How to start journaling can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what to write. But with so many benefits, it’s no wonder why so many people want to make it a habit.
I started a journaling habit about 2 years ago. I was at a point in my life where I was a little lost, a little stressed, and really, just was looking for a way to better understand my overall life direction.
Having heard the many benefits of journaling, including improving physical, mental, and emotional health, I thought I would give it try for 30 days to see where it would take me.
Keeping a journal has been a strategy that has helped many brilliant, powerful and wise people become better at what they do, and I was hoping it could do the same for me.
Well 2 years later, I’m still at it, and I can confirm that it has lived up to the all the hype around it. Some of the most noticeable benefits for me included learning to express myself better and being able to think more critically and objectively, as well as having a healthy outlet to help relieve some of the stress and anxiety from day-to day life.
Figuring out how to start journaling was probably the hardest part. Writing out your personal feelings and thoughts isn’t something most people do regularly. So having that blank note book staring back at you while you’re figuring what you want to write can admittingly be somewhat intimidating.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the key benefits of journaling along with some tips and tricks to help figure out how to start journaling yourself, and closing with my own personal journaling experience. Hopefully after reading this, you can start your own journaling habit that can help you the way its helped me in my life!
The Benefits of Journaling
5 Benefits of Starting a Journaling Habit
The act of journaling is simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly.
It sounds pretty simple, but keeping a journaling practice has great benefits for both your mental and physical health, especially if you’re struggling with stress, depression, or anxiety.
There are many benefits, both short and long term to putting pen to paper and here are a few of the virtues to encourage you to start journaling yourself!
1. Journaling improves mood and helps to manage your emotions
Journaling can be an outlet to express yourself and deal with emotions to help you understand them better.
By identifying and tracking negative thoughts, fears, and concerns through your journaling, you can better recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them.
Journaling also allows for emotional catharsis and helps the brain regulate emotions. This provides a greater sense of confidence and self-identity, and in turn improves your mood and provides you with a greater sense of overall emotional well-being and happiness.
2. Journaling helps to identify and understand your problems
Journaling can help you identify the root of your problems and allows you to work on a plan to resolve them.
It can be used be a tool to help manage personal adversity, and brings to light important patterns to help you grow and understand situations more objectively.
Research even shows that expressive writing like journaling can help develop more structured, analytical views about yourself, others, and the world that allow you to approach problems mindfully while keeping perspective.
3. Journaling reduces stress
Journaling has proven to be is a incredible stress management tool that lessens impact of stress on your health.
Writing about stressful experiences can help you manage them in a healthy way. It provides an outlet for your worries and helps you to unwind and decompress.
4. Journaling keeps the mind sharp
Journaling helps keep your brain in tip-top shape. Not only does it boost memory and comprehension, it also increases working brain capacity and help improve cognitive processing.
5. Journaling improves immune function and overall health
Journaling isn’t just good for your mental well being, it also can strengthen your immunity and decrease your risk of illness. Those who journal boast improved immune system functioning and strengthened immune cells.
Studies have shown that expressive writing like journaling for only 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times over the course of a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver functionality.
How to Start Journaling
Now that you understand the benefits of journaling, it’s time to actually start journaling!
So how to start journaling? Is there an ideal time of day? How long should it take? What to write about?
When it comes down to it, how you journal is much less important than why you are doing it. Is there something off your chest? Or have quiet time with your thoughts. Or even to find clarify on situations? There’s no right way or wrong way. The point is just to do it.
So here are the basics of how to start journaling:
- Pick your journaling tools of choice: notebook/paper and pen/pencil
- Pick a topic to write about, e.g. your daily routine, what you’re thankful for etc
- Set a timer for 15 minutes
- Write without stopping yourself edit or fix punctuation
- When the timer goes off read over what you’ve written and review your thoughts.
Sounds a little too simple right? Well, that’s really all there is to it. But if you’re looking to delve a little deeper, here are some additional tips to help you as you start your journal habit.
Tips on How to Start Journaling
Here are some great beginner tips that have helped me with the writing process of how to start journaling:
Don’t think too much about it. You’re not writing a book that’s going to read by anyone, just let your thoughts flow and write whatever comes to your mind.
Even if you feel that you have nothing to write about, write that sentence down. After a few lines of struggling to get your ideas out, you’ll find your thoughts will start to flow into writing.
If you’re still stumped on what to write. Journal prompts below to help get your creative juices flowing. I’ve included 25 journal prompts below that are great to reflecting and getting to know yourself better.
