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Practical Journaling Tips For Beginners To Kickstart

Written by Sarah Browne
Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist. She has published on Forbes, Lifehack, Tiny Buddha, Thrive Global, Elephant Journal, and more.
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Journaling is a practice as old as time. People have been recording their thoughts and feelings ever since forever. It is something that every culture has in common, and it has been used for different purposes—expressing yourself, coming up with new ideas, reflecting on a social issue, or just following your curiosity and wonder.

Journaling helps you reflect on your day and your life. When you journal, you are meeting your own needs. You tend to yourself in new ways, you listen to your inner voice, and you learn to follow your intuition. You also start to look at yourself with self-compassion. You start to become your own best friend and treat yourself kinder. You see your flaws and call yourself “flawsome.”

Journaling is not about being perfect. It’s not something you have to sell—you are not selling yourself to anyone. The mask is off. Vulnerability is a path to true perfection—you love yourself for who you are.

Benefits of Journaling

My first tip on journaling is to know its benefits. Journaling may help with stress relief, depression, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation. It’s a great tool for your mental health. [1]

Many people use it for simply recording events in their day and impacting their working memory. By analyzing your thoughts, you are also practicing mindfulness! This aids in overthinking and helps soothes you. Your communication and writing skills will also start to improve. Creativity will soar, problem-solving will be perfected, and you will find yourself functioning better overall.

You’ll also sleep soundly! After you get out all of your thoughts before you go to sleep, you feel relieved and relaxed. This helps you to calm racing thoughts and aids in insomnia reduction.


You just feel better. You may not always notice how journaling has helped you but over time, it opens you up more and more to its benefits. You find yourself living in the moment because you put all your thoughts somewhere, and they remain organized. When you journal, you put the weight of the world down and give your soul some rest.

Journaling does not replace therapy or medication for mental health. But it can serve alongside any treatment you may be partaking in.

Why You Might Seek Journaling?

After a long hard day, you can either continue in defeat or find some meaning and purpose in it all. Journaling is a tool that can help you clear your mind and focus on what matters most. You don’t let emotions rule you anymore. You find some reprieve from negative thinking patterns. In other words, you take back control.

Whether you write out your goals, gratitude lists or free write your journal entries, it’s a gift you give yourself. It’s a type of self-care that anyone can use as well as a coping method. You don’t have to be a writer to put words down. You don’t have to know what you’re using it for to even get started! Journaling is a way of keeping your progress recorded somewhere, for any area of life.

You can look back on journals from the past and see how far you’ve come or just revel in the memories listed there. You can open it up anytime and read what you’ve done or overcome, or if there’s something you don’t like, you can throw it away! It’s completely up to you what you do with a journal.

It’s also up to you who sees your journal. You don’t have to give anyone your pages or passwords unless you want to. Taylor Swift recently took pages out of her past diaries to complement her special edition album version of “Lover.” This showcased her own take on life events, such as winning awards or even controversies like public fallouts. She used her diary to shed light on her side of the story.


While you don’t need to put out your diary with an album anytime soon, it goes to show that writing in a journal is a cathartic experience that can connect you to yourself and even to others if you share insights from it. If you want to share it with a therapist, that is something you can choose to do. Or you can choose to let a friend know the highlights of how you are doing.

Journaling may just help you organize what you want to say. It’s for prepping and practicing communication as well as a place to let your thoughts run free. You don’t owe anyone your inner thoughts. Remember—sharing is your choice.

What You Need to Get Started

Start journaling now to reap the rewards. Just follow journaling tips to help you kickstart. If you can fit into your busy schedule, you will find yourself achieving more rather than less. Even if you just write your mood for the day and one or two highlights, that’s better than nothing.

It’s up to you how often and how much to write—there is no one way to do it!

5 Simple Steps

  1. Find your journal whether it be an app or a physical one.
  2. Set up your space—decide if you should journal in private, at school, morning, night, etc.
  3. Remove distractions.
  4. Just write. It doesn’t matter if you have a prompt or you do free writing or how much you write. Just get the words down.
  5. Stay consistent—write the same time every day or the same amount every day. If you write each day in some routine, you are more likely to do it. In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King discusses how he sets aside a certain time each day to write to train his brain to be productive at those times.

Different Types of Journaling

Another tip for journaling is to know the different types. Here are the different types of journaling. Choose one that best suits you.

  • Wreck Journals—These journals give you a task such as coloring, writing something specific, or even tearing out a page and throwing it away to get out your stress.[2]
  • Goal Checklist Journals—Track the progress of your goals and create deadlines for any area of your life.
  • Gratitude List Journals—These journals track what you are grateful for each day.
  • Bullet Journals—This is a way to organize your thoughts that uses a beginning index, page numbers, and structured pages of planning for different time periods that aid in time management. You don’t need to stick to one type of journaling for this.
  • Freewriting—This can be prompted or unprompted writing. It’s basically a stream of consciousness writing where you write anything you want, and you don’t edit your thoughts. You simply let it flow.
  • Planner Journal—It’s exactly as it sounds, a planner journal is a mix of planning and journaling. This may look like a regular planner but has sections of notes for you to write and reflect in.
  • Vision Journal—Much like a vision board, you write a vision of what you want to be doing and who you want to be in the entries. For them to work though, you can only “have one goal a day.”[3]
  • Morning Pages—This is a journaling stream of thought right when you wake up! It can be thoughts to guide your day like setting an intention, creating goals, or just freewriting. The key is to do it right away and see how it progresses!
  • 5- Year Journal—Where will you be in five years? How will you get there? What will you take with you? What will you let go of? Come up with prompts or find some online. It keeps you goal-oriented and focused.
  • Food Journal—Keep track of your food and calorie intake for personal fitness goals.
  • Workout Journal—Keep track of your fitness routines for personal fitness goals.
  • Reading Journal—This is great when you want to read a book and write some reflections alongside it.

