This is my super simple guide to journaling – how to start it and how to fall in love with it.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- 5 easy steps to start journaling
- How to choose the best journaling technique for you
- When to journal and what to write
- The top selling journaling supplies
- How to make journaling a habit you can actually stick to
- 10 amazing ways journaling can make your life better
So if you want to create a personal journaling routine you’ll absolutely love, then this guide is for you.
Let’s get started.
What is journaling and how do you do it?
Before we pick up our pen and start writing, let’s cover the basics.
Simply put, journaling is the process of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
The idea is that you get what’s in your head, on to paper (or your favorite journaling app).
There are several ways to do it and we’ll cover those in the next section.
Spoiler Alert: Your Journaling ritual is your own and it can look however you want it to. There’s no right way to do it. So no pressure, ok?
Journaling – How to Start in 5 Easy Steps
Step 1: Ask yourself, “Self, why do I want to journal?” (This is the basis for the next 4 steps)
Step 2: Choose your journal type (based on your answer from Step 1 👆🏾)
Step 3: Get your journaling supplies
Step 4: Start Writing (Topic Ideas, prompts, and my favorite journaling technique included below)
Step 5: Use “Habit Stacking” to make journaling a habit. (You’ll feel like you’ve been doing it for years.)
That’s right sis, you’re just 5 simple steps away from a new journaling practice that’ll easily become your favorite part of your daily routine.
Now let’s break each step down.
Step 1: Ask yourself why you want to journal
What do you want to get out of journaling?
Journaling has so many benefits, but like most things, unless you’re truly motivated, it’ll be hard for you to stick with it.
So we have to get to the root of how journaling can help you with your most important goals.
Think about this — Do you want to journal as a way of:
- Dealing with some of the stress in your life?
- Holding yourself more accountable for your goals?
- Helping you manage anxiety or depression?
- Becoming more organized and planning out your days?
- Building a prayer habit?
- Building a gratitude habit?
- Become more self-aware through daily reflection?
- Giving yourself a creative outlet?
Whether you answered, “yes,” to a few of these or none at all, by now your wheels are probably turning and your journaling goals are coming into focus.
Don’t feel pressured to have a final answer. Just keep mulling it over and as we go through the next 4 steps you’ll get more clarity and inspiration.
Step 2: Choose Your Journal Type
Here are the 3 most popular journal types and a brief overview to help you decide which one might work best for you.
Empty notebooks with lined pages are perfect for you if you’re looking for a place to brain dump your thoughts and feelings.
Guided journals include prompts or questions, followed by a blank space for you to journal your thoughts. They’re perfect for you if you need some writing inspiration.
Bullet journals are planners, to-do lists, and diaries all in one. They’re perfect for you if you want a single notebook to help you manage every part of your day from being more mindful to knocking out that load of laundry.
Step 3: Grab journaling supplies
You can totally grab a new notebook, a pen or pencil and go to town.
But if you want to get a lil’ fancy with it or you prefer to do guided journaling, then check these out:
Disclaimer: Since I can’t personally review all of these journals, I’ve gone through several for each category and picked a range of journals with the best ratings.
Best Blank Journaling Notebooks
Blank notebooks are the perfect canvas for you to lay out your thoughts. I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes and nature inspired aesthetics, so these 3 are some of my favorites.
**View more Blank Journals Rated 4 Stars + on Amazon
Best Bullet Journals
These solidly made and beautifully designed bullet journals are being raved over. I haven’t tried bullet journaling yet, but when I do, I’ll definitely be getting the 2nd one on this list – it’s stunning!
**View more Bullet Journals Rated 4+ Stars on Amazon
Best Devotional/Prayer Journals
Check out these beautiful guided prayer and devotional journals if you want to start a journaling practice that will help you grow spiritually.
**View more Prayer and Devotional Journals Rated 4+ Stars on Amazon
Best Fitness Journals
I love these fitness journals. I looked at the reviews and took a peek inside the covers and it seems that each one offers a powerful but slightly different approach to helping you journal your way to a more fit and healthy version of yourself.
