How To Start Journaling – Guide to Thoughtful Writing

I inconsistently journaled for most of my life, but now have been journaling almost every day for the past three years. I know journaling can be intimidating at first, so I want to share everything I know to help you get started. 

Journaling is writing down one’s activities, emotions, ideas, inspirations, and so much more onto paper. A journal is yours to create and use for whatever purpose best serves you in your life. Here’s the secret to journaling: you just have to start. 

Journaling has become a popular trend in recent years due to its undeniable virtue in helping one process their thoughts. The tricky part is learning how to journal and where to start.

What Is Journaling?

Journaling is choosing a notebook you feel drawn to and filling its pages with whatever artistic expression is most natural to you. Journaling doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it have to look a specific way. 

Journaling is often associated with writing, and while that’s undoubtedly true, it doesn’t have to be just writing. It can be doodles and sketches, a mix of drawings and writing, a scrapbook, or a collage of all the above. 

A Minimalist Journal - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Minimalist Journal

Journaling is a way to be creative and process your thoughts. It can be a safe place to vent your emotions and write about memories, desires, and what you wish to manifest. Some choose to journal first thing in the morning to clear their mind for the day. Others pick up their journal only when they feel inspired to do so. 

The main thing to remember when it comes to journaling is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Journaling is FOR you. It isn’t for anyone else, so the key is to do it for yourself. 

Journaling is a way to be creative and process your thoughts.

How to Start Journaling

You may have seen images of perfect bullet and beautiful collage journals online and thought, “how can I just start doing that?” Seeing how other people journal isn’t always helpful, as we tend to try to replicate what others are doing. 

To avoid self-comparison or creating a journal that isn’t genuine to who you are, you have to figure out why you want to start journaling. What inspired you to read this article? What are you hoping to get out of journaling? Is it a way to be more creative? Is it a tool to help you process your thoughts/emotions? 

Once you have your ‘why,’ reflecting on what has kept you from starting might also be helpful. Maybe you feel it has to be done a specific way, or you feel intimated by writing altogether. Maybe you hold a belief about yourself that you’re just not a good writer. 

A Man Holding a Simple Journal - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Man Holding a Simple Journal

Here’s a secret: to start journaling, you don’t have to be a ‘writer.’ It doesn’t have to be perfect; no one will be grading what you write. I write for a living, yet my journal has grammatical errors, misspelled words, incomplete sentences, and so on. That’s because I’m not writing for anyone other than myself. When I get in a flow and the words are pouring forth, spelling and sentence structure are the last thing on my mind. 

Basically, your writing doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful when you journal. Journaling is an adventure. You learn as you go, discovering new pathways and figuring out what works best for you. 

How to Start Journaling for Beginners

After you’ve decided why you want to journal, the next step is choosing your journal. Choose a journal that inspires you and makes you want to pick it up and write in it. Whenever I complete a journal and pick out the next, I’m very intentional with my decision.

This vessel is going to hold some of the most tender and vulnerable parts of me, it is essentially going to contain the essence of who I am, so it must be something that I feel connected to. Now, that’s just me! Choose whatever journal works best for you; just make sure it’s something you feel inspired by. 

A Simple Blank Page - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Simple Blank Page

That first empty page can feel so daunting. At this point, you may have some self-limiting beliefs arise, such as “this journal is too pretty for me to write in . . . What am I supposed to say on the very first page, it should be something beautiful and all I want to write about is something unimportant.” 

This is the time to take a breath and push those silly thoughts aside. Remember: this journal is FOR you, so it doesn’t matter what your handwriting looks like or what you want to write about. If you’re completely unsure, here are some helpful prompts to get started on the first page: 

  1. Write about your intention for journaling. 
  2. Introduce yourself. What does your life look like? 
  3. Write about the day, the weather, your recent activities, your goals for the coming week, etc. 

When I open up a fresh page of my journal, I still have moments when I’m unsure of what I want to write about. To help me get started, I usually write about the weather/what my view looks like. I reflect on the beauty of the sun, the continuous soaking rain, or the heavy clouds that I have mixed feelings about. From there, I usually find my flow.

