How to Start Journaling + 20 Journaling Prompts for Beginners
Inside: How to start journaling and 3 benefits you will reap by starting now.
Managing life can be messy, but a journaling practice can help you manage some of that mess. In fact, research shows journaling is a great strategy for dealing with life’s challenges. Here are some tips on how to start journaling and how you can benefit.
First of All – Why Journal?
I’ve always been one to write in a journal. And in recent years, midlife has brought lots of changes. For me, it’s been weight gain, hair loss, breast cancer, hormone fluctuations, and a whole lot of feelings that I’m not even sure I can succinctly summarize.
The process of writing about all of it in a journal has been a helpful strategy. I can write it all out and it helps to relieve stress and even makes sense of what I’m feeling.
If you’re not used to writing about your feelings, ideas or goals, starting a journal can feel weird. You may feel blocked.
But once you get going, you’ll probably realize that you have a lot to say. Writing out your thoughts and feelings is therapeutic, and when you learn how to start a journal, you’ll be amazed and what it can do for you.
When you really get warmed up, you will probably find that it’s a lot of fun.
Journal writing helps many people because they want to sort things out and process all the things that run through their head like a freight train. We all struggle with overwhelm, at least sometimes. And writing in a journal can help.
We have too much to do with too little time to do it. And while journaling might feel like “one more thing to do,” taking the time to write it all out has benefits. I promise.
While starting a journal can feel daunting if you’ve never done it, it’s actually not that hard. Here’s how to start journaling today.
How to Start Journaling
You get a journal/notebook and a pen. Then you write. It’s really that simple. You don’t have to buy anything elaborate and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.
You can get a spiral notebook at Target for $2.79 or you can spend $40 on a fancy guided journal.
Some will say that when you journal it needs to be on paper. I believe there is something to be said for putting pen to paper. It seems to help with the creative flow. But honestly, for some people, journaling electronically works just fine.
You can type away on your computer or in the notes app on your iPad, tablet or phone. Just choose what suits you when it comes to your method of journaling. There is no right or wrong way.
Schedule Time to Write in Your Journal
Schedule some time each day to jot down your thoughts and feelings. That’s the hard part. The schedule. You want to write in your journal consistently and make it a daily practice if possible.
Yes, life happens. It’s not always easy to write every single day. If you miss a day – or several – just jump back into it when you can.
You have to make the time, and you have to make yourself a priority.
Find the Time That’s Best for You to Journal
For some people, the best time to write is in the morning. They can start their day by dumping out thoughts, to-do lists, anxieties, stress, goals, you name it.
Some prefer writing in their journal in the evening or before bedtime, so they can clear their thoughts from a hectic day.
The idea is the same – get it all out. But when you journal is up to you and what works for your schedule.
Sometimes, you just have to get it in when you can. I used to journal during lunch breaks or in-between client visits at work when I need to get thoughts out, regroup or just capture any ideas before I lost them.
Let the Words Flow
When we start a journal, we have a tendency to edit. Everything sounds quirky or trite or silly. Try not to censor yourself. Just let the words flow.
Give yourself permission to write in a stream of consciousness style to get warmed up. Simply start writing whatever comes to mind, which can be hard, because it feels so weird.
Even if you write things like “I don’t know what to write about.” Or, “This feels weird. This is dumb,” over and over, it’s perfectly okay. I’ve done this numerous times.
Eventually, you’ll warm up and have other thoughts.
Explore Your Feelings and Interests
A few suggestions for getting started in your journal: writing about gratitude, your feelings, or your childhood.
Simply writing about things you are grateful for is a good start to journal writing. It’s pretty easy to get the creative juices flowing, plus it’s a good practice in creating an abundance mindset.
Another way to get started is to write about your childhood. What did you enjoy? What did you struggle with? Examine old feelings and memories that may have you stuck.
You can focus on feelings about what is currently going on in your life. Things that bother you, things you are looking forward to, or even goals you have for your life.
The bottom line is it’s your journal so write whatever you want to write.
