How Do You Begin a Journaling Practice? Start Simple!

journaling Mar 16, 2024
older woman deep in thought as she writes in her journal


Journaling is one of the most beneficial activities you can engage in on a regular basis. Studies show it provides an outlet for personal growth, clarity, and creativity. Journaling is becoming increasingly popular in all age groups, especially with women.

Maybe you are considering the practice of regular journaling after hearing of all the benefits. Yet you feel overwhelmed with the idea of where to start, how to stick with it, and most of all, how devise a writing practice that actually accomplishes what you hope it will; personal growth, self-awareness, and/or conscious living.

It might be simple to pick up pen and paper and start writing about your day, your week, your friends, your family, just your life in general. Or maybe you just want to unload all your thoughts about a specific event. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a journal for a brain dump. Studies show this can be a useful method to reduce stress.

For those seeking more than just a diary of life events or an occasional venting of emotions, their writing must go deeper. Journaling must be more intentional and cover an extended period of time.  

Begin With Finding Your Why

It’s important to know the purpose of your journaling practice. Your purpose will carry a lot of weight in deciding the format, time and place, frequency, schedule, and outcome. Your purpose is the backbone of your motivation. It can keep you going and help you stay committed to a regular writing routine.

When you begin your journaling journey, think about where you want it to lead you. What is the end goal you have in mind? 

It may be difficult to imagine your future self or just what it is that you are hoping to change. That’s okay.  

To begin with, your purpose may just be to gain self-awareness. Or to find clarity on your life purpose.

Refining your “why” is often part of the journaling process.

For example, you may begin journaling as part of your weight loss program. You begin with a structured journal that provides a place to track your calories, water intake, time spent exercising, etc.

As you progress, you notice a pattern in your eating habits and wonder why some days it seems impossible to avoid snacking. Now you add a section into your journal where you note details about your eating habits that will help you understand and manage snacking triggers.

The purpose of your journaling progressed from helping you lose weight by tracking your activities, to helping you lose weight by gaining insight on your mental and emotional triggers for overeating.

Sometimes the reason you journal may simply be to record important life events or family traditions for future generations. Or you may have a professional goal to reach and you want to track your progress. For sure these types of journals will look and feel different.

There are many reasons for journaling. Not all are intended for deep soul searching. The interesting thing about journaling, even the simplest of purposes seem to draw out surprising “a-ha” thoughts and feelings. Usually when we least expect them.

Learn more about the different reasons for journaling here.

Choose the right format –

Once you determine why you want to journal, it will be easier to decide on how you want to journal. The type or style of journal you use will be influenced by your  purpose as well as your personal preference.

In other words, what feels comfortable to you.

The feel of pen on paper is empowering. It activates the senses and often brings back memories of simpler times. Studies show writing by hand is beneficial for your brain, creativity, and the release of tension. But it is not for everyone.

Some people prefer the convenience of digital journalling. It’s easily accessible any time and any place. Since there isn’t a physical book, paper, or pens to keep organized, digital journal may appeal to those people who crave organization and tidiness.

Format is also related to the style of the journal. For instance, you may prefer to just write in a spiral bound theme book, no prompts, illustrations, page numbers, etc.

Others may like the idea of an open-ended journal filled with lined pages that comes with a themed, decorative cover in a bound book.

Some of us are looking for more structure in our journals. The pages we prefer may have sections with prompts, checklists, trackers, and specific places for recording affirmations, goals, and daily tasks.

Guided journals provide minimal structure, usually in the form of provocative prompts to get you thinking.

Bullet journals have no lines, just evenly spaced dots. You can create bulleted lists, trackers, or a chronological record of your day. You customize the journal to your purpose and style.

Finally, a journal does not have to be created with words. Drawings, doodles, and pictures can be used in a journal. This is referred to as visual journaling.

It may take a little investigating, and some trial and error to find the right fit for you. Knowing your purpose can be of significant help. But don’t get stuck thinking you have to journal in a specific way.

Start Simple –

It’s easy to get pumped up about starting something new. Journaling is no different. Especially if you feel a strong sense of purpose about it.  You jump in all gung ho and start writing and writing. Until one day you sense a lack the motivation. You don’t know what to write about. It suddenly seems too difficult and time consuming.

Journaling, like exercising or trying to stick to a budget, hits the enthusiasm plateau. You will have days when you see no point to it. You will have days when you think it’s not helping you like you thought it would.

The trick is to start simple. Think of it as a new exercise program. In the beginning, think of each time you write in your journal is a practice.

