how to start a journal

How to Start a Journal and Improve Your Life

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Do you ever feel like you need a quiet space in this incredibly noisy world? With all the chatter and chaos coming at us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and even lost.

Since turning 40, I’ve discovered a great way to deal with some of the midlife changes: keeping a journal.

Journaling has become a powerful tool for making sense out of life.

Writing in a journal helps me to work through stress, reflect on gratitude, improve my mental health, and even achieve my goals. It helps me to slow down, breathe, and focus on the things that really matter.

Starting a journal can help you focus on what’s most important in your life, too.

Interested in starting a journal? Read on for some journal writing tips.

“This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Full disclosure here.”

How Should I Start a Journal?

When it comes to starting a journal, don’t make it too complicated. You can journal in a plain spiral notebook that costs a dollar, or you can go buy a fancy-pants journal from the bookstore. And Amazon has just about every type of journal you can imagine.

All it takes is making time and finding the tools to record your thoughts and feelings. Then you simply start by writing journal entries. Write as little or as much as you want. It’s that simple.

When Should I Journal?

That depends on you. It’s good to find a consistent time of day to journal. But if you have to “get it in when you can,” then that’s perfectly fine, too. There are no hard and fast rules.

Many people find the morning is a great time for journaling. The good thing about setting time to journal in the morning is you aren’t procrastinating.

You get it done and knock it out at the beginning of your day. One great benefit of journaling in the morning is you can clear your head and focus for the day ahead.

Not a morning person? That’s fine. Journaling at night is good, too.

Writing before bed is another great option. You can process out all your feelings and events from the day. You can also set your intentions for the next day.

Clear your mind for a restful night. Rant in writing about all the things bugging you. Or better yet, journal about things you are grateful for.

When you write in your journal, try to do it when you have time to yourself. Alone. Uninterrupted.

Yes, I get it. Finding time alone can be hard for any busy woman.

But you want your thoughts to flow easily when you are journaling. And thoughts can’t flow easily if the kids are coming to you for a snack or your husband is asking where the remote is. (It’s in the sofa cushions, by the way.)

Turn off the tech and the tv. Shut yourself away somewhere you won’t be bothered. You might find it helpful to sit in nature or a peaceful place in your home. Maybe try a coffee shop. I’ve even journaled in my car between sales calls at work.

Whatever time of day you choose to write, be consistent. Write in your journal every day if you can. When you make it a habit, it will be more effective than if you just randomly write when you feel like it.

When you write, don’t worry about style, grammar, or punctuation. The Grammar Nerds aren’t going to be reading it, so don’t fret.

Your entries can jump from one topic to another. They can be jumbly and rambly. They don’t even have to make sense.

Don’t overcomplicate it. Just start.

Pink flowers, pens and a white journal with black polka dots that says "Enjoy the Little Things"

But What Should I Write About in My Journal?

Staring at a blank journal page can be intimidating. Your blank journal page makes your mind go blank. I get it.

But if you can relax and start writing whatever comes into your head for about 10 or 15 minutes, soon you’ll find thoughts and ideas flowing freely.

Again, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense. It’s about getting into the writing flow.

If you’re really stuck, just start writing “I don’t know what to write about,” or “I can’t think of anything to say,” to get started.

By simply starting with something, it helps to get the reluctance out of your head and clearing the way for your thoughts to start flowing.

Still stumped? Just start with “today.” Start right now and journal about your day – today. That’s the easiest thing to do.

Did anything significant happen today? Who did you talk to? How did you feel about it? Did you lose your temper? Help a friend? Do something for yourself? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?

Or start by writing about some memories. You can write about childhood: the good, the bad, the ugly. Write about the time you got the part in the school play. Or write about the time you didn’t make the basketball team.

Journal about your family stories. You can write about your feelings. Anger, sadness, happiness, and joy. Hopes and dreams. Explore your fears and insecurities. Go as deep as you want.

Keeping a journal will help you deal with things that have happened and things you want to happen. Writing down your experiences helps you analyze what you did right and what you could do better.  

Image of journal with "Meraki - to do something with soul, creativity and love" on the cover

Meraki Journal – Get it here.

Journal Writing for a Better You

The benefits of journaling are numerous. In addition to helping you clear your mind and process your day, keeping a journal can help improve your life in several ways:

Start a Journal Help with Stress

Stress affects all of us. There’s no escaping it. Decompressing by writing for even five to fifteen minute a day can help greatly.

