The Best Way To Start Journaling

the best way to start journaling

I’m on a mission to spread the word on the best way to start journaling.

I’m a lifelong journaler. From the earliest years, my innermost feelings were safeguarded in a blue faux leather diary complete with lock and key.  In hindsight, it didn’t really secure anything since the rickety lock was nothing more than a deterrence. One snap and my heart could come spilling out all over the place.  Even so, I felt that I had something all my own and a place to work out the confusion that bubbles up in our childhood years.

Of course, my style of journaling has changed over the years. Although I still have an abundant number of notebooks full of handwritten musings, I also use an online platform to journal.  I started using that method a few years back because I wasn’t making time to write and I missed it.  Typing is faster and I’ve found a way to make it feel less clinical by adding images and hashtags. 

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years – my journal still captures my joys and challenges and helps me make sense out of the world in every way imaginable.

I’m very open about my love of journaling so it’s not surprising that people often ask me about it. They are curious about what it does for me.  What I write about. And, they wish they could write.

Here’s the thing – anyone can write.  You don’t have to be a grammatical wizard to keep a journal. Journaling is a personal experience and it can be adapted to your intention, style and purpose. 

What is a Journal?

So, let’s start by describing what a journal is.  A journal is an intimate record of your thoughts, observations, feelings and ideas. For me, that’s where the description should end because it can look any way you want it to look.

Author Suleika Joauad brilliantly states that:

Journaling is personal, productive and unpressurized.

I love this because the raw truth is that your journal is something just for you. You can write words, draw pictures, doodle.  You can share or don’t share.  There are no rules.

And, one of the biggest misconceptions about journaling is that you have to be a writer. You do NOT have to be a writer to journal. Instead, you just have to find a method that suits you to reap the benefits of journaling.

The Best Way To Start Journaling – Steps to Take

CHOOSE A FORMAT. Handwritten or online? Writing by hand has been proven to boost creativity, improve memory and learning comprehension, and even deepen critical thinking skills. Further, writing by hand can even relieve your stress, depression and anxiety. What’s more is that when you pen words on paper, the neurons in your brain fire signals at rapid speed, thus enabling you to make more connections with your thoughts.

On the other hand, with a plethora of online journal apps available, it’s easy to find a digital format that suits your needs.  I’ve already mentioned that online journaling is a time saver.  But, it’s also a space saver as you don’t have to store bulky notebooks. Since the app is on my iPad and iPhone, I can access it anywhere and anytime. That convenience has proven invaluable to get me writing more often.

Beyond that, digital journaling is searchable and taggable giving a handy way to skip to revisit journal entries. This Lifewire article summarizes the best journaling apps. I use a paid version of Penzu but there are others such as Zinnia, Day One Journal and Momento that are worth a look.

Another option is not to choose. Why not use both handwritten and online journals?  Sometimes pen in hand is exactly what I need and I can cut and paste articles that inspire me to safekeep them in my journal.  At other times, I punch away at the keys on my laptop and end up with a novella.

SET A GOAL.  How often do you want to journal?  People often say that you have to journal daily but I suggest being practical and opting for a frequency that makes sense for you. For me, my online journal sends me a weekly reminder and so I usually write weekly. I also will write a journal post when I have something taking up space in my brain.

SET A TIMER.  You may feel that you’re too busy to spend time journaling.  However, if that is what is holding you back, set a timer for 15 minutes.  You can certainly write more on days when time permits but, setting a timer will help you build a habit to write. The objective is to write so you can also simply write a line or two if you’re time-strapped or don’t have the mental capacity to write for long. Keep reading for ideas on what to write about as I’ve provided some suggestions that take mere seconds!

HAVE A ROUTINE AND RITUAL. Beyond just writing consistently, select a time of day that fits you. You’ll often hear that writing first thing in the morning sets the tone for the day and ensures you’ll squeeze it in before getting sidetracked with other obligations. While this can be true for some, writing in the evenings may help you debrief the emotions of your day. Choose what’s right for you. Having a ritual or what some call a journaling anchor sets the tone for creativity and time for yourself. Brew a cup of tea and start writing. Choose a favourite spot to write – a bit cozy chair in front of the fireplace or your back deck in the sunshine.

MAKE IT A HABIT. Good habits benefit our physical, emotional and mental health. So, building a habit of journaling will substantially help you to be more productive, energetic and centered in your life.

Krista Brown, a content writer for Science of People suggests finding your habit loop. She pulls from Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, and his assertion that the primary components of building habits are cue, routine and reward.  If we tie that into a habit loop for journaling, it could look like this.

The first pillar of building habits is to find a cue that will remind you to pull out your journal and spend a few minutes writing.  Some people may choose to write first thing in the morning so the cue automatically happens when they get out of bed. Another cue may be going to a local coffee shop on the weekend to write. Or, as it the case for me, my cue comes from my online journaling platform in the form of an email every Wednesday morning. You could even consider setting a reminder on your phone to prompt you every week.

The second pillar of building habits is to set your routine.  “Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency”, actor Dwayne Johnson says.  Find a comfortable place to sit and journal. Light a candle. Make yourself a cup of tea. What will create a creative setting so you can take the time to write out what is speaking to you?

Lastly, the third pillar is reward. You might find that the benefits of journaling are the rewards and of course, you’re right! But wellness can be hard to appreciate in the moment so you may want to find a reward that will motivate you to journal.  It may be a treat to enjoy while you’re writing, or a new notebook at the end of a great month of consistent writing. For me, journaling is on my ‘to do’ list and just checking it off gives me satisfaction.

Now, you have some steps to get you started journaling – what are you going to write about?

Tips On What To Write About

Again, your journal is personal so write about whatever you want to write about.  It can be full of philosophical thoughts and rants. Or simple random musings. You could jot down your ideas or dreams. Let it take you wherever.

Undoubtedly, getting started is often the hardest part so here are some thoughts to consider.

  • Write a list of three to five things you are grateful for.
  • Use journaling prompts that pose a question for you to answer. Just google ‘journaling prompts’ and you’ll find a plethora of ideas.
  • If words aren’t coming to you, draw instead!  Who said that a journal has to be full of words?
  • Choose one word that describes how you are feeling and expand on why you are feeling that way.  For example, your word may be overwhelmed.  You can then describe how you’re feeling pressure to buy the perfect gift for your child’s birthday party, meeting deadlines at work, etc.
  • Start a bullet journal.  This approach is often used to combine their planner, journal, habit tracker, mood tracker and goals all in one place.

Join Me In Lighthouse’s Journaling Community

Journaling is a creative, self-care method that can support you through tough times and celebrate the happiest ones. I told you – I’m on a mission to spread the word on the best way to start journaling! If you’re keen to explore the power and benefits of journaling and what it can do for you, join me for Illuminating Words: Lighthouse’s Journaling Community.

Illuminating Words is a safe space to explore your world through writing, creativity and reflection.  You’ll be guided to express and understand yourself through the words you write. It will be whatever you want it to be. 

And, if you’re already a committed journaler, I’d love to hear from you.  Tell me what benefits you get from journaling?

2 thoughts on “The Best Way To Start Journaling”

  1. I know I am late to start, but vow to make this a priority as it will help me build my mind as well as help me to adjust to my retired life.
    I am looking forward to the lessons learned.


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