Journaling Products and Apps

You don’t have to do anything fancy. All you need is paper and a pen to get started. Or you can try an online journal or an app.

There are apps everywhere, but here are a few just to get started:

These journals are filled with prompts or are done for a specific purpose:

There are plenty more to start with! It all depends on what you are searching for. Try one of these, all of these, or create your own! Journaling helps you create your own independent thoughts. It helps you take initiative with those thoughts. So, make sure your journal is as unique as you are! Find something that really speaks to you.


Another journaling tip is to begin with writing prompts. Don’t know what to write about? That’s okay! There are many prompts to start with. You can write reflection-based writing where you express your thoughts and opinions about a subject.

You can use it for introspection where you analyze your inner life and learn more about yourself. You can write gratitude lists, unsent letters, worries, daily, weekly and monthly goals, memories made, challenges for problem-solving, and more.

Here are some starters:

  • Dear past me…
  • Dear future me…
  • Dear __ (unsent letter)
  • I feel __ (labeling emotions and expressing them)
  • I worry about __ (worry journaling)
  • Today, I did/will do…
  • Week reflection
  • Capturing moments—what happened that you want to record and reflect on
  • What are my challenges?
  • Brainstorm solutions to any challenge
  • I am grateful for __.
  • Morning Pages—first thoughts in the morning
  • What are some things I like about myself?
  • Writing Sprint: For five minutes, write anything that comes to mind.
  • Bucket List
  • Life Inventory Assessment: Reflect on areas of life needing improvement.

Come up with your own or search the internet for more. Read more journal prompts. The possibilities are endless![4]

Use a Feelings Wheel

If you want something simpler for a prompt, find a feelings wheel,[5] and start by simply labeling what you feel. This is how you “Name it to Tame It,” a method used by therapists to help clients identify what they feel so they can heal. It helps to self-soothe through emotional distress if you can pinpoint what exactly you feel.

This is an easy exercise you can do in a journal at both the beginning or at the end of the day. Note how your emotions fluctuate. Note the patterns, and realize that you have something to say.

If you don’t know which prompt to use or if freewriting doesn’t come naturally, start by selecting an emotion and go from there. Why do you feel that way? When do you feel that way? Ask yourself questions. After all, this journaling experience is how you can get to know yourself.

Processing Pain

Journaling leads you to express emotions and also “acknowledge traumatic events.”[6] It’s natural for difficult emotions and events to come up. In fact, you should expect it. The best thing you can do is use your journal as a place you talk about it without judgment. This may also help you to tell others about it, too.

If you work through your feelings and hardships through journaling, you build resilience. Writing therapy is a real thing. You will find yourself doing the work to heal the moment you put your pen down. You can identify triggers for trauma to come up. You can express your needs somewhere, and give yourself support.[7]


Journaling may not always be light and easy. Sometimes, the hard stuff comes up. What you should do is to welcome it so you can recover.

Famous People Who Have Kept a Journal

Last but not the least, another journaling tip is to know the famous people who did journaling. Many famous people have kept journals, and they used it to reach greatness. Some of them include:

  • Marco Polo
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Thomas Edison
  • Mark Twain
  • Albert Einstein
  • Marie Curie

And then there’s one of the most famous journals of all by Anne Frank, inspiring social change and efforts in human rights causes when it came to light after injustice. However, you don’t have to have any type of agenda when starting your own journal. You just have to look within and see what you want to say.

You may not want yours to ever become public, but it can also inspire thoughts that can change the world. Plenty of people (famous or not famous) keep journals. It’s simple and easy. So, why not you?

Final Thoughts

There are no real rules for journaling. Make it up as you go. You don’t have to know what you’re doing! It’s okay if you start and stop again, sometimes letting journaling go for a while, as long as you return to it.

It’s human to not always be on top of things. You don’t always have to be on top of your journaling. You don’t have to have it all together to get started. You just have to let yourself be free to say what you want in a safe space. Many do not always have a safe space, but in any situation, a journal can be that safe space for you. You can use it for peace of mind.


No matter how you do it or what you do it for, journaling is something worthwhile. You can discover yourself and create a dialogue with yourself that can change your life. You may find out you have more to give and more to be grateful for than you know.

Journaling can challenge you and also shape you into the person you want to be. You can become stronger and better each day just by putting words down. The good news is that you don’t need much to get started. You can start with these simple journaling tips!

More Journaling Tips

Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com


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