If you’re anything like me, you’ve been hearing non-stop about meditation. It’s truly the buzzword these days in the self-care world and praised as the go-to method for how to quiet a busy mind.
But personally, I have never been able to implement a solid meditation practice.
Instead, I’ve gravitated towards journaling. I talk on Instagram often about how my journaling practice has seriously changed my life. And because so many of you asked me about how to get started with it, I decided to write this guide on how to journal for beginners.
For me, I’ve always found putting pen to paper and getting my thoughts out is the best way to ease my racing mind.
It’s helped me become more mindful in my everyday life, and when I know that I'm doing it correctly, it becomes a little bit like meditation in that I disconnect from the outside world and become one with my thoughts.
So whether you’ve tried meditation and it didn’t work for you, or you just want another habit to add to your mindfulness routine, this guide on how to journal for beginners will help you bring more calm into your life!
Before we get into the practical journaling tips, let me answer the question: why start a journaling routine in the first place? There are SO many reasons why journaling is beneficial to your life, but here are just a few.
Self commitment + confidence
Even the act of committing to a ten-minute daily journaling practice can have MAJOR positive effects on your confidence.
I talk about something called the confidence loop. A huge part of building confidence is having a routine and keeping promises to yourself. When you honor your commitments to yourself, you build up your self-trust, and this is the first step in the loop of becoming more confident.
An outlet for your thoughts
A big part of what I do as a coach is teaching you how to access and manage your thoughts, and then make decisions with a well-managed mind. The question is, how can you really manage your thoughts and sort through them if you don’t even know what they are?
Journaling solves this problem. I used to never really have any solid thinking or reflection time. That’s why all of my best ideas would come to me in the shower! That would be the only time I wasn’t distracted, or looking at my phone. Even when I went on a walk, I would use it as an opportunity to call someone or listen to a podcast.
Which isn’t a bad thing - but I was never giving myself time to be alone with my thoughts.
Journaling gives us an outlet for our thoughts. It gives them legitimacy and also creates some space and separation between ourselves and our thoughts. Because as I often tell my clients, we are not our thoughts.
Increased self-awareness and presence
Once you start to create distance between yourself and your thoughts through journaling, you’ll notice increased self-awareness. All of a sudden, you’ll be able to notice, and question, certain thought patterns, and cycles.
You get to ask yourself questions like, “Is this thought pattern serving me? Do I want to keep thinking this way? Where does this belief come from?”
It's psychologically proven that by actually writing your thoughts down, with pen to paper, you’re able to create a better sense of self-awareness and presence.
Why Consistency is Key
When I talk about journaling, many people don’t realize that the key for it to make a difference is to do it consistently - preferably every day.
A lot of people tend to only journal when things go wrong. They write about their thoughts and feelings when shit hits the fan when they have a big life decision, or they feel particularly stressed or anxious.
That's not actually the act of journaling. The key to becoming good at journaling isn’t just doing it when you feel bad, it's also doing it when you're celebrating yourself and when you're feeling GOOD!
It’s giving legitimacy to your thoughts, every single day.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to commit to doing it every day, at least aim for two to three times a week.
Let’s get started with some practical tips on how to get started journaling!
Practical Tips For How To Journal for Beginners
Stock Up on Supplies
My favorite way to get started journaling, and genuinely get EXCITED about building this new habit is to go stock up on stationery supplies. Specifically, a pen you actually enjoy writing with.
It might seem basic, but who doesn’t love going out and buying new stationery?
Along with your new pen, you’ll want to get a new notebook - it’s almost like a fresh start for your thoughts!
It doesn’t need to be something fancy or leather-bound, you could order it online on Amazon or personally, I enjoy going into a local shop and supporting small businesses. There are loads of options to choose from to begin your new journaling habit!
If you are really opposed to writing in a notebook, you technically can go digital. But as I said before, there has been scientific evidence to prove that the actual act of writing will change the way that your thoughts are processed. If that doesn’t resonate with you at all though, there are tons of journaling apps out there, or you could even use your notes app.
