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Journaling is all the rage. There are stores dedicated to perfect journals and journaling supplies, websites designed to help you organize your thoughts into a neat journal, and thousands of resources and guides available to help you journal right.
What is Journaling?
Journaling is the act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and ideas into a notebook. A journal can be similar to a diary, where you write everything about your life or be very specific. For example, I have both a money journal and a blogging journal, and I only write down things specific to those topics in each journal.
However, you don’t have to be that strict with your process. Journaling is fundamentally a process of letting things flow from you to the paper, and you should complete this process in whatever way works best for you.
What is the Point of Journaling?
Journaling is for you. It helps you organize your thoughts, work through your feelings, and even just remember important things in your life.
How Do You Start Journaling?
It’s easy to start journaling. Grab a pen and some paper and start writing stuff down! When you get more comfortable with the process, start using notebooks to group your thoughts. Be careful, though; once you get really into it, you will be getting specialty journals for every occasion!
There’s nothing really wrong with that – I have about 6 different journals within arms reach as we speak, each with a specific purpose. You may not want to get that intense with it, but once you get started, you will see how refreshing it is, and you will want to journal about everything.
7 Reasons to Journal
There are so many great reasons to start journaling. Some folks keep a food diary of what they’ve eaten to track allergic reactions or food sensitivities. Others keep gratitude journals, so they remember to be thankful for the little things in their lives.
Here are some of my favorite reasons for keeping a journal, but you may have other reasons for doing so, and that’s okay. Like I said above, journaling is a personal journey, so you should do what works best for you.
Setting Intentions and Affirmations
One great reason to journal is to set your daily intentions and write down positive affirmations. Start your day with five minutes of journaling to write down an affirmation for yourself.
Intentions are declarations to do something, while affirmations are true statements. Both are important, and writing them out during your morning routine can help your subconscious absorb both. Your intention might be something like “I will choose happiness today,” while your affirmation might be, “I’m a strong, capable person.” Reminding yourself of your intentions and affirmations every morning will help you remain mindful of them throughout the day.
Journaling is a key aspect of self-care. Diving into your thoughts and letting them flow out onto paper can help you work through things. Journaling may even realize that you’ve been holding onto things that you don’t need to hold onto. Releasing those intrusive thoughts from your brain can help you deal with them on your own time and may even give you a better outlook for the rest of your day.
Organize Your Thoughts
One of my main reasons for journaling is to organize my thoughts. I have so much stuff floating around in my head that it’s impossible to keep track of everything. I use a journal to brain dump – transfer everything in my head into the journal to decide what to focus on now and what can wait for later.
Another way to organize your thoughts with a journal is to jot down to-do lists, things you need, and your top goals for a day or week. This will help you stay on track for completing everything that you set out to achieve.
Another great reason to start journaling is to develop ideas for your creative pursuits. Are you an artist? A writer? A crafter? Journaling can help you decide what to focus on when it comes to your hobby of choice. You can brainstorm ideas, figure out what will work, and flesh out the ideas floating around in your mind.
Journaling can give you ideas on what to write about, what to paint, what to create. You can even create a specialized art journal for doodling and sketching that can help you map out drawing ideas and plan your masterpiece. A journal can help you plan out ideas for any creative pursuit.
Work Out Your Feelings
We may not always understand why we feel a certain way or that we even feel that way. Thoughts and feelings are complex. We may feel angry, frustrated, jealous, insecure, or have a myriad of other emotions flowing throw us at any given time. This can make it difficult to identify how we are truly feeling and why.
Journaling can help. When you start expressing your feelings on paper, you will be shocked at how naturally it starts flowing. Start writing your emotions and brainstorming why you think you feel the way you do. At the very least, getting it all out can be cathartic, and you might be surprised to discover how you truly feel about certain things.
Writing about difficult or traumatic experiences can help us be more expressive about how we truly feel about them. Don’t shy away from negative thoughts and negative emotions while journaling. It’s important to reflect on all of our feelings, regardless of how painful. This can help us heal and maybe even help us forgive ourselves and move forward from difficult situations.
Remember Important Things
Journaling is kind of like scrapbooking. It can help you remember the most important things in your life – events that matter, people that are important, ideas that you want to come back to later.
We often think that we will remember important things, but brains aren’t always reliable. As much as we want them to be, they are fallible, and we often forget the important things we told ourselves that we’d never forget. A journal can help with that. If it’s important, write it down. Not only will you be able to refer to it later, but the act of writing it down helps us commit it to memory. Little reminders I’ve set for myself in the margins of my journal have truly been a lifesaver!
Benefits of Journaling
A final great reason to start keeping a journal is all the benefits you get from it. Journaling can help you reduce stress, help you with personal growth, and even help you improve your writing skills. Bettering yourself through the simple act of journaling is reason enough to keep a journal.
10 Journaling Tips to Help You Get Started
Many people want to start a journal but are worried that they don’t know how or that they don’t have the time. Here are some tips for how to start journaling.
Stop Overthinking It
The first tip is to stop worrying about it. Just do it. Journaling doesn’t have to be a big process. You don’t have to overthink it. Grab a pen and paper and start writing. It doesn’t matter if what you write is grammatically correct or has any real meaning to it. The important thing is that you started…which brings us to the next tip.
Don’t fill your head with expectations that you will fill a three-hundred-page notebook in a journaling session or two. You don’t even need to fill a page.
It might be difficult to know what to write when you are first starting. You might feel like you have writer’s block and can’t get anything out. Don’t worry about how much you write. A journal entry can be as little as one sentence or a few phrases. All that matters is that you get something – anything out.
