How to Start Journaling (A Beginner’s Guide)

If you asked me the most important skill I could teach someone seeking to live a more intentional life, I would answer how to start journaling. Journaling is a life-changing habit that:

  • empowers you to live true to yourself
  • teaches you to make more intentional choices
  • grounds you when you feel overwhelmed or out of control

and so much more! Without a doubt, creating a journaling habit is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and it’s a powerful tool for simple and intentional living.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of journaling, how to begin keeping a journal, and my top journaling tips and resources!

"How To Start Journaling (A Beginner's Guide)" in a white box with an image of a woman wearing a pale pink sweater holding a white pen writing in a journal in the background.

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Why You Should Start Journaling (Benefits of Journaling)

First of all, let’s talk about the purpose of journaling—what’s it really all about? What are the benefits of journaling, and why should you care?

Well, for some people, it’s about colourful pens and washi tape. For others, it’s a way of recording your daily activities (“Dear Diary” style)—but ultimately, no matter how you decide to express yourself, journaling is about self-awareness.

You should start journaling because, as the saying goes, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. When we’re busy, we’re consumed by our daily tasks, and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important.

Journaling helps combat this short-sightedness by encouraging us to step back and consider the big picture.

Think of it like carrying out a research project; you’re observing your actions and your feelings so you can get to know yourself better. Ultimately, this self-awareness is the key to getting off the treadmill and living an intentional, meaningful life.

3 Ways To Use A Journal

There are thousands of different ways to use your journal (if not more!), but here are a few specific ideas that have made a big impact on my life.

TO DEFINE WHAT MATTERS

Before I started journaling, I didn’t have a strong sense of who I was or what I wanted out of life. Vaguely, I knew I wanted to be “successful”, which drove me to work harder and spend more, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what I was trying to achieve.

I’d never questioned what success meant to me, and it was this lack of clarity that got me into trouble. Because I couldn’t define success, I could never achieve it; Nothing I did was ever enough—it was like a race without a finish line.

Journaling helped me change this. I started writing regularly, reflecting on my feelings and asking questions about how I wanted my life to look and feel.

As I gained clarity about what matters most, I could better align my actions with my values and began making more intentional decisions with my time, money and energy.

TO UNRAVEL YOUR FEELINGS

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that I’m a highly emotional person, and if I’m not careful, I can let my feelings rule my life.

To be clear—I don’t think we should ignore our emotions. We should absolutely listen and learn from them, BUT this doesn’t mean we should react to every emotion.

This is where my journal comes into play— when I’m feeling a strong emotion, I use my journal as an outlet to explore my feelings and understand my emotions (instead of acting impulsively).

For example, through journaling, I’ve learned that if I’m feeling angry or frustrated, it’s often my body’s way of letting me know I’m in desperate need of self-care.

This is often hard for me to realise when I’m overwhelmed with emotion, but it becomes so much clearer when I write things down!

If you want to learn more about how to process your feelings in a healthy way, I HIGHLY recommend Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Dr Susan David. She talks a lot about why you should start journaling and how it helped her through a difficult time.

TO EXPLORE + EXPERIMENT

Finally, journaling is a wonderful way to explore and experiment with new ideas. For example, when I found out I was pregnant, I started thinking about what my working life would be like once my daughter was born.

Would I go back to my old job full-time? Or work part-time? Would I find a new job? Or could I work for myself?

Of course, the future is always unknown, but journaling can help us explore different scenarios.

I considered the best and worst possible outcomes, how I’d feel in each situation, and asked myself what I could or couldn’t live with.

I realised some risks I was willing to take and some sacrifices I wasn’t ready to compromise on. Journaling helped me understand my options so I could make an intentional and informed decision.

For those of you who are wondering, I decided to take the leap to self-employment. You can read more about how I made my career transition here.

A white square overlay with an image of a woman wearing a pale pink sweater holding a white pen writing in a journal in the background.,

How To Start Journaling

Hopefully, by now I’ve convinced you that journaling is a life-changing habit, and you’re ready to get started! If so, here are my top tips on how to begin journaling:

First and foremost, relax and let go of any ideas about doing it the “right” way— because when it comes to journaling, there’s no such thing! Your journal is a personal space for you to use however you see fit.

After that, the best way to start journaling is to just begin. That first blank page will always be the scariest, but once you’ve put ink to paper, there’s no going back.

I have one friend who actually recommends drawing a quick scribble on the first page to help break the ice! Or, if you’re not that brave, a “safer” option is to write the date at the top of the page.

Next, decide what you want to write about. A great way to begin is to write “morning pages”, a term coined by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (a great book for anyone who wants to connect with their inner artist) to describe stream of consciousness writing.

