start a journal; journaling materials; daily prompts

To Consider With How to Start A Journal

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!

Next, sign up for the 7-Day “Get Your Life Back Challenge” to receive an email with a task you can quickly complete in 5 minutes that will add value to your life. Enter your email below!

Other personal growth articles to enjoy…

How to Start a Journal Right NOW


  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. Lori, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! I hope you start your journal again soon! 🙂

  3. Want to start journaling I think these tips might be a great start to my journey

    1. I’m glad this how to journal post helps then!

  4. Vasundhra says:

    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! 🙂

    1. That is awesome! Thank you for sharing about your experiences with different journals!

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

    1. Yes! A journal is really a wonderful place to put your thoughts!

  6. This is right on time. I was just talking about starting a gratitude journal again.

    1. Yay! Enjoy your gratitude journal again!

  7. I love journaling! have been doing it for over a year, just about every day!

    1. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

Comments are closed.