how to start journaling (and why you’ll want to)

Journaling is more than simply diary writing. It can be utilised as a means of self-expression, decompression or a way to practice gratitude. In one of her essays, On Keeping a Notebook, Joan Didion talks of journaling as a way to keep in touch with your past and future self – while helping identify priorities, habits and anxieties in the present. 

Some of us feel perfectly at home documenting our lives – recording certain points in time within diaries, notepads and scrapbooks. While for others, the thought of writing in a journal hasn’t even crossed our mind.

Whether you already write in a daily journal or you are looking for journal ideas and where to start, there are no rigid rules. It’s all about finding the right approach that works for you and that adds meaning to your day. 

So, how do you start – and what’s the best way? In order to commit to the practice, you need to be clear on what you want to get from it. And given that the benefits of journaling are as wide-reaching as they are preached and proven, it will soon become a habit you want to keep. 

the meditative benefits of journaling

improved mental health

Journaling helps create order in our minds and can be considered a form of ‘meditation on paper.’ Writing down our worries and concerns can give us clarity and insight into our thought patterns, allowing us to separate the intangible thoughts in our head by expressing them onto something physical. Once our thoughts are visible and in front of us, we have a greater sense of control over them.

increased self-awareness and problem solving

Journaling unlocks a deeper understanding of ourselves. By reflecting on recurring experiences, feelings and behaviours, we can identify thought cycles and areas for growth. And once we have a safe space in which we can think (and write) free from judgment or disruption, we’re more likely to find solutions to our problems.

fosters gratitude

Reflective writing is a tool that prompts us to pay attention to all the sources of joy in our life which we might otherwise take for granted – shifting our thoughts away from negative things that might happen by refocusing on positive things that have happened as we become more attuned to the small wins and pleasures around us.

what style of journaling is right for you?

The best part about journaling is there are no barriers to entry – it really is for everyone and anyone. What’s important is that you’re having a conversation with the inner workings of your mind. Given there are so many different ways to approach journaling, you’ll likely find a style that feels right.

here are a few that might work for you:
gratitude journaling

Start each day by writing down three things you're grateful for. It could be something as simple as the sunshine or a good cup of coffee, or something more significant like a loved one's support or a career opportunity.

reflective journaling

Write about a recent experience that was meaningful to you. What happened, how did you feel, and what did you learn from it?

stream of consciousness journaling

Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind, without stopping or censoring yourself. This can help you clear your mind and tap into your unfiltered thoughts.

creative writing journaling

Write a short story or poem based on a prompt or your imagination. Don't overthink it or worry about whether it's ‘good’ or not, just let your creativity flow.

incorporating journaling into your day

make it a regular ritual

The key to journaling is frequency, so try to set aside a specific time each day or week for your writing. Whether it's first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or before bed, find a time that works for you.

discover the format that best suits you

There are many different ways to journal, including writing in a notebook, typing on your computer, using voice dictation or using an app. Choose a format that feels comfortable, convenient and easy so that it becomes something you look forward to.

combine journaling with other activities

Try combining journaling with other activities. For example, you could journal while you drink your morning coffee or tea, listen to a sound healing, wear a face mask or while you commute to work.

use journal prompts

Sometimes it can be hard to know what to write about, so using prompts can be helpful. You can find journaling prompts online or in books, or create your own prompts based on what you want to explore. Examples could be: 

  • Today I am grateful for…
  • I want to clear my mind of…
  • My goals for tomorrow are…

keep it simple

Remember that journaling doesn't have to be a big production. Even just writing a few sentences each day can be helpful and meaningful.

Essentially, journaling is a tool to help you become better acquainted with yourself, while illuminating areas for growth. While it doesn’t have the power to make all your worries disappear, it gives you the power to reframe them – creating a more peaceful and ordered mind. After all, there’s no better self-care book for you than the one you write about yourself.  

Journaling makes an easy integration into your wellbeing routine. For more tips on how to develop a routine that suits you, see our blog.

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