Journaling in the Mountains - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
Journaling in the Mountains

If I still don’t have anything to say, I close my journal. I don’t make journaling regimented in my schedule; I simply do it because I know how beneficial it is for my life. I also love it; that helps too. This way, I don’t make it a chore or something I “have” to do. Nothing hinders creativity and inspiration like feeling you “have” to do something. 

In this way, make sure you see journaling as something you’re excited about and genuinely want to do. If you make it a chore or something “required,” it will be tough to feel inspired.

A journal can be used as a tool for manifestation, an organizer of ideas and goals, and a daily planner to stay on task.

How to Start  Journaling for Anxiety

I know just how intense and overwhelming anxiety can be. When your thoughts are spinning, and fearful images are flashing across your mind, it can be hard to think clearly. Journaling is a great way to get “out” of your head and look at your fearful thoughts with a new perspective. 

In your journal, start writing about what anxiety looks like for you. How do you feel? Where does it feel most intense in your body? Then, write about what you’re afraid of. Why are you afraid of it? Is it something that is actively happening to you in your life, or is it based on a significant event? 

After I get everything out (don’t hold back, these are the sacred pages meant just for you), I start encouraging myself. I to look for the “gold thread” hidden in my fear. What can I take away or learn from this experience? 

A Woman Simply Writing in a Journal - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Woman Simply Writing in a Journal

How to Start Journaling for Stress

The best way to address stress is to allow yourself to wind down, rest, and do something that supports you. Journaling is a great self-care activity to try when you’re feeling stressed, as it allows you to process what you’re going through. Also, fueling your creative expression through writing or drawing is a wonderful way to reduce stress. 

The National Library of Medicine published research showing a connection between artistic expression and overall wellbeing; that fueling creativity can help heal and create lasting vitality: 

. . . there is evidence that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer of the creative efforts of others or as an initiator of one’s own creative efforts, can enhance one’s moods, emotions, and other psychological states as well as have a salient impact on important physiological parameters.” 

How to Start Journaling for Your Future Self

A journal can be used as a tool for manifestation, an organizer of ideas and goals, and a daily planner to stay on task. In this way, your journal can help your future self by staying focused on the life you want to create for yourself. 

If this sounds intriguing, I recommend looking into scripting manifestation, which is writing what you wish to bring into your life. You use your words to describe what it looks like, how it feels, and the deep gratitude you have for your life at the moment and for what’s to come. If planning and organizing sound more like your thing, you’ll probably enjoy bullet journaling.

A Woman Journaling in a Minimalist Room - Hot To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Woman Journaling in a Minimalist Room

What are the Benefits of Journaling?

Journaling allows you to decompress your mind and fuel your creativity. A study published by Science Direct shows that free writing can significantly reduce hardships after a stressful experience.  

Journaling also helps one organize their days, process complicated experiences and emotions, and connect to something deeper within themselves. I have found that journaling helps me explore my spirituality and the synchronistic things happening in my life. I can learn more about myself and my healing/spiritual journey. 

Here are some of the key benefits of journaling:

  1. Emotional release
  2. Stress reduction
  3. Enhanced creativity
  4. Memory improvement
  5. Goal setting and achievement
  6. Personal growth
  7. Emotional healing
  8. Better communication
  9. Mindfulness
  10. Sleep improvement

Journaling Techniques

My favorite way to journal is free-form. I simply write when I feel called to and in whatever expression feels best, such as dumping my thoughts or fueling my creativity through poetry. This is pretty easy for me as a natural writer, but following a specific technique can be highly beneficial for those who struggle with writing. Check out the following techniques and ideas and try whichever feels best for you. 

Bullet Journaling

If you love to be organized, plan out your schedule, and follow a to-do list, then bullet journaling may be for you. Keeping a bullet journal is a way to creatively plan out your day/week/month and keep track of your goals. 

