Ready to start journaling but are not sure how to start. And not just start but be successful in journaling. To ensure you are making it worth your time.
I have been right where you are at. I have been journaling off and on for 20+ years. The last five of which have been productive.
What made the difference?
That is exactly what I am going to share with you. As you are starting out, follow these steps and you will find your journaling productive. Now on to how to start journaling.
Types of Journaling
The first road block you must overcome before you can start journaling is to know why you want to journal about.
And this might not be quite as easy as you think it would be.
Why? Because there are so many different types of journals.
So many that I actually wrote and entire article on 19 of them! So instead of covering all those here again. I want you to head over there to determine which journal you want to start.
Once you decide what type of journal you want to do and why, you can move on to the next decision.
Journal Writing: Electronic or Paper
Do not underestimate the importance of this decision. This can be a big factor in your ability to stick with your journaling. More importantly it will impact the benefits you receive from journaling.
Depending on the type of journal you picked out, pen is better than an electronic journal.
When journaling about anything that has to do with feelings or brainstorming there are major advantages to using paper.
Benefits of Writing by Hand
So why should you use a paper journal for your emotional work? Recently scientists have begun studying the impacts of paper vs computer for writing.
They are studying everything from improved learning, to emotional processing and what parts of the brain are activated.
They have discovered that writing by hand requires you to process and re-frame more than taking notes with a computer. It also activates different parts of the brain and more parts of the brain.
Finally, research is showing that writing by hand allows us our brains to regulate emotions better than with a computer. That the action of writing about your traumatic life experiences will help you heal. Without doing anything else.
If you are starting to journal to process your emotions, or free write, you are better off with paper.
When Should You Use Digital Journaling?
If you have chosen a type of journaling that is more about tracking something. Such as a travel journal, a workout journal or a goal journal. These types of journals are very helpful to have in electronic format.
The electronic version makes it easier to track changes. It also allows you to have it with you everywhere. And if you want to turn your information into statistics it is already in an electronic format.
I have not tried any online journals, but the easiest way to find one is to turn to Google. Type what type of journal you are doing, then add the word ‘electronic’ or ‘app’. You will find many options to choose from.
Picking the Right Journal & Pen
Is there really a right or wrong journal? Yes! But only in the sense that it is wrong for you.
Do not underestimate the impact of not liking the notebook you are writing in. Trust me the ending your journal session up with a sore hand or arm makes it hard to enjoy writing. For me, this usually happens when I use a wire bound notebook. Every time I try and use one for my journaling I end up more focused on the wire than my feelings.
It was not till I found my perfect notebook that I was able to focus on the writing and not the notebook.
Along with that, every pen worked fine until I found that perfect one and it made all the difference in the world. I love the way my pen rolls across the page. I feel as if my writing is just gliding across the page.
Make sure you like your pen and journal. When you can flow and enjoy your writing it makes it easier to get in touch with your emotions.
My Personal Favorite Journal Supplies:
How to Journal Daily
To get the most out of journaling, it is helpful to do it every day. But as with every new habit you are trying, it can be difficult to stick to.
Once I got into my daily habit, the benefits from journaling started growing exponentially. The days started to build on each other, and the insights came through faster. So, it is worth it to build a daily practice.
Here is what has helped me start a daily journaling practice.
Location: Where You Journal
Where you journal can make all the difference in having a great journaling session.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Find a Safe Space
You need to ensure you will not feel like others are watching over your shoulder.
It is hard to be honest with yourself if you are scared that other people are reading what you are writing. (Although I will say as you emotionally heal you will care less about that. I will journal on a plane now without covering it!)
If you are interrupted too much, then it is hard to keep a good writing flow. This may mean you have to set aside time when everyone knows you need quiet. I get up early before my son, so I know I will have the time I need to have a good journal session.
It is hard to write if your chair is hard, the room is cold, and the sun is shining in your eyes.
You must make sure your focus is on your emotions and writing, not on how you physically feel. Set up a place where you can get everything just right and have it ready to go.
I sit in the same chair every morning. I have a lamp right next to me, plus a heating blanket and a fan for the right temperature control.
When to Journal
There are two ways to approach when you journal. The first is based on time of day. The other is based on when you need to deal with something in the moment.
