How to start journaling: a beginner's guide
Journaling & Creativity

How to start journaling: a beginner’s guide

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Do you want to start journaling but you’re not sure how? Have you tried before but you just can’t seem to stick with it? In this post, I’ll share with your how to start journaling and make the habit stick!

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For as long as I can remember, my dad has written in journals. He never went anywhere without one, whether it was on business trips, vacations, or just a weekend away. I always wondered what he wrote about and how he kept up with it with his busy schedule.

I remember wanting to do the same but for some reason it just never stuck. I would buy a journal, write in it for a couple of weeks, and then I would slowly but surely forget about it. The poor journal would end up at the bottom of a drawer or behind some books on a shelf. 

I must have at least a dozen journals that I’ve purchased and never written in or maybe just a few entries. One journal has entries spanning over 2 years because I would write for a while, forget about it, find it and think “oh yeah, I should start writing again”, get inspired for a couple of weeks and proceed to start the cycle over again

I had a hard time being consistent and it felt more like a chore than anything else.

Fast forward two decades later (wow I feel old now!) and journaling is back in my life. I read so many studies pointing out all of the benefits of keeping a journal that I thought I should give it another try. 

Journaling has been a key part of my journey to self-discovery, helping me handle stressful situations and reach my goals.

It has become one of my favorite morning rituals that I look forward to every day. 

Journaling regularly has been shown to improve your mental and physical health. In one study, it was found that college students who wrote in their journals were rewarded with reduced stress and anxiety. In another, writing about traumatic stressful or emotional events has been found to improve both physical and mental health in patients.

Knowing all of the benefits is great but if you’re new to journaling, a blank page can be daunting. Maybe you’re wondering what to write about. Maybe you like the idea of journaling but you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you’ve tried in the past but were never able to make it a habit.

Does any of this sound familiar? Then this post is for you!

Do you wish you could start journaling but you 're not sure how? Have you tried before but you just can't seem to stick with it? Well, here are easy steps to follow to start journaling and making it a habit!

Here are some guidelines to help you make journaling a daily practice, one that helps you grow and constructively navigate your feelings!

How to start journaling

Ask yourself why you want to start journaling

Before starting your journal, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to journal?
  • What do you think you’ll gain from journaling?
  • How much time can I spend journaling every day?

Knowing your why makes it much easier to be consistent and make journaling a habit. This doesn’t need to be some grand, eye-opening why. Just try to understand your motivation.

For me, it was to improve my mental health, gain more clarity and insight on who I truly am, and work on decreasing my stress levels.

Gather your supplies

You don’t need fancy supplies to start journaling. I recommend using a good old fashion notebook and pen rather than using your phone or computer because you can quickly get distracted by notifications, social media, emails, etc.

The notebook doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be whatever you have lying around. I find that I enjoy having a pretty notebook to write in. I admit, looking for a new notebook is just as much fun as writing in it (if not more!). 

Think about the supplies that can make writing in your journal an enjoyable experience.

Here are a few examples of my favorite supplies to include:

  • Good quality notebook
  • Reliable pen to write and doodle with
  • Colored pencils, pens, and highlighters

Again, making the experience fun will help make the habit stick.

Plan

When are you most likely to write consistently? In the morning, in the evening, before going to bed? How much time do you want to spend writing? 5 minutes, 15 minutes, longer? Where do I feel most comfortable writing? Do I want to write every day, every week?

Like with any habit, thinking ahead and organizing your time makes it much easier to be consistent.

Experiment with different times of the day, different places around your house until you find what works for you..

I found that I am most open to writing in the morning, while I drink my coffee. I tried writing at the end of the day but my brain was usually too wired after a full day of work and I found it difficult to open my journal and write.

Get writing and start small

This seems like a given but it’s also the hardest part! Don’t overthink. Write whatever comes to mind. There is no right or wrong way to do this!

Your journal doesn’t have to be filled with pages upon pages of insightful prose. Start small and experiment. Try writing one sentence every day for two weeks. Then write two sentences and so forth. You can also keep lists, brainstorm ideas, doodle, or anything else you feel like doing.

You can also try the “Morning Pages” concept by Julia Cameron. You write 3 pages in a stream of consciousness style, first thing in the morning, without thinking too much.

What if I have nothing to say?

I don’t always feel inspired when journaling so if I don’t know what to write about, I use journal prompts. 

Journal prompts are a great way to get started and just putting pen to paper to get over writer’s block. It’s also a great way to remove the anxiety of figuring out what to write about.

Here are a few that I refer to regularly:

  • How am I feeling today?
  • Am I happy with where I’m at right now?
  • If not, what can I do to change that?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • How do I want my day to unfold?
  • What intention to what I want to set for the day?

I often start with these prompts and then I end up writing quite a bit on other topics that come to mind along the way.

Don’t judge or censor yourself

Be honest, truthful, and don’t judge! Don’t write as if someone is looking over your shoulder. Allow yourself to be open to whatever is going on inside of you.

This journal is for your eyes only so don’t be afraid to let everything come out! That’s how you’ll be able to grow, know yourself better, overcome roadblocks in your life, and get the most out of your journal.

Remember, there are no rules when it comes to journaling! Don’t worry about grammar and spelling mistakes or whatever your 10th-grade English teacher taught you in high school! Now is not the time to aim for perfection!

Be consistent with your journaling

The key to making anything into a habit is repetition and consistency. Try journaling every day for a week and see how it feels. You’ll be surprised to see that even on days when you didn’t feel like it, you uncovered more about yourself!

Set your journal somewhere you can see it. This will serve as a visual reminder to journal. If it’s locked away in some drawer, chances are, you’re going to forget it ever existed fast!

The more consistent you are, the easier it will become.

Adjust

Writing in your journal is not meant to be a chore and another task you must add to your day. It’s meant to be insightful and enjoyable. 

If you start feeling like it’s an obligation, go back to your why and adjust accordingly. Remember why you started journaling in the first place.

Reflect on what’s causing the negative feelings. Is it taking too much of your time? Are you struggling with what to write? Are you trying to be too perfect?

Final thoughts

My advice: just go with the flow. Don’t try to get it right (there is no right or wrong!). Listen to your thoughts and emotions and go with it. 

Remember, this is something you do for you. Take the pressure off and allow yourself to just be.

I hope I’ve inspired you to pick up that old notebook (or go buy your first one) and start journaling!

Now it’s your turn! Have you started journaling yet? Are you finding it helpful? Let me know in the comments!

Till next time,

XO, Calie

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