Journal about Your Worries

Do a brain dump of all your worries. Get them all out. It will probably feel uncomfortable and icky but write as much as you can on it.

Describe What’s Happening Now

Write what is currently happening or what is causing your stress or worries – and where you stand with the issue causing those things.

If you have a list of general day-to-day stressors, make a list of all the things that are contributing. Examples could be work-stress, deadlines, a micro-managing boss, finances, over-commitments, or work-life balance.

What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen?

Sometimes, what causes us the most stress is fear of the unknown. So take this stressful scenario and ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Examples could be that you miss a deadline, a utility gets turned off, your out-of-town guests arrive, and the bathroom isn’t clean.

What’s the Best That Can Happen?

Now think about and write down the best possible outcome. You nail the deadline. You remember to pay the bill. The guests cancel. (Just kidding. I meant to say the bathroom gets cleaned.)

Write out potential steps and tactics to achieve the result you desire so you can see it to fruition.

Rewrite the Story

A good way to overcome stress about a situation is to rewrite the story. Rewrite what is happening and causing you stress, but reframe the negativity into a positive situation.

Start a Journal for Reflection and Self-Awareness

Another idea for journaling to a better you is simply writing about your thoughts and feelings.

Writing is a safe way to express yourself. You can write everything you’re thinking and feeling down in the form of letters to people, or to yourself, or even to someone you don’t know.

You may not even know what you are feeling until you start writing. It’s amazing what can be lying underneath the surface that we don’t even know about until we start writing.

Sometimes, it’s hard to understand and express what you feel. But when you focus on writing it out, it may help you to see things in a new perspective.

Journaling Helps You See the Big Picture More Easily

Looking back at the things you’ve written over time about any topic can provide insight into the situation that you never saw coming. That’s because having the journal to look back on provides a way to see the bigger picture.

Say for example you’ve been trying to declutter and get more organized. Well today you still might feel some overwhelm, but it’s still less than yesterday, which lets you know you’re making progress.

Journaling Provides a Means to Understand and Organize Your Thoughts

Writing things down helps you get your thoughts down in an organized and useful way. When your thoughts are all jumbled up, you it’s hard to focus and make a plan. But when you can organize your thoughts, it makes all the difference.

Start a Journal to Achieve Your Goals

Journaling is great for goal setting, too. Putting your goals in writing forces you to think about them and track your progress.

Journaling about your goals makes you consider your tactics and strategies.

When you see your goals written down and you continue to revisit your goals and make adjustments as you move towards them. Writing your goals helps you think about “how” and “why.” How will you get there and why do you want this goal so much?

When you are intentional about your goals and how you will achieve them, you are setting yourself up for success.

The act of writing down your goals makes you more accountable to yourself.

Journaling is an excellent way to work toward achieving all your goals. It will even help you make better goals because the process of entering facts in your journal will cause you to see them in a more logical way that is more useful.  (goal worksheets)

Looking for a Goal Planner? Check out this “Get It Done” Goal Planner here.

Tips for Making Journaling Part of Your Daily Routine

Keep it simple. Again, don’t overcomplicate it. All you need is pen and paper. Keep your journal in your bag if you need to find time during the day. Or keep in on your nightstand if you journal before bed. Keep it where you will see it and use it.

Choose a Time That Works. Great times to journal are in the morning before you start your day, or at night before you go to sleep. But it that doesn’t work for you, journal when you can, like on your lunch break or during work breaks.

Create a Comfortable Space. It’s easier to get into your thoughts if you’re comfortable. A desk is great if you have one. Or you can sit in a comfy chair or on your bed.

Add Some Ambiance. Try music in the background, lighting a candle or diffusing essential oils. For some people this provides inspiration and a relaxing atmosphere.

Use a Particular Type of Journal. Some people find they have a preference when it comes to style. There are hundreds of options of journals…..bullet journals, prayer journals, guided journals, etc.

Consider Using Journaling Prompts. You can buy journals with prompts or you can find them for free online. Journal prompts are a great way to get your creativity flowing.

Again, to truly experience the full benefits of journaling, it needs to be done regularly.

Now – Go Start Your Journal

Now that we’ve run through some journal writing tips and benefits, it’s time for you to get started.

Whenever you can fit it in, you’ll find that journaling is quite therapeutic. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of journaling, you may like this post.

If you’re ready to start journaling now, check out these books!

The Bullet Journal Method

Writing Down Your Soul – How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within

Effortless Journaling

Pink journal and pencils
White coffee cup and journal on a wooden table

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