Journaling is a habit that a lot of people want to implement into their lives, but struggle to get started with.
If you've never journaled before, it might feel daunting and even a little confusing.
Do you write gratitude lists? Set goals? Follow journal prompts?
All of the above?
How do you know?
Well, it doesn't have to be like this.
Fortunately, starting a journal and sticking to it can actually be pretty easy.
Here are eight steps to put you on the right track.
1. Get a journal or notebook that you want to pick up
The first step in your journal journey is to get a journal or blank notebook to write in.
While some people don't mind picking up any plain, blank notebook to write down their deepest thoughts, many prefer to buy an attractive journal that truly represents their personality.
By getting a journal that you genuinely like the look of, you're much more likely to want to pick it up, write in it, and get into the habit of journaling in it every single day.
The same goes for journal stationery: if you get stationery that you love using, you're going to want to use it more often.
2. Find your 'why'
Making a mental - or even a physical - note of why you want to start journaling helps not only motivate you to begin your journey, it helps you stick at it so that you get to enjoy the benefits that come from long-term practice.
Think about why you want to journal in the first place:
- Do you want to improve your mindset and outlook on life?
- Do you want to grow as a person?
- Do you need help achieving your goals and dreams?
- Do you want to become more self-aware and mindful?
- Do you want to relieve stress?
- Do you simply want a place to vent?
When you've figured out your 'why', note this down and keep it at the forefront of your mind.
3. Set journaling goals for your journey
Similar to finding your 'why', setting small and larger journaling goals will help keep you motivated.
It also provides clarity and gives you a sense of direction with your practice.
When you've acquired your journal or notebook, try jotting down five goals or intentions that you want to achieve through journaling.
These can be as large as completely transforming your mindset or as small as simply cultivating a positive habit.
When you know what you want to achieve, you now need to write down what journaling techniques you aim to use in order to achieve them.
Some favorites include:
- Gratitude lists if you want to boost your mood and improve your mindset
- Daily goal-setting if need motivation and hope
- Writing affirmations if you want to improve your confidence and self-esteem
- Using journal prompts to relieve stress and vent your emotions
Once you know not only what you want to achieve but how you're going to achieve it, starting a journal won't seem like such a confusing, daunting task.
4. Use journal prompts and printables
Using journal prompts takes the guess-work out of journaling.
They encourage you to take a particular path and guide you with what to write, helping you open up and get better at at sharing your emotions.
With time, this is amazing for nurturing emotional intelligence and empathy, as it not only shows you how to express yourself in an eloquent, succinct way, it also encourages you to take a step back from your emotions and look at them from another perspective.
You can find journal prompts that lead you in a range of directions from helping relieve anxiety, to shadow work.
In addition, printables completely lay out what you need to write for you on the page, which saves you a lot of time and stress.
5. Baby steps: don't overcommit
If you've never journaled before - or even if you've just not journaled for a long time - it's important not to overwhelm yourself.
When we feel overwhelmed over a task, we tend to procrastinate and avoid it.
If we're constantly avoiding our journal, we're never going to get into the habit of writing in it regularly, and therefore never going to reap the rewards.
Instead of telling yourself that you're going to go from 0 - 100 and journal every single day, perhaps commit to just two or three times a week for a few months.
Then, take a step back and consider whether you want to ramp this up. Would this benefit you or are you happy with just sticking to your current schedule?
Remember: journaling isn't a competition. What matters is sticking to what works for you.
6. Keep the journal where you have to see it
Starting a journal is one thing, but sticking to it is another.
When you're not used to carrying out a certain task, it's easy to push it to the back of your mind and forget to do it.
This is why habit-forming can be difficult.
One way to remind yourself to journal is to keep the journal in a place where you can't miss it.
For example, places you might want to keep it are:
- Beside your bed
- On your work desk
- On your breakfast table
If you have to see it or even touch it, you're less likely to forget to write in it.
7. Set reminders
You can also set literal reminders to journal, if you have a tough time remembering.
You can set reminders on your phone, alarms, or even stick sticky notes in places you'll see them - like your fridge - to ensure you remember to write that journal entry for today.
8. Be gentle with yourself
When we first start our journal journeys, it can be a struggle.
Remembering to write in it, knowing what to write, and finding the motivation to keep it up aren't easy.
It's therefore likely that we're going to forget a day or two here and there.
This is pretty normal when it comes to forming habits.
Please do not beat yourself up for this. Journaling is supposed to be a positive experience, not another source of stress.
It's completely okay to miss a few sessions in the beginning.
Don't let this deter you and lead you to give up altogether. Be gentle and kind with yourself - you're only human. Forgive yourself.
Simply pick up your journal as normal the next day and continue with your journey.
Nia is the owner of Seeking Serotonin, a blog focused on self-care and journaling.
She started her blog after using self-care and journaling to improve her own negative mindset and poor mental health.
Her goal is to help others through the techniques and lessons she’s learned along the way so that they can improve their own mindset and start putting themselves first.