Let it Flow Through You
You might be surprised at how much actually comes out when you start writing. Let it flow. Don’t stop and think what you are writing is stupid or irrelevant. Write out whatever pops into your mind.
This practice is actually called “freewriting.” It’s like a brainstorming session, but rather than writing in phrases and disjointed lists, you record complete sentences in freewriting. However, you don’t need to worry about grammar or police your thoughts. The point is to keep the pen moving on paper. Keep writing sentences, regardless of how silly you might think they are. You’re writing from a stream of consciousness, letting the words flow out of you and onto the paper. You might be surprised as to what you come up with using this method!
Give Yourself Time
Journaling is not something you can do in a spare minute or two, especially if you are new to it. Give yourself time to commit to it. Schedule 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted time dedicated to journaling. Go to a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. But your phone down unless you are using a journaling app. Give yourself dedicated time and space for journaling. You might be surprised what you can come up with when you give yourself the time to do so.
Sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration at home. Go for a walk, stroll through a garden, sit in the sunlight. Find inspiration in nature.
There’s a small park near my house with a small river running through it. I love to walk there and watch the water flow by. I focus on the sounds of the birds and the rapids, and a lot of my stress melts away. It helps me find focus and inspiration.
Others may not be so lucky to have a nice park with a river in it, but you probably have something. Sit on the grass and watch the way the sun hits the blades. Visit a local garden. Lay down and stare up at the clouds. Permit yourself to be present in nature and find inspiration in it.
Bring it With You
One important thing to remember when going outside to look for inspiration is that you never know when it’s going to strike or when you’re going to lose it. So bring your journal with you!
And I don’t just mean when you’re intentionally seeking inspiration. Absolutely bring your journal with you on walks and strolls through the garden. But bring it everywhere else you go as well. You never know when your brain will come up with that perfect thought or idea, and you always want to be ready to record it.
Use the Tools that Work for You
You don’t need any specific tools for journaling (though there are some that I swear by!). You don’t need a fancy hardback journal and a calligraphy pen. Start with a fifty-cent notebook and a cheap ballpoint or a pencil.
Get creative with it. I have a set of colorful pens that I use to journal because I like to go back and see different thoughts written out with an array of colors. This helps me go through my old journals and pick out important pieces without reading walls of text. You may prefer to stick to one color or prefer to use a pencil or even crayon. Who cares? There is no set way to journal, and there are no set tools for it. Use what makes you happy.
It Doesn’t Always Have to Be Writing
Not everyone thinks the same way. Some of us think in words, but others think in images, graphs, collages, or concepts. There are probably a plethora of other ways that people think that I haven’t even considered.
If your brain doesn’t think in words, then you don’t have to journal in words. Journal in sketches, graphs, diagrams, math, or whatever symbols or icons work for you. Use words when you want and use images when you want. Your journal is for you. No one else needs to understand it.
If you are really stuck with writer’s block and have no idea what to journal about, you can always use a prompt. Journaling prompts are designed to get your brain thinking. They help you start your journaling process and give you sometimes insightful, sometimes silly, sometimes thoughtful prompts to get your creative juices flowing. I’ve created a variety of different journaling prompts to help you get started -head over to my Etsy shop to check them out!
Everyone needs a hand sometimes, and journaling prompts are designed to help you on your creative journey. Don’t be afraid to seek out help to get started!
Don’t Worry About Perfection
Perfection is the enemy of progress. Sometimes we get stuck because we are worried that we won’t do something correctly or won’t like what we’ve done. Stop worry about that. Your journal is just for you. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Your first journal entries can be complete nonsense! It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you start. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly because nobody will be good at anything that takes effort when they are just starting. What matters is that you try, not that you get it right.
Try Different Techniques
There are a lot of different techniques and processes for journaling. We’ve discussed some (freewriting, using prompts) and different styles of journaling (food journals, gratitude journals). The thing is, journaling is not a one size fits all process. Different techniques work for different people.
To find out what works best for you, try them all out! Or try a few that speak to you. You may be surprised to find that you actually like a few different techniques, and that’s okay. If a certain method is speaking to you on a certain day, use it. Then switch the next day.
Journaling is all about self-discovery, and using different techniques will help you achieve that.
A lot of people have ditched pen and paper for online journals, and that’s fine too. Some might simply use a word processing app, like Microsoft Word, while others might want to use a journaling app.
Diarium is a digital journal app that is available on the Windows app store. It allows you to dictate your journal entries, so you don’t have to worry about typing or writing anything down. The free version offers all the basic functionality that you will need, but you will need to use the premium version if you want to export your journal entries.
Livescribe offers the best of online and paper journals. Livescribe created specialized journaling pens and paper that will transfer your writing into digital form so that you can store and organize it via computer. This allows you to journal in the traditional way with pen and paper but store and edit your thoughts digitally.
Types of Journals
Some people keep separate journals for separate purposes. There are various kinds of journals available, from gratitude journals to travel journals, food journals, and journals used to set goals.
Journals can be as specific or as general as you want them to be. You can use a separate journal for all of these things or have one giant journal that you use for everything.
The Best Journals
There are so many amazing journaling products out there. I’ve written an entire post about my favorite journals and planners already! But the best journal is really what works for you. I like Soothi because I love the feel of a leather-bound journal. But you might want something easier to carry and smaller. Or you might be in love with Moleskine journals.
It doesn’t matter. The best journal for you is the one that speaks to you, that makes you want to write in it.
Start Journaling Now
Keeping a journal is easily one of the best ways to organize your thoughts, express yourself, and reflect on your inner thoughts and feelings. What are you waiting for? Grab a notebook and a pen, and get started!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.