Here are a few helpful hints for STARTING SIMPLE

  • Begin by jotting down the date – every entry needs to be dated!
  • Start writing about what is happening at the present moment. Describe your feelings, something you are looking forward to or something you are worried about.
  • Pretend you are talking to your best, most trusted friend. Like an informal, natural conversation.
  • Allow yourself to write as little or as much as you want.
  • Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
  • Find a pen or pencil you love writing with. Make it your special writing tool.
  • If you’re inspired by color, incorporate it into your journal by using different colored pens, pencils, or even highlighters.
  • Take the time to find the style or format that works for you and then get comfortable with it.
  • Some people have found meditating before journaling helpful.

By starting simple and discovering things that keep you comfortable and get you motivated, you not only build up your expressive writing muscle, you’ll develop the habit of journaling with less frustration.

What About Time and Place -

While consistency is key to developing a habit, there are no hard and fast rules about how often you should journal.

Frequency of writing depends, in part, on your purpose. If you are journaling about your weight loss or trying to incorporate healthier habits into your life, daily journaling will be very important.

If you are journaling about managing your emotional triggers, journaling may require daily journaling to begin with and move to writing two or three times a week.

A grandmother journaling about family traditions she wants to share with future generations might find her journal entries are random, two days one week, and one day the next.

Many people find that setting aside a specific time in the day helps them stay consistent. For some of you, having a specific time of day to journal may feel too restrictive. You prefer to write when you feel drawn to or when you are in the flow.

You need to develop a schedule that keeps you motivated to write.  Consider your energy levels throughout the day, both physical and mental. Use that to help you determine the best time to journal. The important thing is to determine a time that works best for you.

The same is true about where you do your journaling. Nestled in a cozy chair, on your bed before calling it a day, in your office with the door closed or outside in the sunshine. These are common places for journaling. If it is helpful for you to have a defined space to journal in, then write there.

It is not essential to have a specific setting for composing your journal entry.

However, if you are worried about someone reading your journal then take precautions to keep it private. Write when you are alone and store your journal securely. When concerned about the privacy of your writing, you’re less likely to express your true thoughts and feelings. You tend to be more self-critical. And, it may take you longer to gain clarity and self-awareness.

Set Realistic Expectations and Stay Flexible –

As I mentioned before, it is good to start simple as you develop your journaling habit. Don’t pressure yourself by trying to write perfectly. This isn’t your high school English class. You won’t earn extra points for correct spelling, proper grammar, and complete sentences.

Know also that some days you may write several pages and other days you will find filling half a page challenging. Some days you may do a lot of personal reflecting and the next day you describe how the horrible weather ruined your plans for a hike.

Allow yourself to journal without judgement,

Make writing the priority.

Learn to embrace the process. The ups and downs, the simple, the complex, the thought-provoking, or the meandering entry all contribute to your self-discovery in the end.

Be flexible about making changes to your method, frequency, time and place. If you discover open-ended journaling leaves you stumped at times, consider adding prompts from time to time. Mornings becoming too hectic? Journal at lunch or before bed. You constantly forget to journal, but you don’t want to set a fixed time. Try it anyway before discounting it as an option.

As you incorporate journaling practice into your life, you will discover many things about yourself. But, it may take time to recognize patterns, change behaviors, to really get to know and trust yourself. You may not see immediate progress.

Don’t let unrealistic expectations discourage you from sticking with your journaling practice.

Reflect and Review –

Journaling is a useful tool for personal growth, improving health and mental/emotional well-being. This can only be accomplished through regular review and reflection of your writing.

Journaling allows you to capture and explore your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and reactions. But if you are not willing to go back and review your entries on occasion, you miss the opportunity for true growth.

Reflection may be the most difficult part of journaling. You must be honest without being harsh. You must be critical without being judgemental.

Reflecting on the why, when, where, who, what of previous entries, give comparison to measure growth. It provides the evidence needed to identify behaviors and triggers that have become unconscious patterns. Reading through your journal can also highlight successes and strengths.

This means you must keep it all. At least for a while. Even the things you think are crazy or boring or pointless. Those entries may surprise you, offering clues about yourself which provide opportunity for growth.

Conclusion –

The great thing about journaling is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Learning how to get started may be the easiest part.

By starting simple and personalizing your method to fit your needs and lifestyle, it becomes a natural part of your routine.

It takes self-discipline to make journaling a regular habit. Just remember that each entry is a step towards self-discovery, a move toward more conscious living, and the opportunity for unlimited personal growth.

Journaling is one of the most beneficial activities you can engage in to bring you closer to your best life ever.



Feel a bit guilty for not taking better care of yourself?

Wish you had more time for it?

The Self-Care Mini-Workbook will help you discover what you are doing or could be doing to enhance your self-care practices? Give it a try for free!

Click here!

Stay connected with our biweekly newsletter.


Join our mailing list to receive tips, tricks, product reviews, freebies and a little inspiration.
Don't worry, we know how busy you are. That's why we only share twice a month...unless it's really important news! 

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information for any reason.