**View more Fitness Journals Rated 4 Stars + on Amazon
These journaling supplies are the perfect way to beautify and put your personal stamp on your journal. From colored pens, to stickers, and washi tape, you’ll find everything you need to complete your journaling experience.
** See more Journal Supplies 4 Stars + on Amazon
Step 4: Write, Write, Write Honey!
Welcome to the best part – writing.
I can hear you asking, “What do I write in my journal?”
And while the simple answer is, “write whatever’s on your mind and heart,” chances are that you (like me) may have some writer’s block or need some help getting your journaling juices flowing.
So try one (or all) of these journaling techniques to get started, and stick with the one (or few) you like best.
12 Journaling Techniques to try
1. Free Writing
Free writing is a simple and effective journaling technique. It’s actually one of my go-to techniques as it’s the one I’ve found to be most therapeutic for me.
To do free writing, set a timer (ex. for 10 minutes), and write without stopping until the timer goes off.
Don’t think about what to write, just write whatever comes to mind for the full time without stopping to judge it or edit it.
2. Morning Pages
Morning pages, also called stream of consciousness writing, is a practice from the book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
As the name suggests, you do it every morning.
First thing in the morning simply open your morning journal and fill 3 pages with longhand stream of consciousness writing. Don’t overthink it, just write whatever comes to mind, in whatever order it comes to mind, and don’t stop until you’ve filled 3 pages.
As with journaling in general, try to flow with it- release any desire for perfection and judgement.
I haven’t tried morning pages yet, but I’ll be experimenting with it soon.
People who do morning pages say that it’s cathartic, clarifying, and comforting.
3. Art Journaling
I am completely artistically challenged (i had to do extra credit in High School so I wouldn’t fail art class 🤦🏽♀️ ), so this is not my jam. 🙂
But, if you’re looking for an awesome way to express yourself, an art journal will be a lot of fun.
Art journals are visual journals that combine artistic elements like writing, drawing, painting, collages, etc.
They’re an awesome way to express yourself and get your thoughts, ideas, and feelings on paper.
Remember, the primary goal is to express yourself, you’re not trying to create the next Mona Lisa.
4. Bullet Journaling
Bullet journaling, or BuJo for short, is one of the most popular journaling methods, and for good reason.
Like we said, BuJo is the perfect combo of a planner, to-do lists, and diary all in one.
Not only can it help you get a handle on your day, it can help you manage your mental and emotional health.
Bullet Journals are unique in that they don’t come with templates – you buy a blank dotted notebook and customize it based on what you want.
It’s a beautiful blend of both visual elements and writing.
Plus, it allows you to journal in quick spurts throughout the day whereas many other popular journaling techniques are likely to make you feel like you have to carve out a set time to journal.
It’s easy to see why BuJo has thousands of raving fans.
Although I can’t lie, for some reason bullet journaling feels a little overwhelming to me.
Somehow I just don’t think I’d be good at it. Is that a thing?
If you’ve done bullet journaling, let me know how you like it!
If you’re new to BuJo and wanna give it a go, Watch a short tutorial on how to do it.
5. Daily Goals/Planning Journal
Up until recently, I’ve been a one journal kinda girl – but after writing this post, I am really fighting the urge to go out and buy several new journals. 🤦🏽♀️
Especially a goals journal – I’m obsessed with the idea of having a journal dedicated just to goal getting.
Ummm, yes please! 🙋🏾♀️
Goal journals are a perfect way to help you stay focused and on track All. Year. Long.
It’s a journal that also helps you break your big picture goal into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.
It brings practicality to goal planning and it could be just the thing to help you knock your goals out the park this year.
This is the one I’m eyeing – it has really good reviews on Amazon.
6. Letter Journal
A letter journal is one of the sweetest and most therapeutic ways to journal.
I’ve seen letter journaling done in 2 ways – writing letters to yourself, or writing to someone else.
I’ve heard of people who’ve had childhood trauma or hurt, journal letters to their younger self as a way of processing and healing from that hurt.
You can also write letters to your future self, like letters to help you remember special moments with your kiddos or hubby. Can you imagine having something like that to look back on when the kids are gone and out the house? I’m sure the pages in that journal will transport you back to some of your favorite memories.