Journaling at the same time every day will not only help you stay consistent but will allow you to stay on top of problems and solve them faster.
Ideally you will set a regular time each day that you journal.
Here are two common times:
Morning – morning is a great time to journal if you do it right away upon waking. While you sleep your subconscious helps you process your emotions and experiences. Journaling right away will help this information come out.
Evening – at night it is a great time to process everything that occurred during the day. It can be a brain dump, so that you can have a restful night’s sleep. You do not end up lying awake for hours trying to get you mind slowing down. You can also use it as a time to list out all the questions you have. Then your subconscious can help you work on those overnight.
Even better? Do both! I personally make my morning time my regular practice. But on particularly stressful day I add an evening session.
While journaling at a regular time is a great for consistency. Journaling does not have to be a regular practice for you to get benefits. You can use it to deal with issues and solve problems as they occur.
Here are some things that can trigger needing a journal session.
- Processing an emotion – during the day we have many things occur. Sometimes it is beneficial to stop what you are doing and journal about it right away. This can help you stop a possible experience from turning into a limiting belief. Or becoming a destructive block to the rest of your day. The sooner you deal with what happens to you and your feelings the better.
- Solve a problem – working through a problem on paper can be very beneficial. You can do pros and cons lists. You can run through different options and how they may play out. You can even “talk” to your Angel guides about what to do. This is one of my favorite ways to get in touch with guidance from the universe.
Create a Journaling Ritual
One of the best things you can do when implementing any new habit, is to create a process or ritual around it.
By doing the same thing every time that you journal, your mind begins to learn when it should journal. It triggers an action to begin.
Some things you can do to create a regular routine:
- Meditate beforehand – meditating allows your mind to relax and release the surface thoughts. Then when you open your journal, you can get right into allowing everything to flow.
- Make it a special self-care time. Create the environment to make you feel taken care of. You can do this by lighting a candle, pouring your favorite beverage or putting on some soft music.
My ritual is to wake up, grab a cup of coffee and do a ten-minute meditation. Then I get a coffee refill, turn on some soft music and start journaling. Since my body is used to doing this every day, it can practically start journaling on its own! It knows that as soon as the second coffee has been poured, we are ready to write.
We have finally made it to the how-to part! There are many techniques you can use to journal. These are four that I love to use.
If your mind is in overdrive, get them all on paper. This frees up your mind so it can function more efficiently. It is hard to keep your mind full and relax or get anything accomplished. This does not have to be a to do list, but anything that is in your mind. Sometimes I end up writing about all the thoughts I have about a movie I just watched. Or even a book I just finished.
I love to create a list of everything I am pondering in life. Especially right before bed. Then my subconscious and the universe can get to work on solving them for me. This does not have to be focused, just get your questions on paper.
This is where you write down everything that you are stressing about. This is a great one if you are a worrier, or have a lot going on. Just the act of getting everything on paper can help to release anxiety. I often find there is a pattern to the stress, that allows me to fix one or two things, to release most of my stress. Sometimes writing them all out you will instantly know which one that you need to work on.
This is one of my favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing. Using prompts can force you to look at things you might never have. These are also great when you are simply stuck on what to write. Maybe you do not have a pressing issue, or too many to count. A journal prompt is a great way to start the writing!
Need some journal prompts? I have a couple articles with prompts in them to get you started. Start with the big one: Journal prompts for self discovery.
For more journaling techniques, especially for when you are stuck, check out this article: Journaling Techniques
Here are a few final tips to help you get started with journaling.
- There is no right or wrong in this process. You need to do what works for you.
- Allow yourself time to learn. Effective journaling does not happen instantly. It took me a good 15 years, to get to a point where I could say I have mastered journaling.
- There are no rules in journaling. You can follow detailed plans, but that defeats the idea behind journaling. It is to explore your mind, heart and soul. Do it your way.
- Do not worry about perfection. Just write. Do not look at spelling, grammar or anything else!
Like any skill, it takes time to learn. So, do not judge yourself, and keep practicing!
Ready to use journaling for emotional healing? Check out this article that helps you journal for your emotions!
*Article updated Feb 2022