a notebook propped up on a white woman's bent knees as she writes in it with a pen

The Magic of Journaling: How To Start and How To Keep It Up

You know that feeling of sinking into a warm, cozy bubble bath after a long day? That sense of utter relaxation and bliss as the warm water envelops you, melting away all your worries and stress?

Well, let me tell you, journaling is like that, but for your soul. It's a magical practice that, once you get into the groove of doing it regularly, feels incredibly good and deeply satisfying.

So, let's dive in together and discover how to start this soul-nourishing journey AND how to keep it going once you start.

What is journaling?

Alright, you probably already know what journaling is, but let's break it down anyway.

Journaling is the practice of writing down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. It’s like having a private heart-to-heart conversation with yourself. It's a private space where you can pour out your thoughts, dreams, fears, and everything in between. It’s personal, and it's customizable.

  • You can journal by typing on your laptop or by writing longhand in your favorite notebook.
  • You can write detailed diary entries or quickly jotted notes.
  • You can make useful lists or the most metaphorical poetry. 
  • You can write about the past, the present, or your hopes for the future.
  • You can write positive thoughts or work through your negative feelings.

It's not about fancy prose or being a literary genius. Whether you write in complete sentences or scribble down messy fragments, there are no rules here. It's your space to be real, raw, and unapologetically YOU. Journaling is a judgment-free zone where you can be your own best friend, confidante, and cheerleader. 

Journaling is truly a wide-open field of possibilities.

What are the benefits of journaling?

It would be hard to overstate the benefits of journaling. Physical benefits, emotional benefits, mental benefits. Yup, the whole set.

  • Increased self-awareness. Journaling lets you hold up a mirror to your own inner self. Through regular reflection you get to know yourself better, which can lead to greater satisfaction with your life.
  • Emotional healing. Writing about challenging experiences or traumas can be cathartic. Journaling allows you to express and validate your emotions, facilitating emotional healing and resilience. It's a powerful tool for working through pain, finding closure, and embracing growth.
  • Improved clarity and problem-solving. Have you ever had a whirlwind of thoughts and ideas in your head, making it hard to focus? Well, journaling helps untangle that mental web! When you put your thoughts on paper, you create clarity. You can brainstorm solutions, gain fresh perspectives, and even uncover hidden insights that lead to better decision-making.
  • Improved memory. Writing things down helps you remember important details and events more effectively.
  • Personal achievements. If you journal about your goals, you have a higher likelihood of achieving them.
  • Reduced depression and anxiety symptoms. In a study, researchers found that people with depression or anxiety who wrote online for 15 minutes three days a week over a 12-week period had increased feelings of well-being and fewer depressive symptoms after one month. Their mental well-being continued to improve during the 12 weeks of journaling. (Source)
  • Physical health benefits. Journaling has been shown to decrease physical health problems, strengthen your immune system, and can even speed up healing. (Source, source)
  • Increased positivity. Gratitude journaling helps you balance negative emotions and increases your sense of optimism (Source)
  • More resilience, less stress. Creative and mindful journaling can increase your resilience and decrease your stress. (Source)

How To Start Journaling and How To Make It A Habit

Starting is one thing, and I'm going to include lots of tips here for getting started. But making journaling a HABIT is where the magic lies. Keep trying different ways to approach journaling until you find the practice that fits YOU like a well worn silk glove.

Try out different ways to record your thoughts.

Do you want to type on your laptop? Do you want to write long-hand? Do you need a fancy pen or an artistic journal cover to inspire you? Maybe you’ll use a mix of both - writing with whatever’s handy when you need to get an important thought down.

There’s no better or worse way to journal. Writing by hand isn’t more pure. Writing on your laptop isn’t more professional. What matters is how YOU feel about your writing and about your journaling practice.

Maybe you’ll want to use color-coded pens. Maybe you’ll add stickers to your journal. Maybe you’ll forgo writing entirely and record yourself speaking. 

Set a routine, but be willing to change it up.

Our bodies and minds love to be able to go into autopilot and not have to make quite so many decisions every day. Choose a certain time each day to journal. Choose a location and the materials you love.

In the beginning, try out different times and locations to see what really makes sense for your life. Once you start finding what works best, lock it down with a commitment. Even if you deviate now and then as life gets in the way, having a regular routine to come back to will make your habit much more consistent over time.