Embrace the connection between hand, pen and paper
There’s something about writing with good old fashion pen and paper. There are plenty of journaling apps as well, but I personally find pen to paper a much more expressive and provides you a little time to think about each word as it comes to life on paper. With physical writing there is no backspace key, just a fluid outflow of your thoughts without having to edit or censor them.
Invest in a notebook and pen you love
This is a little bit like buying new gym clothes to inspire you to work out. Invest in a notebook with quality paper and a pen that write you can write with comfortably.
I find that having good tools will enhances your journaling experience and makes the whole process more enjoyable. And if it’s more enjoyable you’re more likely to keep it up as a habit.
Ditch the need for perfection
Write what you want how you want, without a care in the world for spelling or grammar. Your journal is for you, and how you write – whether is in note form or lengthy wordy sentences – doesn’t matter as long as you’re expressing yourself.
Remove yourself from distractions
Your journaling time should be your own personal time. Put your phone away, and find a quiet spot where you’ll be undisturbed be able to focus.
Find the right time of day and make it a daily habit
Find the right time of day to journal for yourself. For some people it may be the morning, and for others it may be before bed. But whatever time it is make sure it’s one where you’ll be productive and unlikely to be interrupted. And also make sure to choose a time that you can take everyday at the same time to help make journaling a lasting habit.
Define your Purpose
When doing anything in life, having a well-defined purpose will encourage you to stick to it. Do you want to journal to relieve stress and anxiety? Or maybe to better understand problems or issues you’re having?
This approach will help you to move towards your goal. It also gives you a realistic picture of where you are and the opportunity to create a path to meet your target.
Take time for reflection
When your done your 15 minutes of writing, review what you’ve written and a few minutes to reflect on your thoughts.
I would say this is probably one of the most important aspects about journaling. This time allows you to step back and look objectively at what you wrote and really think about it, how you’re feeling, and understand yourself better.
25 Journal Prompts to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
Staring at a blank page? Journaling prompts are great way to help get your mind flowing with thoughts. Since journaling from scratch is difficult for most people when they’re beginning, journal prompts can give you a starting point. Below are some journal prompts that are easy enough write about, but still thought provoking to help you gain insight into your life.
Here are 25 prompts to help you on how to start journaling:
- How I feel right now?
- What am I grateful for?
- The things that bring me the most joy in my life are…
- What am I excited about today?
- How can I experience more joy, happiness and/or peace in my life?
- What changes do I need to feel healthier, happier and more fulfilled?
- I want/need to forgive…
- What is currently my biggest fear, worry or concern?
- What is the main cause of stress in my life? And how do I reduce that?
- What is most important to me right now?
- What do I feel guilty/sad/upset/angry/disappointed about right now?
- If I could change one thing about my present life, what would it be?
- I need to tell the truth about/be honest with…
- What do I feel I am currently lacking in my life? What do I need more of?
- Where do I currently have too much excess in my life? What do I need less of right now?
- Who or what do I need to let go of or at least distance myself from?
- Where or with who do I need stronger personal boundaries?
- What is the one thing that causes me to self sabotage?
- What was my biggest lesson I learned today/this week/this month?
- I feel most at peace/relaxed when…
- I feel most loved when…
- 10 things list: 10 people I’d like to meet, 10 foods I’d like to try, 10 activities I’d like to try…
- If I knew I couldn’t fail I would do this…
- If I was granted three wishes this is what I’d ask for…
- If my life was a story and I was writing the final chapter what would this chapter say?
My Personal Journaling Experience
Lastly, I wanted to share a little bit about my personal journaling experience. I know this turned out to me a much longer post that I had initially set out for, but there was so much to cover, so thank you for reading this far.
After journaling for the last 2 years, I can tell you that journaling wasn’t a magical fix for my problems, or relieved all my stress and anxiety. However, I felt like it did improvement in my happiness and sense of well being, and taught me how to better manage life on a day-to-day basis.
I felt more in control of my own emotions, such as worries, fears, wants, desires, and more. And I felt like I was more in tune with my inner self – a part of me that I didn’t even know existed. I felt more powerful and self-aware, more conscious of my own anxieties and worries, but with a better understanding of myself.
Plus, I felt a sense of confidence from knowing myself better and being more accepting of myself, especially of those dark places that I had previously hid away in the depths of my mind.
Some days journaling will be a chore. It has many similarities as working out, not always fun, but the pay off of a regular journaling habit has benefits that reach into all aspects of your life. It will reveal you to yourself in a way that nothing else or no one else can.
Some days you will write nothing interesting at all, and other days you’ll discover revelations that change your perspective. I’ve found great value in staring a journaling practice and hope you can reap the benefits of it as well!
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