If you’re new to journaling, you may be wondering where to get started. Many people feel awkward at first, or struggle with finding things to write about.
One helpful approach is to embrace a beginner’s mind. That means being open to exploring and experimenting with new styles and methods until you find a one that feels right for you.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to journaling. You get to make it up as you go along.
What is Journaling?
First and foremost, journaling is a personal experience. What it is or isn’t is ultimately up to you
People journal for different reasons and there are endless formats to choose from. Some journal to manage their thought patterns and mindset; others journal to tap into their creativity. No matter what led you here, journaling offers a safe space to collect your ideas, release the thoughts that aren’t serving you, and connect the dots between problems and solutions.
Journaling is also good for your health. Researchers have shown again and again that using your journal to process your thoughts can help relieve stress, move through difficult times, and find healthy ways to deal with conflict.
Simply put, journaling is one way to get your inner thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto something more tangible, like the blank pages of your journal.
4 Elements of Journaling
When beginning a journaling practice, there are four primary elements to consider: media, space, time, and motivation.
Whether you choose to use a paper-based journal or an electronic format, consider your personality and the emotions you want to tap into when you journal. For example, neutral, calming colors might help you ease into a state of grounded energy during your journaling sessions. Conversely, loud, bright colors may invite more creative energy. When you go shopping for your journal, pay attention to the emotions that surface while you’re scanning your options.
First, choose a space that is free of distractions and competing priorities. You’ll want to focus your attention on your journaling practice rather than juggling household chores. You might
choose the comfy corner of your couch or a dedicated room where you can close the door behind you.
Timing is everything, and when you journal is just as important as what you journal and where you journal. Consider what time of day you feel most creative and clear headed. Avoid times when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted. Think about whether you’d get more out of journaling in the morning, in the evening, or some other time of day.
Experiment with different times of day to see when you gain the most benefits from your journaling sessions. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one session each day. Some people carry their journals with them, so they have a way to process their thoughts immediately whenever they arise.
If you’re just getting started, it may even be helpful to set a timer or add it to your calendar, so you have a reminder when it’s time to begin your journaling session.
Understanding your motivation to journal is also important. Get clear about why you’re doing it so you can stay motivated to continue. Are you doing it to manage your emotional state? Tap into your creative energy? Move through a big life transition? Press the reset button on your lifestyle?
Acknowledging what’s behind your desire to journal will help you find more joy as you move through the process. The possible sources of motivation are endless. The clearer you are about why you want to begin a journaling practice, the more consistent you’ll be. And consistency is the key to getting the results you want.
5 Ways to Use Your Journal
There are endless ways to structure your journaling practice, but here are 5 simple journaling techniques that are extremely helpful when you’re just getting started:
1. Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude shifts your mindset and changes the way you experience your life. Simply writing down a few things you’re grateful for every day can help you focus on what’s going well rather than what isn’t.
2. Seek Solutions
When life feels overwhelming or challenging, it’s often difficult to see possibilities. Your journal can help you brainstorm solutions and help you move through tough times. Whether you’re dealing with a career change, a lifestyle reset, or a shift in your overall mindset, writing down your options often helps you see things differently.
3. Unleash your Creativity
Journaling helps you tap into your creative energy. Use the blank pages to doodle, draw, sketch, draft, or explore different kinds of art. Let your creativity flow. Journals don’t have to be limited to the written form either. You can also play with images, photos, watercolors, or other types of media. Being creative is limitless.
4. Connect with Your Self
The busyness of life can leave you feeling disconnected from yourself. Whenever you feel out of touch with your goals or desires, spend some time journaling to find your way back. The act of expressive writing can help you reconnect with your inner thoughts and hidden desires. Whether or not the process is spiritual in nature, journaling can help you reconnect with your inner guidance system or source of truth.
5. Dump Negative Energy
At times it can feel like there’s no shortage of negativity in the world, and it’s easy to get sucked into doom and gloom if you’re not careful. Journaling can help you remember that good things happen too. Rather than suppressing your negative thoughts, use your journal to set them free. This will help you clear out the mind clutter and create more space for joy.
The good news is that you don’t have to pick just one journaling style. You can switch it up daily, or you can explore different formats on a regular basis. And as you become more proficient with your journaling practice, you’ll be able to allow your intuition to guide you toward the style that’s best suited for your needs in any given moment.
If you’re just getting started, plan to experiment with a number of different styles of journaling before you settle on one.
Journal Prompts for Beginners
If you feel stuck or can’t come up with anything to write about, try these journaling prompts:
- What’s the reason behind your desire to begin journaling?
- What are you grateful for?
- List 5 things that bring you joy, and add a few words about why they make you feel joyful.
- Think of one challenge you’re currently facing and jot down at least 5 possible solutions.
- Doodle or sketch the first thing that comes to your mind.
- What is your favorite way to journal?
- What uncomfortable thoughts do you need to release?
- What time of day do you do your best journaling?
- What dreams have you placed on the back burner?
- What do you like about journaling?
- Where do you most enjoy journaling?
- What do you get out of journaling?
- What do you not like about journaling so far? And what could you do to change that?
Journaling can be an extremely therapeutic form of expressive writing. The secret is to practice it consistently.
As you begin experimenting with new formats and methods of self-expression, you’ll eventually zero in on a style that’s right for you. Remember to be patient with yourself and pay attention to how you’re feeling and what you’re learning about yourself. All creators were beginnings once.
Learn more about the Start Journaling for the Health of It® Write Now! course HERE.
Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as providing or replacing medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Author bio: STACY FISHER, RDN, LD, CDCES is the founder of LivingUpp, a lifestyle design company that teaches women how to use a self-care planning system to create more ease and better health.
She is a registered dietitian and lifestyle coach with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, where she’s worked with large companies such as Dell, Boeing, and Nike. Stacy is the author of The Lifestyle Design Planner, a flexible life organizer for high-achievers who value self-care and simplicity.