Speaking of kiddos – you can also write journals to other people. For example, you can keep a journal for your child that you update with entries weekly or monthly. Then you can give it to them on a special occasion like when they graduate from high school, get married, or have kids of their own.
… Is it weird that i’m literally on the verge of sobbing just thinking about that. #mrssofty 😂
I even saw the cutest idea this blogger shared about her friend who kept a journal about the ups and downs of motherhood during the first 12 months of her son’s life. She gave the journal to her friend who had a baby a year later, and that journal was the perfect companion as the she navigated new motherhood.
As a first time mom of a beautiful 5 month old, I would l-o-v-e to have something like that! I spend so many days wondering, “is this normal?, “am I doing this right?,” etc. But c’est la vie – good ol’ Google will have to be my companion. 😂
7. Prayer Journal
Prayer Journaling has been huge for developing my relationship with God.
With prayer journaling you just write letters to God.
A lot of my entries start like this, “Dear Dad,”
And you just write to God like you’re writing to a friend. Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind, write your prayer requests, talk to Him about your day.
Prayer journaling really helps you to build your relationship with God because it gets you in the habit of speaking with Him.
One of the things I love most about prayer journaling is that when I’m done I usually feel more at peace and have more clarity about things I’m praying about.
8. Devotional Journal
A devotional journal is the perfect companion for your daily Bible studies or devotional times.
You can use it to journal your thoughts, your study notes, what you’re learning, and what God is showing you in your devotional time.
As you grow deeper spiritually, a devotional journal is an awesome tool to help you process what you’re learning.
You can use a single journal as both a Prayer & Devotional journal.
9. Food and/or Fitness Journal
Food journals are used to track exactly what you eat at each meal. It’s an excellent way to spot patterns and habits in your diet, which can help you make healthier choices.
Fitness journals help you log your fitness routine and track certain key metrics. It’s an awesome way to spot what exercises work for you and which ones don’t.
You can keep one journal to track both your food and fitness journey.
10. Dream Journal
Have you ever had a really intense dream that you really wanted to remember, but you forgot the details almost instantly after waking up?
That’s where dream journaling comes in.
Dream journaling is the practice of recording bits and pieces of your dreams as soon as you wake up and while it’s freshest on your mind.
Dream journaling can help break creative blocks and reveal dream patterns.
If you’re interested in dream journaling, this masterclass might interest you.
11. Gratitude Journal
For some of us being a “glass half full” person is automatic, for others it’s uh, a stretch. 🙂
Whatever camp you belong to, gratitude journaling could be a great practice for you.
A gratitude journal is the place where you write down what you’re thankful for daily.
It’s an excellent way to develop a more positive mindset, focus your attention on the good things in your life, and develop the important skill of looking for what’s going well.
For all those reasons gratitude journaling can ultimately help you become a happier person.
12. Ideas Journal
An idea journal is a favorite among some very successful people.
An idea journal is what you use to track your ideas, plans, motivational quotes, achievements, and anything else that inspires you.
It’s the perfect tool to practice and unleash your creativity.
And you can see why it’d be the perfect companion as you work towards achieving your goals.
Step 5: Make Journaling a Habit with the “Stacking” Technique
Before we dive into how to make it a habit, let me just quickly address a common question:
“How Often Should I Write in my Journal?”
Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but I’d recommend journaling daily.
We experience and process so much on a daily basis, that self-care activities like journaling are really important.
Journaling every day is a low effort, but high impact way to build self-care into our daily routine.
Okay, so now you’re probably wondering:
“How do I make Journaling a Habit?”
One of my favorite ways to make new habits is using the habit stacking technique.
What is Habit Stacking?
Simply put, habit stacking is the process of using old habits to create new habits.
How Habit Stacking Works
The premise is simple – look at your current habits – the things you do daily (ex. brush your teeth, take a shower, make coffee, drop the kids off at school, etc.)
Then, stack your new habit on top of one of those current habits.
The Habit Stacking Formula James gives is:
“After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
Here’s what habit stacking could look like with journaling:
- After I get in bed at night, I’ll journal for 10 minutes.