Keep Your Journal Private
Unless you want to share your journal with certain people for particular reasons, it’s a good idea to keep your journal private. This is a place for your private thoughts and feelings. It’s a place for you to process ideas and emotions. It’s difficult to be completely honest on paper if you’re fearful about someone reading it. So keep your journal in a private place where people won’t be tempted to pick it up and take a peek.
Benefits of Journaling
There are numerous benefits of journaling. The benefits are probably a little different for everyone, but here are some basics:
1. Journaling can clarify thoughts and feelings.
When you’re feeling stuck, it’s hard to work through it all, maybe because of overwhelming or conflicting emotions.
On the fence about a big decision? Writing out the pros and cons can help you figure out which direction to take. Simply put, writing helps you find answers to problems.
2. Journaling leads to deeper understanding and self-awareness.
Writing your thoughts and feelings deepens self-knowledge while identifying your values and priorities. It’s like a conversation with yourself….your deeper self.
It’s the self that gets shoved back in the corner because you’re too busy doing all of your “shoulds”. But you know what? That “self” has some things to say, I promise. You’ll be surprised about what kinds of things come out when you stop silencing that part of you.
3. Journaling relieves stress.
Sometimes just getting the feelings out provides tremendous reprieve.
Imagine a pressure cooker. Think about the pressure builds because the pot is sealed. The pressure has no place to go until the valve is released. And when it’s released, it comes out hot and fast.
We are all like little pressure cookers now and then. Life happens and pressure builds. Then, we gotta let out that steam. Writing can release pressure.
Diary vs. Journal?
Yes, they are kind of the same. But a diary is a more straightforward account of your day. You’re documenting what happened.
You went to a movie. You worked out. Then, you visited with an old friend. It’s a basic activity.
But a journal, that has the magic. It’s where you really dig deep and let feelings and emotions flow onto the page.
What made you giddy? What made you sad? Write about the things that make you mad.
And then you can explore whey these things made you giddy, sad, or mad. Maybe you won’t even know why you felt these feelings until you start writing. It might take lots of writing to figure things out.
And then one day, you’ll have an AHA moment. You’ll realize that your son’s first-grade teacher triggers you because she reminds you of the mean teacher you had in elementary school.
You might realize that the reason the mom down the street really gets under your skin is that her carefully crafted comments take you back to the mean girl days of high school.
You’ll have that AHA moment, and it will all make sense.
It could be anything. There are a million little things that you probably need to work through. Journaling will help you with that.
But here’s the thing. The process is never over. Because we are all going through experiences and emotions that create opportunities for growth and awareness. Journaling helps you to connect the dots. It’s soul work.
What Should You Journal About?
Write about whatever you want! You can write about your bad childhood haircut, or about the moms that don’t have proper school drop-off line etiquette. Rant about the piles of laundry or your uncertainty about what you are doing with your life.
Write about your crazy family.
If you like guidance, there are some great books that talk about the process of journaling:
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How to Start Journaling – Prompts for Beginners
One great way to start journaling is by using journal prompts. There are seriously thousands of journal prompt topics. From goals to success to anxiety to life. You can easily find journaling prompts to help you start journaling.
Here are 20 Beginner’s Journaling Prompts you can use right away:
- List 5 things you are grateful for right now.
- How can you incorporate at least one self-care practice into your life right now?
- If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be and why?
- What is one way you can practice mindfulness every day?
- What are you most proud of?
- Who is your hero and why?
- How can you overcome something that has been bothering you?
- What makes you angry?
- What is one bad habit you would like to kick for good?
- What makes you laugh?
- When do you feel the safest?
- What is your favorite movie and why?
- If your life was a book, what would the title be?
- Write about your childhood pet.
- What is your dream job?
- What scared you most as a child?
- What is one thing on your bucket list?
- Where is your favorite vacation destination?
- If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do first?
- What inspires you to be a better person?
Bottom line – I encourage you to journal.
Take some time as part of your self-care routine to write your feelings.
Wait, what? No self-care routine? Then read this.
No matter where you are in life at this moment, if you’re looking for some clarity, or even just some peace of mind, consider starting a journal – give it a try!