This is one of the most powerful, yet simple (and cheap!) rituals you can conquer — journaling.
Writing down your thoughts and emotions is a magical practice that brings many science-based benefits to your health and wellbeing, from reducing stress, anxiety, and depression to boosting your creativity.
But how do I get started? So many of us hesitate in starting a journal because we're unsure how we are supposed to start journaling and what to write about.
In this comprehensive article, you'll find a 10-step guide for journaling beginners, as well as writing prompts that will help you to start keeping a journal... Today!
How To Start Writing a Journal
1. Start Where You Are Right Now
The journey of understanding how to write in a journal begins with an honest assessment of where in life you are now.
After all, how do you know where you want to go if you don't know where you are? The more you understand about your starting position, the more you'll be clear about your future goals.
The most efficient way is by looking at the different areas of your life and do a quick assessment. A great exercise for that is the “Circle of Life”, which you can find in the My Life Journal (see photo above).
Nevertheless, you can also recreate this exercise in your own journal. All you need to do is to draw a wheel-shaped graph divided into ten sections, one for each major area of your life. Each section has a progress bar to fill in from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) based on how satisfied you are in that area of life.
The point here is to go with your gut feeling! In this case, overthinking won't be useful to find solutions that come from a genuine place.
2. Set Clear Goals
Now that you know what your current condition is, it's time to define clear goals.
Choose one or two main areas of life to focus over a period of time and for each area set a goal to be accomplished. If you aim for last longing changes, then I'd recommend a period of 13 weeks, which will give you the time and focus to plan, execute, and accomplish your goals.
When you are goal setting, remember to aim for something you really want to do, not something you think you should do. Eighty percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail because they’re setting goals that require an enormous amount of willpower.
Without focus, deadlines, and clearly defined goals, it’s easy to sideline your goals and make procrastination your excuse to not achieve what you set out to do.
3. Create Powerful Habits
Read your new goals out loud and let it soak in. Take a deep breath.
Are you ready?
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Bullseye. It’s time to lay down a plan that will move you closer to your life vision. Now ask yourself, “What can I do today and every day to move towards my goals?”
The answers lie in your daily habits. They shape your life, so we better choose them wisely. These are also the behaviors that will help you accomplish your goals and allow you to step into your highest self. Your potential genius is about the rituals, habits, and routines you set for yourself.
For each goal, create a specific habit to make it a reality.
For example, if your S.M.A.R.T. goal is "By 31st of September 2019, I will read 10 books about leadership so that I am able to learn new mindsets and tools to effectively lead my team," then a good habit to conquer is to block 30 minutes a day for reading time.
4. Choose Your Type Of Journal
Now, get your journal ready!
As you see, journaling is not so much about journaling itself. Instead, journaling is a tool to help you become your best self, and that may mean different things to you.
Spark creativity, organize the day, increase productivity, and heal anxiety and stress are just a few common examples of why people journal.
There are many types of journals that you can choose from. Choose the one that makes the most sense to you right now.
4. Make Time For Journaling
I often hear people say "Oh, I don't have time to write in a journal!"
Here's the trick — it's not about finding the time to journal, it's about making the time to journal. Making time for something is about prioritizing and saying "YES" to something and "NO" to something else.
You can do anything, but not everything.
First, block it in your calendar and blend it through your day, which will also help you to stick with the habit of journaling. Writing in the morning is amazing to organize your day, review your goals, and set yourself into a positive mindset, while journaling in the evening is great for reflection.
Then, time yourself. If you're just starting to write in a journal, set your alarm for 5-15 minutes or whatever time is needed. This will give you the focus you need.
5. Pick Up An Inspiring Place
Journaling is not supposed to be a tedious chore to check off your daily to-do list, but rather an intimate moment you look forward to. Make sure you enjoy the process!
For example, I created a weekly ritual around long-form journaling (also referred to as morning pages and expressive writing) on a cafe next to the river around sunset time.
Do what works best for you. If journaling in your room under the smell of incense is your thing, then do it. Try out different ways. The point here is to create the perfect environment for this sacred moment to happen between you and your journal.
6. Date Every Entry
Dating every entry allows you to chronologically organize your journal by date. This will be useful for different reasons.
First, it will record your life and help you to stay on track when you go back through your journal. Then, you'll be able to see how you were feeling and doing at that point in your life. Lastly, it lets you hear the silence between your entries.
7. Start Writing
So now... What do I journal about?
This answer may not please you: it depends. There's no size fits all.
Go back to your goals (step #2) and journaling type (step #4) to understand what you should journal about,
If you want to start journaling and you don’t know where to begin, I’d recommend you to find a guided journal such as My Life Journal. As you open a guided journal, you’ll be instantly inspired with its creative writing prompts, exercises, and quotes to help you put pen to paper.
Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find 20 writing prompts to help you put pen to paper.
8. Review, Reflect and Learn
There’s something special about reflecting on what we’ve done in the past and
analyzing our progression.
First, you gain a deeper understanding of what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Second, it develops your self-efficacy — that is, the belief in your own abilities. The more you believe you have the ability to perform well, the more you do perform well.
Reflecting also allows you to take your weekly or daily goals and make sure you are doing the right things to achieve them. It is time to slow down and acknowledge how far you’ve come.
9. Build a Daily Journaling Ritual
Yes, we've talked about habits before in step #3. The thing is that this ONE habit of journaling will be the fertile soil in which you build other habits over.
This is why I prefer to call it a "ritual". Habits are what you do in autopilot, while rituals require your full presence and attention on that instance, such as it wakes up each inch of your body and soul.
An effective tip to stick with the ritual of journaling is to keep it in a place where you're likely to see it, for example on your bedside table.
10. Keep Your Journal Private
If you're pouring your heart and mind out in your journal, then you probably want to keep it private.
Store your journal somewhere where the chances of someone finding it are small. That can be in a hidden spot of your closet or underneath your bed mattress. Get creative!
Another tip is to write a disclaimer on the first page of your journal.
For me, the disclaimer on my yearly journals is "to be read only when I'm dead." You may find it morbid... But really, these journals are part of my legacy — it's where I document life, my learnings, dwell over this human experience, and express my gratitude for the little things in life.
What To Journal About
Journal Prompts For Self-Discovery
Below are 20 journaling prompts for self-discovery to help you kickstart this magical practice.
- What character traits are you happy to have?
- And what character traits would you’d like to improve and why?
- What things are you scared the most and why? Try them. ;)
- Write about what you plan to do be doing and what you will be like in five10 years from now.
- Describe how the perfect day looks like. Do you feel excited about your future?
- Make a list of everything you’d like to say no to.
- Make a list of everything you’d like to say yes to.
- Using 10 words, describe yourself.
- Are you happy with your job and career? Why yes or why no?
- What was your dream job when you were little? How has that evolved into what you do now?
- List 10 hobbies and activities that bring you joy. Are you taking enough time to pursue them?
- What is a small win that you’ve accomplished in the past 24 hours?
- If money was no problem, what would you be doing in your life?
- When did you last feel truly free?
- Are you addicted to social media? Be honest. How could you spend your time more effectively?
- What do you want to be remembered for? Is what you’re doing and being right now supporting that goal?
- Think about a talent you have. How can you use it to help other people?
- If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
- What am I making money for? What’s my motivation to earn or save more?
- Write about a moment in your life that makes you believe in yourself.
If you'd like to find more journaling prompts, download the document below with 100 journaling prompts for happiness!