how to start journaling

How to Start Journaling (& Make it a Habit)

10 June 2021 | by Gina Lucia

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been trying to start journaling for years.

As a kid, I used to religiously keep a diary. I’d write in it every day without fail. It wasn’t a chore, it was a necessity. 

After all, how else was a meant to make sense of all my incredibly pressing boy and school problems?!

But as soon as I passed my teenage years, journaling became a thing of the past. 

In fact, journaling became uncool.

So I never looked at it again, until lockdown happened.

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As an introvert, I’m used to being socially distant from others, but this was something else. 

This was a world-stopping, frightening experience, and as well as many others, I needed a way to cope.

So I bought myself a journal and for over a year now, I’ve been writing non-stop.

My experience of journaling for the past year has been simple, flexible and incredibly rewarding. 

No matter what you’ve experienced so far, journaling doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to follow set rules.

So in this article, I’m going to share the benefits I’ve experienced while journaling and give you some tips on how to start journaling today.

Because my method for journaling is incredibly simple – just how I like it.

benefits of journalling

How I’ve benefitted from journaling

Journaling has made a massive difference in my life. 

Personally, I’ve found it more effective than yoga, meditation and reading combined. 

Here’s why:

Journaling allows me to get out of my head, and onto paper

As an overthinking introvert, I live inside my head. 

This means that I’m constantly problem-solving, worrying, comparing, and planning non-stop. 

All of this thinking means that by the end of the day, I’m mentally exhausted and need those thoughts out of my mind.

Journaling is the perfect antidote to this. 

At the end of a busy thinking day, I can simply write down absolutely everything in my mind in my journal, and then when I close the book, my mind is clearer.

Journaling helps you work out which thoughts are rational, and which are irrational

You know as well as I do that when going about your daily tasks, you start to have thoughts that seem rational at the time, but might actually be irrational.

By journaling on these thoughts, you’re able to deconstruct them by having essentially a conversation with yourself on paper. 

You’ll be able to quickly work out if you’re seeing clearly or not because by writing it down, you separate yourself from the thought.

Journaling helps you naturally problem solve

While having these mini conversations with yourself through journaling, you’ll find yourself naturally problem-solving.

This happens to me on almost a daily basis.

Because you’re writing your problems down on paper, you can take a step back from them and see them with fresh eyes. 

You’re not letting your overthinking mind control the conversation. 

Instead, you’re giving yourself space to remain objective and naturally come to new conclusions with little effort. 

Pretty magical if you ask me.

Journaling allows you to decompress at the end of the day

No matter what kind of day you have, journaling makes for an incredibly useful tool to help you fully unwind, decompress, and detach yourself from the day you just had.

Journaling has been incredibly useful for me because I work from home and for myself. 

So going from ‘work mode’ to ‘relaxing mode’ can sometimes be a challenge, especially if I’ve had a stressful day.

Now all I need to do is sit down, let my thoughts flow onto the paper and once I’m done, I can relax.

how to start journaling

How to start journaling

The benefits speak for themselves, don’t they?

But you might be thinking, well that’s all well and good but how am I meant to get started? 

How do I start journaling and then make it a habit?

Let’s get into that right now.

Firstly, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Something to write on
  • Something to write with

This part is up to you. 

You know if you’re motivated by pretty journals, or if you don’t care and would rather write on scraps of paper.

You know if you’ll do better journaling on actual paper, or digitally.

Do whatever will keep you writing as a long-term thing. There’s no right or wrong answer here.

While we’re here, let me know in the comments if you prefer writing on paper, or digitally. 

Personally, I use the same journal every time, but I get a different colour each time it runs out. 

I prefer writing on paper and just use the pen I use all day long.

What to journal about

Okay, so now we have the tools, let’s get you started.

With your fresh journal in hand (paper, digital, or otherwise), all I want you to do is start writing down your thoughts at that very moment.

  • It doesn’t matter how irrational they are, it doesn’t matter if they make sense or not, it doesn’t matter if they’re boring, or interesting.
  • Nor does it matter if you talk about how your morning went, or what you’re going to do for the day.
  • It doesn’t matter if you talk about how frustrated you are, or how happy. 

All that matters is you’re getting thoughts out of your mind and onto paper. It’s that simple

It will appear irrational, repetitive, and sometimes worrying if a stranger were to read it but it will free your mind. 

Trust me.

A simple journaling structure

If however, you need a little more structure to get you started. Here’s what you can do:

  • Write in your journal first thing in the morning.
  • Write about how the previous day went if you need to.
  • Then write about what you’re going to do today and your thoughts/feelings on that.
  • Then once the day is done, write in your journal again.
  • Write how you think the day went, your thoughts, feelings, things that happened, and anything else you want to get out of your mind.

That’s it! 

Seriously, this is what I do every day with only one addition, and that’s to set an intention for the day.

In the morning after I’ve written all my thoughts, I’ll write down what I want to prioritise for the day. It could be anything from focus, to creativity, or patience. 

Doing this helps me get into the rhythm of the day and prepares my mind for what’s to come.

How to make journaling a habit

Okay so now we know the super simple basic journaling ‘technique’ I use and recommend for beginners. 

Now, let’s talk about making it a habit, because we both know, when you’re starting out, keeping up with something you know is good for you, isn’t easy.

To get into the rhythm of journaling, add a todo to your list. Or set an alarm on your phone or an event on your calendar. 

Because it’s not something you’re used to doing. You’ll need to find a way to remind yourself to do it.

I still add a todo to remind myself every day. If I don’t, sometimes I forget or get wrapped up in my day and I’m worse off for not doing it. 

Then, just do it. 

On days you don’t feel you need it, do it. 

On days when you’re upset or stressed and don’t want to do it, do it. 

Trust me, you’ll be grateful you did once you’re done.

It will take a while for it to become a habit and you may never get there. 

But the benefits of doing it, will outweigh the time you spend reminding yourself to get it done.

I personally write in my journal every morning and evening during the week and sometimes on the weekend if I feel I need it. 

Cut yourself some slack while you start journaling

Do what works for you. You don’t have to journal every day. You don’t have to journal more than once a day.

Don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t put pressure on yourself to do a good job.

Seriously, journaling doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. 

It can be simple, enjoyable and above all else, incredibly helpful, especially for your mental health.

So, get to journaling and tell me in the comments. Are you now going to start journaling? I’d love to know!