She calls it morning pages because she recommends writing three pages every morning, but if you’re just getting started, don’t worry about filling three pages. Just start writing whatever is on your mind (even if you write “blah, blah” or whatever). Don’t overthink it—just keep writing!

If you want more structure, here are some more ideas of what to write about.

What to Write in a Journal

If you don’t know what to write about, a great place to begin is by asking questions. My favourites include:

  • How do you feel right now?
  • Why do you feel that way?
  • How do you want to feel?
  • What can you do to feel that way?

Alternatively, imagine you were having a conversation with a close friend—what would you want to talk about? Try talking to your journal like you would someone you trust (because I promise that with time, it will start to feel that way!).

Tried + Tested: My Top Journal Prompts

If you’re still not sure what to write about, try using journal prompts. Here are a few lists to get you started (these are my top writing prompts that I turn to all the time!):

My Favourite Journaling Resources and Supplies

Another great way to start journaling is to use a guided journal. My personal favourites are:

A copy of "Today I Affirm: A Journal that Nurtures Self-Care" by Alexandra Elle
My favourite guided journal: Today I Affirm: A Journal that Nurtures Self-Care by Alexandra Elle

MY FAVOURITE JOURNALING SUPPLIES

If you want to invest in a nice journal, my personal favourites are by Moleskine —they are beautiful and timeless. You’re also spoiled for choice because there are so many different colours, sizes and designs.

As far as pens, I was given a Lamy Safari Rollerball pen for my birthday last year and it’s a dream to write with! Plus it’s refillable so if you’re trying to create less waste.

7 SIMPLE DAYS

Another fun way to get started with journaling is to take my short course, 7 Simple Days.

I created 7 Simple Days for anyone who feels like their life is cluttered, busy or out of alignment. It’s a short course with journal prompts and mini-challenges designed to help you find clarity, define your priorities, and take small, practical steps forward.

Participating in 7 Simple Days every day for a week would be a great way to kick-start a new journaling habit, plus it’s a powerful tool for increasing self-awareness and embracing intentional living.

Here are what just a few of the more than 2,500 like-minded souls that have participated in 7 Simple Days have to say about the experience:

I absolutely loved this! I do really well with interactive journal prompts and challenges. Personally, I would have never have thought of these questions to ask myself. So having them set up already is perfect for me! It was so clarifying and refreshing.” — Morgan

I always find journal prompts incredibly helpful and some of the prompts you listed (especially the one about getting back into alignment) really struck a chord with me as I had been thinking a lot about that lately.

I also think the course was incredibly professionally and beautifully written. It was light-hearted despite talking about serious stuff and was simple and easy to follow. It is so clear how passionate you are about this kind of thing and it is clear that you really care.” — Ash

More Journaling Tips

Try giving lists a try, they are an excellent way of journaling! If you don’t feel comfortable writing long, in-depth entries in your journal then find something that works for you. Again, there are no right or wrong ways to journal as long as you’re exploring your thoughts and feelings.

Make journaling a special ritual. Try and do it at the same time every day and treat it as a special event, not a chore! Light a candle, make a hot drink, burn incense—whatever makes the experience special for you.

Lastly, be honest with yourself. In order to get the full benefits of journaling, you must be willing to open up. Be vulnerable and remember that you’re writing for yourself and no one else (unless you want to share what you write).

How to Create a Journaling Habit + Begin Journaling Daily

Finally, one of the most important things to know about journaling is that you need to stick with it. The more you write, the easier it will become, and the more you’ll notice the benefits.

Here are a few tips on creating a journaling habit:

  • Try habit stacking, which simply means tacking your new habit (journaling) onto an existing habit. For example, do you make coffee every morning? If so, try keeping your journal next to the machine and taking a few minutes to write each morning while your coffee is brewing.
  • Start small—I know that when you first start journaling, it’s exciting and it’s easy to get carried away with elaborate plans … but what happens when you can’t keep up? Odds are you’ll give up. A better option is to start small—just write for a few minutes every day—and see how you go from there.
  • If you’re wondering how to start journaling daily, try carrying your journal with you! It’s great to have it on hand so that it’s ready when inspiration strikes or when you have a few minutes to kill.
  • Have fun! Journaling is about self-discovery and creativity. Let go of any thoughts of how you “should” be doing it and just enjoy yourself.

If you want to learn more about creating strong habits, I highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Are you a fan of journaling? If so, let us know your top tips on how to start journaling and your favourite resources in the comments! Alternatively, if you’re new to journaling, feel free to leave any questions down below. Thanks for reading!

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1 thought on “How to Start Journaling (A Beginner’s Guide)”

  1. Hi Jennifer
    I always wanted to start a journal but never knew how or where to start.
    Thank you for all your tips and resources. I will really make it a habit.

    Many thanks.

    Reply

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