Make it a part of your routine
The second tip is to make it part of your routine and in a very systematic way. Make sure you pick a time of day that works for you and feels natural and intuitive. Each person is different with this. I have met some people who LOVE waking up in the morning and getting all their thoughts on a piece of paper. That's how I do it - I know if I don't journal in the morning, the day will get away from me and I may very well be too tired or unfocused in the evening.
Having said that, I know that some people strongly prefer journaling before bed, because it acts as a brain dump to get everything out for the day. It helps them go to bed feeling calm!
So there’s no ‘right’ time to journal - it’s really whatever works best for you!
Put your journal somewhere accessible
This one might sound obvious, but keeping your journal somewhere will do wonders in helping you keep a consistent journaling routine. With many of us working from home right now, keeping it right beside you on your desk is a great spot.
Don’t hide it away in your bedroom, or keep it in your closet or in a drawer tucked away. All that will do is put an extra layer of effort into your new routine, which is the last thing you need when trying to start a new habit!
It’s also great to have it right next to you so if you have a thought or idea that pops into your head throughout the day you can jot it down.
The fourth tip for how to journal for beginners is to just get started. Don’t try and journal for hours and hours on end. Firstly, who has that kind of time? And secondly, it just puts on this pressure that you do not need!
I’d recommend starting small with between 10-15 minutes a day. This can also change depending on your schedule and how busy you are. The bottom line is, something is always better than nothing. Even if you can only squeeze in five minutes, that’s better than nothing at all!
My routine usually starts off by getting a hot drink, whether that’s tea, hot water and lemon, or coffee, and sitting down at my desk with my drink and my journal. I put a timer on my phone for ten minutes, put my phone on flight mode, and simply write whatever comes to mind.
Keep a running to-do list.
This is a trick for anybody who has a busy mind. Maybe every single time you tried to journal, all of a sudden you remember six different things that you need to do that day! Your mind starts obsessing over that email you need to send to ‘X’ person, that text you still haven’t responded to and all the urgent tasks on your plate that day. I’ve been in this position before, and it’s tempting to go off and start on all these items so you don’t forget any of them. When that happens, I get sucked into my day, say I’ll journal later, and then it never happens.
So the trick I use these days is that as these ideas come to me during my journaling session, I write a list of bullet points in the top right corner of my journal. I jot down the task or idea and then go back to my journaling. After my journaling, I can refer back to those items and put them in my planner for the day.
Don’t overthink it.
The biggest thing I get asked about how to journal for beginners, is clients and connections come to me and ask “Well, what do I even write about?!”
This is not dear diary-style - “Today I woke up at 7:30. I went and walked the dog” kinda thing. Instead, it’s simply whatever comes up for you, thought download style. No one's going to read it, it really doesn't matter what you actually write! What matters is that you're becoming present with yourself.
If you find yourself trying to journal, and you’re drawing a total blank, you can try asking yourself some of the following questions.
What happened yesterday? What was on my mind last night? What am I feeling right now?
Don’t overthink it! While there are definitely journal prompts you can use, I find it best to just get your feelings out on paper at first.
The last and final tip for how to journal for beginners is to make your journaling habit intuitive. If some days, you REALLY just don’t feel like it, don’t force yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, or it’s going against your intuition, there’s no point in trying to push it. Give yourself space, and maybe later on in the day, you’ll feel the pull to take out your journal.
I promise you that if you follow these tips to implement your journaling routine, after a week of daily journaling, you’ll start to notice patterns in your thoughts and feelings. You’ll gain greater self-awareness and mindfulness, and start to be able to make BETTER decisions because your mind is clearer.
Want to dive deeper into developing your journaling practice? Download the free Turning 30 Journaling Guide here.
You’ll get more tips as well as prompts to help you get started on your journaling journey.
Has this inspired you to start journaling? Visit me over on Instagram and let me know!