Journaling is an incredible tool that anyone can use to change their life. Here are 11 powerful journaling tips that will help you get started.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably tried to start journaling, but perhaps you’re struggling to follow through or create a regular habit. I know it can be hard when you’re staring at a blank page, feeling stuck and wondering what on earth to write about.
As an avid journal-keeper, I’ve been there too. But I’ve also picked up a few tips that have transformed my writing and, ultimately, my life. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, so I invite you to keep trying—and hopefully, these tips will help you along the way.
First, let’s get clear on why journaling is so powerful. When you have a compelling reason to follow through with your writing, it will motivate you to keep going.
Why Journaling is a Life-Changing Habit
The modern world is loud and messy. There are so many things competing for our attention and voices telling us what we should think and who we should be. We all want to experience joy and live true to ourselves, but sometimes we feel lost.
The problem is that important thoughts such as our feelings, values and dreams are getting drowned out. We lose touch with who we are and what we really want from life.
This is where journaling can help. When you put pen to paper, it creates perspective and it clears the noise from your mind. You identify feelings, patterns, habits, dreams—things that have always existed deep within you, but were hard to see beneath the clutter of daily life.
But now that you’ve seen them, you can’t un-see them, which is why journaling is life-changing. It creates self-awareness, which in turn leads to new ideas, new opportunities, and new ways of being.
It has empowered me to live true to myself in so many ways, and I hope these journaling tips help you do the same.
11 Journaling Tips for Beginners
1. Keep a list of go-to prompts
Journal prompts are simple statements and questions designed to inspire your writing. They can be very helpful if you’re just starting because they give you a place to begin. Prompts can vary depending on whether you are journaling for a specific purpose—for example, if you’re journaling for self-care, you might start by asking, “What do I need most right now?”
The more you journal, the more you’ll discover what prompts work for you and what situations. I recommend keeping a list of your favourites, so you know exactly where to turn when you need a bit of guidance.
Be sure to keep reading to the end to get access to all of my favourite journal prompts!
2. Talk to someone
Many people struggle with journaling because it feels like you’re talking to yourself, so here’s a simple tip that often helps: write as though you’re talking to someone else.
You can write to:
- Your future self
- Your younger self
- To someone who is no longer with us
- To someone who has hurt your feelings
- To someone you admire
- To someone who needs your help
That last one might sound strange, but it’s actually one of my favourites. Often, we find ourselves stuck in a situation, and we don’t know what to do. But if someone in a similar position asked for advice? We’d have a lot to say.
Personally, I’ve found that this is about self-trust. In the short term, feeling overwhelmed or confused is easier than acknowledging we have answers. We’re just afraid to act out of fear of making mistakes.
This is just one example of the many self-truths I’ve learned from regular journaling.
3. Journal about what you want
When you journal, it shouldn’t feel like a school writing assignment. If you’re working from a list of journaling prompts, using a guided journal, or experimenting with a new journaling method, and something doesn’t feel right for you—then it’s OK to stop.
You don’t have to force yourself to follow through. Remember that the point of a prompt is to get your thoughts flowing freely, not necessarily to answer or address that specific question or statement.
If you start to veer off-topic, let yourself do so. Or if you feel like writing about your dream holiday or describing your favourite memory in detail instead—roll with it. If you’re more open and relaxed while writing, you’re more likely to discover personal insights.
4. Journal how you want
Not only should you write about what you want, but you should write how you want.
You can use a bullet journal, a ratty old notebook, beautiful pens, or your phone and one of many notetaking apps. I’ve always been a fan of pen and paper, but I recently started using Notion for some of my daily journaling and love it. So do what works for you, and remember, there are no rules.
5. Start with a scribble
If you’re a pen-and-paper person, then a traditional journal can be a fun way to indulge in your love of stationery—but it’s important not to get caught up with perfectionism.
A quick online search will show you 101 ways to create gorgeous, picture-perfect journals, and trust me. I know the appeal! (This Instagram account is all of my journaling dreams come to life.) But here’s the thing: too much inspiration can often lead to paralysis.
When I first started journaling, I’d buy a beautiful notebook and then it would sit empty for months because I was so overwhelmed by that first blank page.
If you can relate, here is a straightforward albeit scary tip: cover the first page with a big scribble! A friend of mine recommends doing this as a way to break the ice, but if you’re not so brave, other options are to write down your favourite quote or stick a picture on the first page.
6. Let others’ words inspire you
Speaking of quotes, I love using them as part of my journaling practice. When I’m feeling stuck or uninspired, I simply pick one that speaks to me. (Here are some favourite quotes about a life well lived.)
Then I explore my reaction to the quote in my journal. Some questions I ask include:
- How does this quote make me feel?
- How does this quote apply to my life?
- After reading this quote, I feel inspired to _____
7. Let go of expectations
Freewriting is a form of journaling where you write everything down without stopping, editing or even correcting grammar until your mind feels empty. This is a highly cathartic method that is useful when you feel overwhelmed. The trick to this—and any form of writing for self-discovery—is to let go of expectations.
You might find yourself opening up about thoughts you didn’t expect. Embrace the unexpected and let it show you the truth behind what you’re carrying at that moment.
Keep this in mind at the start of your journey as you may feel pressure to journal the “right way”. When it comes to journaling, there is no right way. It’s your space to explore how you see fit. Don’t overthink it—just keep writing!
8. Honesty is key
To get the full benefits of journaling, you have to be honest. Open up and be vulnerable—it’s one of the few genuinely private spaces you have (unless you choose to share your journal with someone). The more honest you are, the closer you’ll get to your truth.
9. Keep your journal close
A great beginner journaling tip is to keep a journal close to you throughout your day. Whenever you have a thought or feel strong emotions, write them down. This helps you get familiar with the act of writing things out and turning to your journal to explore things that happen in your life.
It can also help you change your habits in real-time. For example, I used to struggle a lot with letting little things bother me. My emotions would overwhelm me, and I felt unable to control them—until I started writing about them.
10. Make journaling a habit
One of the most important ways to make journaling work for you is to stick with it. This is usually the most difficult at the beginning as you’re still getting used to the format and finding what feels the best for you.
The more you write, the more it will become easier, but until then, it can help to integrate your journal practice with an existing habit. This is called habit stacking, which is basically piggybacking a new habit on an already established one.
For example, if you stand by the kettle while you make your coffee every morning, try using that time to journal. You don’t need to write pages and pages. You just have to show up every day and write something, even if it’s only a single sentence.
11. Enjoy the process
Journaling is about self-discovery and creativity. It’s also a time for you to get to know yourself and enjoy your own company. Be free! Write exactly what you think and enjoy this time for yourself. We seldom get enough of it.
Bonus Tip: My Favourite Journal Prompts
Here are a few of my favourite journaling prompts:
- Self Care Journal Prompts For When Times Are Tough
- 7 Mindful Journaling Prompts to Calm An Anxious Mind
- 21 Journaling Ideas + Prompts For Self-Discovery
- 7 Journal Prompts to Inspire Simplicity
What are your favourite journaling tips? If you have any prompts or ideas that you’d like to share, let us know in the comments!