Here’s a helpful youtube video that explains everything you need to know about bullet journaling: 

Dream Journal 

Keeping a dream journal is a magical and transformative experience. Dreams hold deep wisdom that our conscious minds are ‘asleep’ to throughout the day. Our dreams speak the messages of our subconscious and our spirit. By paying attention to our dreams, we can learn things about ourselves that we never knew before. We can then take the knowledge we have gained, embody it and allow it to transform our lives. 

It’s best to dedicate time to your dream journal in the morning when your dream will be the freshest in your mind. There’s much to explore regarding dreams and how to enhance/remember them. If this is something that sounds exciting to you, I suggest doing further research on the topic. 

Morning Pages 

Morning pages is a journaling technique where you fill three pages in your journal within the first hour of waking up. It’s a tool to help you write and clear your mind. It doesn’t matter what you write; it could even be, “I don’t know what to write” over and over. Over time this process becomes easier, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to your “morning pages” as a time to decompress and release some thoughts. 

A Minimalist Journal and Coffee - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Minimalist Journal and Coffee

Journaling Templates/Prompts

If you’re feeling blocked on what to write, the internet is a valuable tool that offers plenty of prompts and templates to try. Pinterest, in particular, will have some great examples to look through. 

Here are some prompts to help you get started: 

  1. Write a letter to your future self.
  2. Write a letter to your past self.
  3. Write a letter to someone else (they don’t have to see it).
  4. Write a list of what you’re thankful for. Why are you thankful for those things? 
  5. What is something you wish to heal/work through? 
  6. Write about a childhood memory that brings you joy. 
  7. What does your dream life look like? 
  8. What does ‘God’ mean to you? 
  9. What does ‘being human’ mean to you? 
  10. What does your anger (insert any emotion; sadness, grief, depression) look like? How does it feel? 
  11. What is your bliss? 
  12. Write a list of all the things you love about yourself.

Supplies for Journaling

It may not seem like it initially, but the type of supplies you use when journaling is essential. These are your creative ‘tools’ to help you write, so you want to choose the perfect tools for yourself. 

Types of Journals 

There are a surprising number of journals to choose from. Some are lined, while others have graphs or dots. It all comes down to preference. For me, I like to use leather-bound journals that have a beautiful design. Barnes and Noble is a great place to look for nice leather journals. You’ll also want to consider the size of your journal and if it’s easier for you to write on a small or large piece of paper. 

Journaling Pens

The type of pen or pencil you use to write or sketch is significant, at least it is for me. I prefer to write with a nice mechanical pencil. I don’t like to journal with a pen, which is a personal preference. 

Find the type of pencil/pen you prefer. You’ll be surprised how much more enjoyable writing is when you get to use the pencil/pen of your choosing!

A Simplistic Journaling Pen - How To Start Journaling - Gone Minimal
A Simplistic Journaling Pen

Related Insights

How do you start a beginner journal?

Find a journal you feel inspired to write in, look up some journaling prompts if you need them, and start writing!

What do you write when you are journaling?

Anything and everything! It could be your dreams, it could be about your life, or it could be how you feel in the moment. There’s no wrong or right way to journal. 

What is the point of journaling?

Journaling helps you process your thoughts and emotions, and in doing so, it helps you discover more about yourself. It can also be an outlet for creative expression. 

Tips From Real People Who Journal

Journaling is one of those things you either love or hate. Some find themselves in the middle, but for the most part, it’s a hit or miss. That’s why I was curious to see if my friends and family kept a journal. If so, I asked them to share a tip or two for those new to journaling. If not, I asked them why they don’t journal. Here’s what they shared: 

Do You Keep a Journal?Percentage
Yes 60%
Journaling TipPercentage
Don’t overcomplicate it60%
Write the words your heart needs to hear20%
Do it when you feel inspired to20%
Reason People Don’t JournalPercentage
I find it boring/cumbersome 50%
I’ve never felt drawn to it. I prefer voicing my thoughts through conversation. 50%
Tips From Real People Who Keep a Journal

Other Resources:

Final Thoughts

Journaling is a beautiful way to release the never-ending thoughts of your mind and learn more about yourself in the process. If you’re new to journaling, starting or knowing what to write about can be difficult. The best thing you can do is just start and see where it takes you. Happy writing, my friends! 

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