- Before I get out of bed in the morning, I’ll journal for 5 minutes.
- After I have my morning devotion, I’ll journal for 10 minutes.
You get the point. Take a look at your current habits and find the best place to add your new habit. Be specific so you know exactly what your cue is for journaling.
For example, after I close my Bible in the morning, I immediately open my journal and start writing.
🤓 PS. If you wanna nerd out and learn more about the neuroscience behind this technique, read this.
TIP: Use an App to make it happen:
Sometimes you just need a little extra motivation to help you create a new habit.
In that case, check out The Done App – it’s one of my favorites.
It’s a simple and free habit tracking app, and it makes building new habits fun.
I’m one of those people who will add something I’ve already done to my to-do list, just for the sheer satisfaction I feel when crossing it off. Am i the only one?
There’s something about being able to cross an item off my to-do list that makes me feel like i’m crushing the game. 😂
The positive reinforcement and encouragement you’ll get with a habit tracker app may be just the thing that keeps you motivated and consistent.
1. Journal whatever time of day works best for you:
Journaling first thing in the morning is a common practice, but if that doesn’t work for you, don’t force it.
Instead look at your daily schedule and choose a time when you can focus quietly.
That may mean journaling at night after you’ve put the kiddos to bed, showered, and slipped into your fave PJS.
2. Set the mood.
This is your time – try making it as enjoyable as possible.
The important thing is that you do the things that help you feel comfortable and relaxed. That may look like settling in with a cup of tea, turning on some music in the background, lighting your favorite candle, or getting cozy on your couch.
3. You don’t have to use pen and paper – there’s an app for that:
Sure pen and paper is the most common way to journal (not to mention hand writing has an amazing impact on your brain), but if that’s not your jam, no biggie.
4. Don’t overthink it and don’t judge:
As adults, we’ve been trained to sensor ourselves a lot – necessary when your boss aggravates the crap out of you, but it’s kinda counterproductive when journaling.
Your notebook is the place where you get to be naked. Raw, unfiltered, honest truth.
It’s the place where you get to say the things you’d never say to anyone else, or even admit to yourself under normal circumstances.
Vulnerability and honesty in journaling makes for a powerful experience.
But because of the automatic filter we operate with, it’ll take some intentionality to just flow in your writing.
You’ll likely find yourself mentally editing or correcting yourself when writing – if you do, just take a deep breath and give yourself permission to write whatever comes to mind, however it comes to mind.
If you can’t be the real you with yourself, who can you keep it real with?
5. Use the “Why Technique” to go deep:
Have you ever felt icky or annoyed, but couldn’t exactly pinpoint why you felt that way?
Or have you ever reacted to something in a way that shocked you?
If so, I think you’re really going to like this technique.
Created and made famous by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota industries, the “why technique” is how one of the world’s most successful companies gets to the root of problems.
And, it’s how you can get to the root of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or issues you may be having.
It’s super simple too – when a problem, thought, feeling, or belief arises that you want to explore more, drill down to its root by asking “why?” 5x.
10 of the most amazing benefits of journaling
If you’re wondering, “why keep a journal?,” check out these 10 benefits of journaling. Journaling can help you:
- Clear your mind and help you feel more calm
- Understand your thought process
- Organize your goals and make progress towards them
- Self-Reflect which helps with self-awareness
- A form of therapy for depression and anxiety
- Shift to a healthier and better mindset
- Get your emotions out so you can relieve stress
- Release your creativity
- Discover your subconscious thoughts and beliefs
- Build your prayer life
Just 1 of these benefits could make a huge difference in your life. The crazy thing is that this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Positive Psychology lists 83 benefits of Journaling (this list will Blow. Your. Mind. 🤯 )
Try These Journal Prompts
If you’re ready to get started with journaling, try any of these journal prompts:
- 91 Ridiculously Helpful Self Growth Journal Prompts
- Self Love and Self Esteem Journal Prompts
- Self-Reflection Journal Prompts
That’s it for now.
I’d love to hear how you plan on starting your journaling practice, so let me know in the comments.
w/ light and love,
Matthew 5:14 – You are the light of the world. And like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.