If there’s one habit I have adopted that has had the single biggest impact on my mindset and my happiness, it’s journaling.
I decided to start journaling because I was dealing with anxiety. I’ve always struggled on and off with anxiety, and it felt like I had tried just about everything to cope with it.
In the past few years, it had gotten to the point where I had to do something.
Finally, I decided to give journaling a shot.
Not only did journaling help with my anxiety, but it actually benefited so many other areas of my life as well, including goal setting, my business, and my relationship.
In this post, I’m sharing the benefits of journaling and how you can get started with journaling!
How to Start Journaling: 17 Journaling Tips for Beginners
Why You Should Start Journaling
Journaling can help you deal with your emotions
When I started journaling, it was to help me deal with my emotions. I was struggling with anxiety and needed something that would help.
Journaling has been the most effective way I have found to help manage my anxiety.
It has short term benefits. I immediately feel better after writing in my journal.
But doing it regularly has long term benefits as well. By really being consistent with your journaling practice, you can change the thoughts that are contributing to your anxiety.
Journaling can help you identify limiting beliefs
We all have limiting beliefs that are holding us back. The problem is, we often aren’t even aware of them.
Stream of consciousness journaling, which I’ll talk more about later, is a great way to identify thoughts and beliefs that aren’t serving you, and then work on changing them.
Journaling can help you achieve your goals
I started journaling in the first place to manage my mind and my emotions, but it has also been super helpful for reaching my goals!
Sometimes we set a goal, and then never revisit it. Maybe it’s because we don’t know where to start, or maybe because we don’t believe we’re even capable of reaching it.
Journaling can actually help you reach those goals! You can journal about what you need to do to reach your goal, and what it will look and feel like once you’ve reached it.
Journaling can help you communicate
I’ve never been a great verbal communicator. I’ve certainly improved since I’ve matured, but it’s definitely a work in progress for me.
Growing up, I found a strategy to help me with this, and decades later I’m still using the same strategy.
When I have something that I’m struggling to say to someone, regardless of what it is, I write it down instead of saying it to them.
This helps me to organize my thoughts. Later I might use what I’ve written to have the conversation with them, but sometimes just writing it down is enough.
This has helped me so much with improving my communication skills because it has made me a more thoughtful communicator and has helped me to learn how to put my thoughts into words.
What to Write in a Journal
Do stream of consciousness journaling
Stream of consciousness journaling, also known as a “thought download” is where you just write whatever you’re thinking.
Sometimes I’ll just write whatever I was already thinking about. Other times I’ll intentionally choose one area of my life and write out all of my thoughts about that.
This type of journaling can feel a little strange at first. If you have to start by writing, “I don’t know what to write”, that’s totally fine too!
I really like this type of journaling when I’m feeling anxious. Sometimes I’ll write out my anxious thoughts and then have a dialogue with myself about them.
For example, I might write out an anxious thought I’m having, and then write out all of the reasons I know that anxious thought to be wrong or untrue.
This type of journaling is great for helping you to uncover limiting beliefs or thoughts you didn’t realize you were having.
Make a gratitude list
You may or may not have heard of a gratitude journal before. It’s basically just writing down things you are grateful for.
And while it might not seem like much, keeping a gratitude journal can actually be super powerful.
It took me a while to get on board with this type of writing. I just didn’t think it would do anything!
It’s kind of amazing how much it changes your outlook though! When I start my day by writing a gratitude list, I’m going into my day in such a good mood because I’ve just spent time reflecting on the things that make me happy and that make my life better.
It also helps to put things in perspective. So if you’re having a bad day or are frustrated about things going on in your life, reminding yourself about the good things in your life can help shift your mindset.
Write out affirmations
So I get that the idea of affirmations can seem a little woo-woo to people. For years anytime I would see mention of affirmations in a personal development book, I would just skip over it.
Turns out, I didn’t have a realistic idea of what affirmations actually were. Now I use them in my journaling practice consistently.
Affirmations are positive reminders for yourself to help encourage yourself and improve your mindset.
The key with affirmations is that you have to use affirmations that you actually believe! You’re reaffirming something you already know and believe, but that maybe you just need to be reminded of.
I like to use affirmations around money and to remind myself that I am capable of reaching my goals.
Reflect on your day
This is a more diary-style of journaling, and probably what most people immediately picture when they think of journaling.
This type of journaling can be great if you’re looking to document your life, or for a keepsake to have down the road.
