If you’re anything like me, you have a few (or a lot) of empty journals and notebooks laying around. You collect them thinking, “yes, this is the one I will actually start a journal in!” You may also have a couple that you started to write in, but then abandoned when you lost motivation. I definitely have a few of those, too!
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I’ve been journaling intermittently since middle school, but as an adult I became confused about how I should be journaling. I worried about what the “right” way to journal was, what I should be journaling about, and comparing my imperfect journal to the beautiful and creative ones I saw on Pinterest. Now, though, I journal consistently and I love it again!
I put together this complete guide for anyone who may feel like I did. This is for you if you want to journal, but don’t know where to start. Likewise, if you have tried to keep a journal but always lose motivation, then you should also definitely keep reading! Don’t forget to find the list of 30 journal prompts at the end of this post!
What helped me finally start journaling consistently was taking the time to discover my journaling purpose and style.
When I first started trying to journal consistently as an adult, I didn’t take time to figure out what my purpose for journaling was. This caused me to try journaling methods that just didn’t work for me.
Think about and answer these questions to better understand your purpose for journaling. (You can even write your answers in the beginning of your journal!)
- Why do I want to start a journal?
- Is there anything I specifically want to accomplish or get out of my journaling?
Now, answer these to get a better understanding of what journaling style would suit you best.
- How much time do I want to dedicate to journaling and when? 5 minutes daily? 30 minutes? Morning or night? A few times a week? Or maybe just whenever I feel like it?
- What methods would best suit my goals? Maybe lists or habit trackers? Journal prompts or questions? No guidelines at all?
- Do I like things to be neat and organized on a page? Or do I like things a little messy and free flowing?
Personally, my purpose for journaling is to process, express, and release my thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Knowing this helped me understand what style of journaling is most beneficial for me.
If you want to journal for multiple purposes, you could always keep a couple separate journals, like a bullet journal for staying organized, and then a separate gratitude journal. Otherwise, just combine everything in one!
Here are some ideas of journal styles to try based on your answers to the above questions.
- If you want to be mindful about how you spend your time, keep your day organized, or keep track of habits, you may love the bullet journal method! Start with the basics, and if you find it’s not quite right, make the appropriate tweaks. You can get creative with colors and hand lettering and make your journal more artistic. If not, you can keep it minimalistic and focused. Check out Pinterest for inspiration!
- Maybe you’re a busy person who wants to journal daily as an opportunity to have a moment for some reflection. If so, a guided journal, like either the popular Five Minute Journal or My Life Journal, could be perfect for you!
- To record what your everyday life is like, you may love the classic method, a daily “dear diary” entry. This way you can look back in ten years and read about what you were doing and feeling!
- If you want to practice mindfulness, improve your mood, or practice positive thinking, you will probably find that a keeping a gratitude journal meets your needs.
- To help process your emotions, or get your thoughts organized and down on paper, you may prefer to just write with no guidelines, like I do!
- If you’re interested in journaling for self-discovery, self-reflection, or to become more connected to yourself, you will probably benefit from using journal prompts and questions that will help you dig deeper and understand yourself better. I do this every once in a while and use these journal prompts.
You can always combine different methods to suit your needs, because there is no right or wrong way to journal! Sometimes I make charts in my journal to organize my ideas, or I’ll make a list of things I’m worried about before I go to bed to help me let go of them for the moment, so I can fall asleep easier.
It can take some trial and error (it took a lot for me!), but you will find what works for you!
Now that you know your journaling purpose and style, you’re ready for the fun part-actually journaling! Obviously, you will need a journal or notebook, and a pen you love to write with.
Here are some other tips for starting and sticking to your new journal!
- If you are artistic and want to express that in your journal, you could get fun pens, markers, washi tape, and stickers!
- If your goal is to journal at a specific time, or for a certain amount of time, put it in your calendar! Treat journaling as something you just do, like going to the gym, or feeding your dog. Put it in your calendar, set an alarm, and set a timer once you start. It takes work to make something a habit, but you will be so happy that you did! If you really don’t feel like journaling one day, do it and then reward yourself with something like a long bath or a Netflix episode. If you miss a day, a week, or a month-you did not fail! Just pick up your journal and start writing again.
- Choose a spot in your home where you will be journaling and make sure it is a comfortable space. If it’s a desk, put a couple plants on it, and a cute jar to keep your pens in. You could also get a candle you love that you only use when you’re journaling. If it’s your bed, get an armchair pillow you can use to be more comfortable, or a even little lap desk.
- Think about journaling as “me time.” Journaling is a form of self-care, so make sure it feels like it! If you want to journal in the morning, get up a little earlier and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea to enjoy while you journal. If you want to journal at night, make a calming acoustic playlist to listen to while you write. You could even do a face mask while you journal!
- If you get stumped on what to write, or don’t feel inspired, look up some journal prompts on Pinterest to get the creative juices flowing! Here is a list of some of my personal favorite journal prompts.
- Last, but probably most important, don’t be judgmental with yourself or get caught in the trap of perfectionism! Be completely honest when you write and don’t censor yourself! That kind of honesty and release of thoughts is what journaling is for! Then, review your writing without judgement and accept what you are thinking or feeling in that moment. Understand that no one is perfect and this process will help you improve and understand yourself better than you ever have!
Remember, the best part of journaling is that it is for you and you alone! It doesn’t matter if your handwriting is messy, if your habit tracker is a little too eye-opening, or if you write your deepest darkest thoughts down to let them go. Don’t put pressure on yourself, and don’t judge yourself! As a perfectionist, this is something I’m still working on, but journaling is a way great way to practice it.
When you’re ready to start your journal, don’t forget to use this list of 30 journal prompts as a jumping off point!
I’ve learned a lot through my years of journaling, and now journal more than ever! I hope this guide gives you all the information and inspiration you need to start a journal and stick to it! Be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to try out different methods to see what works best for you! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will definitely get back to you! Now, go start your journal!
Do you currently keep a journal, and if so, what type? If not, what type do you want to try?