Journaling has been one of the best tools I have learned in my nearly year long personal development journey. It’s for this reason that I want to show you how to start journaling for beginners so it can change your life as well.
Journaling daily isn’t difficult but it can take some practice, patience, and making it a habit. I recommend starting out with 15-30 minutes a day for 21 days, which is what many people say is the length of time it takes to form a habit.
Some days you may forget and that’s ok, but if you’re on your own personal development or self growth journey then try to write as much as you can.
If you’re just journaling for fun or for a bit more mental clarity, it’s less important to do it every day but it would still help you overall.
No matter what, journaling can be a gamechanger and I’m so glad you’re ready to dive in.
1. Understand Your Purpose for Journaling
There are many reasons people decide to start journaling (you can read my other post on benefits here) and it’s important for you to understand your own reason.
This will drive how frequently you write, what you should write about, what kind of notebook is best for you, and what your short and long term goals are. I will write about those in the following sections but here are some examples to start with.
For instance, if you’re journaling in the morning for fun then you may want a prompted journal to guide you and write for 15 minutes or so on most mornings. Your goal may just be to develop a morning self-care routine and writing is a part of that.
You may be journaling to follow a long term goal such as weight loss. You may only need a few minutes a few times a day to write out your workouts, meals, how your feeling, and your progress. A regular notebook would be a good idea for this purpose, though you could also choose a reusable notebook to upload your notes to your computer or you could use a bullet journal to make it more fun.
A third purpose could be for mental health or personal development. You want to find all your negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences and find ways to turn them around. In this instance you will want to write for at least 30 minutes daily. Again, a reusable notebook would work great and this is what I use.
There are many other reasons you may start a journal so think about your reasons so you can decide how long to write and how often, what you should write about, choose your journal, and get started.
2. Decide How Long You Will Write For and How Often
Once you know your purpose for journaling, you need to decide how long and how often to journal.
If this is just for fun you will need less time and can do it less often, though there is no limit and you can do it as frequently and as long as you’d like.
If you’re doing this for a specific mission like a weight loss journey, working towards a long term goal, etc, then figure out how often you need to record what you’re doing and how long it will take you to record. You can also have weekly recap sessions that take you longer to write.
For example, if you want a weekly weight loss recap you can spend a writing session journaling about what went well that week and what didn’t. You can then plan your week ahead to improve your goals.
Those working towards personal development and self growth, it’s important to write more frequently and for longer periods to really get the positive benefits.
3. Figure Out What to Write About
I’m going to keep this short and sweet since I’ve already touched on it a bit.
What do you want to write about? Do you want to follow prompts? Do you want to free write? Are you working towards goals you need to write about?
The choices are yours.
In my journey I free-write. I write about whatever I’m feeling that day or things that have been on my mind.
If you get stuck, you can use prompts to get your writing flow going but try not to always rely on them unless this is just a fun daily exercise for you.
Let your goals and purpose dictate what you write about. In section 5 I will talk more about really getting into your feelings which will be important no matter your purpose.
4. Choose Your Journal or Notebook
When you’re looking into getting a journal for yourself there are five main types that people use.
- A Bullet Journal – This seems to be a very popular choice and I’ve finally ordered one for myself to give it a try. You can decorate your pages and design them any way that you wish. This seems to be more of the “fun” option.
- A Reusable Journal – I use this because it saves paper and I can either erase my work or upload it to my computer. There are other pages for a schedule or other planning. Your possibilities are endless for this one too.
- Regular Notebooks – These are just your every day notebooks that come in various sizes. They are great if you don’t care as much for frills and are just looking to get your writing out.
- Journal Prompt Notebooks – If you’re not sure how to start or what to say in your daily writings, these journals have daily prompts that can guide you though.
- Your Laptop or Phone – OK, this isn’t quite a journal but some people do like to write using technology. I get it, it seems a bit faster and easier to type it all out. However, I will say that my brain doesn’t feel as connected when I type vs when I had write something. I think that tactile process of writing strengthens the connection, but for you it may work either way.
5. Get into Your Feelings and Reflect
You’re here for learning how to journal and the #1 best thing you can do when journaling is to really get into your feelings.
What are the emotions you are feeling? Mad, sad, anxious, happy, excited?
Start with statements such as “I feel ________ because ______________”. Do this for each feeling you have. You may have multiple statements per feeling. Find out the deeper causes of your emotions.
You can also just free write. Explain the situation or circumstance your going through and start pulling out the feelings and why they might be. This will help you to be able to reflect on what is really going on.
My favorite example to give is when I got upset because my husband asked what I wanted for dinner, I finally actually told him what I wanted (vs the typical “I don’t know”), but he didn’t want that so we got something else.
I got upset. On instinct I thought it was because I didn’t get the food choice I wanted. But I went to my journal and wrote out all my feelings.
What I found was that, I’m such a people pleaser I usually go along with what everyone else wants. When I do speak up, especially at work, people still don’t listen to me or seem to value what I say.
So I wasn’t upset I didn’t get my choice of food or my way, persey, but it brought up past feelings of not being good enough or taken seriously. That people ignore me.
I’ve since worked through these issues (and if I really want a certain dinner I now tell my husband we can just eat different things for dinner).
So you see, just because you think you understand your surface feelings doesn’t mean you know what’s truly going on under the surface.
This is where the power of journaling can come from. Write out all your feelings. It’s like an emotional release too. Especially once you see your thoughts on paper.
Even if you’re writing for fun or are working towards a goal, have a session or two a week where you really dive into what’s going on in your inner world.
It’s a powerful thing.
Once you’ve written your feelings out and reflected on the reasons behind them, you can start creating action plans for change. Work though areas of past pain or find ways to flip negatives into positives so you can change your mindset.
I hope this post has given you a good taste for how to journal and why you should start today. I’ve journaled for nearly a year, though I don’t do it daily anymore, and it’s been a tremendous help in my journey of self growth.
I do plan to get back into writing a minimum of 3 days a week but I know I got the most benefit when I wrote daily or close to daily.
Now it’s time for you to start. Enjoy!
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