I don’t really do this type of journaling. Journaling for me is more of a tool to manage my mind and my mood, and I don’t find this type of journaling to help with that.
But if this is what you like to write about, then go for it!
Use journal prompts
If you find yourself sitting down to write in your journal and you just can’t think of what to write, you can use journal prompts.
There are tons of journal prompts available online, and you can tailor them based on what you want to achieve with your journaling.
How to Create a Journaling Habit
Even after I discovered how effective journaling was for helping me to manage my mind, I still struggled to stick with it.
At first, I thought of journaling only as a tool to help me when I was feeling anxious or upset. Except when I actually was feeling anxious, I wouldn’t think to do it.
Then I decided that journaling would be most effective if I did it every day. This is when I really started to see the benefits!
Here are a few tips to help you make journaling into a habit:
Do it at the same time every day
Probably the most effective way for me to really stick with my journaling habit was to start doing it at the same time every day.
Before, I would just tell myself I would get to it when I had time. But then it never really became a habit!
So instead I started journaling right away when I sat down at my desk in the morning. Suddenly it was so much easier to stick to!
Eventually, I didn’t really have to think about it anymore. I would just sit down at my desk and automatically grab my journal.
Use the one minute rule
Have you ever heard of the one minute rule? I first heard about it on Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, and it was such a light bulb moment for me!
The one minute rule says that if a task is going to take less than one minute, you do it immediately.
But I also like to use this rule to form new habits.
For example, I always wanted to try meditating, but just felt like I didn’t have time. So instead, I committed to doing it for just one minute.
It was easy to commit to doing something for just one minute. It helped me form a habit, and then I wanted to meditate for longer and longer.
You can try this with journaling too – commit to journaling for just one minute. You can even set a timer for 60 seconds so you know when you can stop.
But I bet that once you get started, you’ll want to go for longer than just one minute!
Try habit stacking
I’ve read so, so much about creating new habits and one of my favorite strategies that I’ve learned is habit stacking.
Habit stacking is when you take the new habit that you want to form – in this case, journaling – and stack it on top of an existing habit.
For example, let’s say you wake up and turn on the coffee maker first thing every morning. What if you stacked your journaling habit on top of that?
So you would wake up, make your cup of coffee, and then write in your journal while you enjoy your cup of coffee.
Set an alarm to remind yourself
If you’ve tried the tips above and you’re still struggling to stay consistent with your journaling, set an alarm for yourself.
When I was struggling to stick with journaling, I found that the biggest problem is that I would honestly just forget!
Setting an alarm can give you the little reminder that you need to pull out your journal.
Journaling Tips for Beginners
Use a pen and paper
I always do my journaling in an actual notebook or journal with pen and paper.
I know many people like to use a word document or program, or one of the many journaling apps that are out there. I’ve just never gotten on board with those.
First of all, I just really love doing things with pen and paper. I use a paper planner, a paper journal, and I take notes by hand. It’s just how I like to do things.
However, it’s also a lot easier to focus when you’re using a pen and paper.
First of all, you can block out everything happening on your phone or your computer. But you’ll also be able to just write without going back and editing every spelling and grammatical error, as you might if you were typing.
When I journal with my computer tabs open or my phone next to me, it’s really hard to focus.
I find myself picking up my phone at every notification, and checking every new email.
It’s really hard to work through your emotions and stick with your train of thought if you’re constantly being distracted.
When I’m journaling, I make sure to eliminate as many distractions as possible from my environment.
Be honest with yourself
When I first started journaling, I was surprised by how hard it sometimes was to be honest with myself! I found myself writing as if someone else was going to read it.
But when I wasn’t 100% honest with myself, I didn’t get the benefits of journaling. It didn’t help with my anxiety or my mindset, because I wasn’t being honest about what I was really thinking or what the real issue was.
Your journal is just for you. And in order to really see the benefits, be 100% yourself!
There are no rules
I’ve offered a lot of journaling tips in this blog post – and they’re all 100% optional.
The truth is, there are no rules when it comes to journaling. You get to decide what you want to get out of it, and you get to decide what journaling looks like for you.
Journaling for you might be completely different than it is for me, and that’s okay!
The only thing that’s really important is that whatever you choose really feels good for you.
I have found journaling to be so beneficial for me. I really only started journaling to help with my anxiety, but it helped so much more than that!
Whether you’re trying to overcome anxiety, improve your mindset, or just have a cathartic way to get your thoughts on paper, journaling can be amazing.
If you’re new to journaling, I hope these beginner tips will help you to start journaling and stick with it!