And even though I’m encouraging you to stick to a routine, if it starts to feel wrong, chuck it. It’s YOUR practice, and you can change it up whenever you need to. Sometimes a new pattern can even boost your writing creativity.

Silence your censor.

Journaling is for you alone. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to write inside the lines or go back and fix your spelling.

You know what? You don’t even have to read what you’ve written ever again! The important part is to get the thoughts out of your head.

Practice being gentle on yourself as you write. No one wants to write with a judgy-mcjudgerson looking over their shoulder, so tell your inner critic to find something else to do!

Don’t push yourself.

There are no word goals or or gold stars for writing a whole novel. If journaling is a monumental task each time you sit down to write it’s less likely to become a strong habit.

Give yourself permission to write just a few words. Just one thought. After you get started, let it flow naturally. Write as long as you like but don’t push yourself towards an unrealistic goal.

Have Fun With Journaling

Yes, journaling can bring about healing and personal growth. Yes, it can help you smash your goals. Yes, it can be intense.

But it doesn’t have to be like that all the time! That sounds exhausting!

Even more than growth and goals, journaling should be about pleasure, relaxation, and delight. If it’s been getting too deep on your pages lately, keep reading for some quick ways to bring back the fun. 

Creative Journal Ideas to Make Journaling Fun

Sometimes you might find yourself dreading your journaling task, and that’s when you know you need to change things up. Here are some of my favorite ways to make journaling fun.

Use colorful pens and stickers. Adding color and decorations to your journal can make it more visually appealing and enjoyable to write in. Glue in magazine cutouts. Make borders and dividers with highlighter markers. Doodle in the margins. 

Fun stuff only! Cancel any boring or depressing writing for awhile. You can always come back to that later. For now, only write about enjoyable stuff. Record your favorite jokes. Map out a family tree from your favorite TV drama. Make a list of all the sugary breakfast cereals you can think of.

Make it social. Consider starting a journaling group with friends, where you can share your writing and provide each other with support and encouragement. Even if you never show each other what’s on your pages, it can be fun to hang out in a group.

Use different writing styles. Try writing in different styles, such as poetry or creative nonfiction, to make your journaling more interesting or challenging. Try writing in a different handwriting. Or another language, or with your left hand. Try writing in the voice or style of your favorite author or actor.

Journaling Prompts To Help You Get Started

Okay, it's time to get started. But wait! Don’t know what to put on the blank page? No worries. Here are some prompts to get you going.

  1. What are your personal goals right now? Professional? Brainstorm your goals and the steps you need to take to achieve them.
  2. What are you grateful for? Try writing down three things each day.
  3. Copy into your journal a few quotes that inspire you.
  4. Make a list of compliments to yourself.
  5. What did you do today? Try it this way: Pick one moment from today and write about it in as much detail as you can remember.
  6. What did you do today? Try it this way: Make a list of what happened today as quickly and as briefly as you can.
  7. Write a letter (that you won’t be sending!) to anyone from your life saying the things you REALLY want to say
  8. Start a list of tiny things that make you smile.
  9. Sit outside or look out a window and write about what you notice.
  10. Recall a wonderful memory from your childhood and write about the highlights.
  11. See if you can write out the lyrics to your favorite song from memory.
  12. Write your full name down the side of a page, one letter per line. Then write down something cool about yourself on each line, each item starting with a letter from your name.

Time To Start Journaling

So what do you think? Are you ready to get started journaling?

Journaling is a gateway to self-discovery, personal growth, and inner peace. It's not just about putting words on paper; it's about creating a profound connection with yourself. As you embark on this magical journey, remember that there are no right or wrong ways to journal. Find whatever formats and styles resonate with you. The key is to make journaling a consistent habit, a cherished ritual that you look forward to.

Embrace the blank pages as opportunities for self-expression, reflection, and transformation, but also, just have fun! Let the words flow freely and let your soul soar. 

Trust me, as you cultivate this beautiful practice, you'll witness the power of journaling unfold, bringing you a sense of fulfillment, clarity, and joy that comes from embracing your authentic self and taking special time for yourself. 

So, grab that pen, open your heart, and let the magic of journaling guide you on an incredible journey of self-discovery. Happy journaling!