Starting a Journaling Practice: Tips for Newbies

So you want to get started with journaling. Journaling is the bread and butter of mindset work while also being a great way to simply document your life, thoughts, and feelings. You have probably heard a thing or two about journaling since it is a popular topic all over the internet. However, you might not know HOW to go about it.

When I first got started with journaling I was constantly worried that I wasn’t doing it right. I was looking up how-to guides and scouring Pinterest for the latest and greatest bullet journal layout – that was short-lived. If you take away anything from this blog post I hope you remember that journaling is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can find inspiration from others but ultimately you can make it your own!

So, let’s chat more about this elusive thing called journaling and how you can start your own journaling practice!

Woman with dark, curly hair writing in a journal on bed

What is journaling?

Journaling is the simple act of writing your thoughts and feelings into a little notebook (or virtually into your phone, tablet, or computer). I personally prefer physically writing in a notebook – it just feels so good.

The nice part about journaling is the flexibility. You can write about anything you want! Some days you might write a long entry about your day and how something made you feel. Another day you might write a few bullet points about things you are grateful for. On another day you might follow a journal prompt.

Journaling can sometimes feel like you’re writing in a diary (like your teenage years) and that’s okay! I love writing about my day and looking back on it at a later time remembering how I felt that day or picking apart my thought process at the time. It’s a great way to keep memories on top of being a great tool for your mental health.

Journal and pencil cup on marble table

Types of journaling

Even though there is no right or wrong way to journal you might be interested in what types of journaling people do. It’s always nice to have some guidance when getting started with something new!

Daily journaling

Daily journaling is that diary-style writing that we all know and love. This is usually a detailed summary of what happened during your day. It could be an hour-by-hour kind of entry or just some of the highlights. You will most likely dive into your thoughts and feelings about something that happened.

When I do daily journaling I typically focus on something that gave me a lot of feelings. It could be good or bad, doesn’t matter. I will explain what happened and how I felt and just let my thoughts flow. I could be writing a few sentences or multiple pages – however long it takes.

Just recently I was writing about some anxiety I was experiencing and reflecting on how therapy is helping. I dug through some of the negative feelings I’ve been having about the anxiety but then reflected on the improvements too. I’ve also been known to journal about work and stress I come across there.

No matter what, I always try to end my daily journaling session with a positive. Whether that’s just reminding myself that I am alive and well or something about how cute my cat is.

Reflective journaling

I think this is part of all kinds of journaling in some way but it deserves a mention on its own. Reflective journaling is when you focus on reflecting on something. You unpack thoughts, feelings, opinions, biases, or whatever else you want. 

This can be done by free writing but it’s often accomplished with journal prompts.

Journal prompts are writing prompts that ask a question or prompt you to think about something. You can check out some journal prompts about self-confidence, money mindset, or health and wellness to get an idea.

This type of journaling can be a good place to start because it is a bit more structured with the prompts if you don’t know what to write about.

Art journaling

Believe it or not, journaling isn’t just for writing! If you prefer to draw or paint you can get your feelings out on the pages like you would with a sketchbook. The best part about art journaling is that no one will ever see it so you don’t need to be skilled in any way.

On top of using art as an emotional outlet, you can also explore new types of art and creativity during your journal sessions!

Gratitude journaling

There are some serious benefits of practicing gratitude! It can be hard to be thankful for things when life is hard or you had a bad day. However, practicing gratitude is a lot easier with journaling.

I keep my gratitude journaling simple and fast (I also add it to any kind of journaling I’m doing every single time).

Just jot down 5 things you are grateful for. They can be big or small. When you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for you can always write things like, “the air I breathe, warm coffee, sunrises, pet cuddles,” and so on.

Bullet journaling

Just because it didn’t work out for me doesn’t mean it won’t work out for you! Bullet journaling is definitely more for creatives. It’s technically several types of journaling in one. It’s part sketchpad, part journal, part tracker, and so much more.

I’m sure you’ve seen people’s bullet journal spreads on Pinterest – people get really fancy and creative with it.

You generally use a dot grid notebook and create these template pages for different things you want to track or journal. People use stickers, pencil crayons, calligraphy pens, washi tape, and many other art supplies to make fun spreads in their journals.

Some popular pages for your bullet journal include habit trackers, mood trackers, monthly calendars, reading journals, goals, and lists.

Woman writing at table with coffee

How to start a journaling practice

It’s not hard to start a journaling practice. It can be as simple as buying a notebook and just writing. Since everyone is different, the path to getting started will be different. This is how I would start a journaling practice if I started over today.


Pick how you will journal

Determine how you will get the thoughts and feelings out. Will it be on paper or in your notes app on your phone or some other way?

It can be hard to stay consistent with a journaling practice if you jump back and forth. I like to write in a physical notebook but some people don’t like that. Decide what works best for you and then get the required supplies!


Determine what type of journaling you like

You can always switch it up to journal however you want but when you first get started it might be easier to stick with one way until you feel comfortable.

Writing a few sentences about your day or focusing on gratitude journaling can give you some purpose with your writing. If you know what kind of journal entry you are going to write there is less room for feeling overwhelmed.


Create a writing routine

When are you going to journal? Part of creating a new habit (yes, journaling is a habit) is timing. I like to journal before bed because it helps me empty the day’s stress from my head so I can sleep. Others like to start the day with journaling and others like to do morning and night!

Pick a time of day and stick with it for a while.

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Make it feel special

Journaling is a form of self-care so why not make it feel as special as a luxurious bubble bath? Set the mood when you sit down to journal so you feel happy and cozy. You might dim the lights, put on some music, or light a candle. Or even using a special journal with some fancy pens! The more special it feels the easier will be to keep up the habit.


Determine your why

When you start a new habit it’s not always easy. There will be days you don’t feel like journaling. You might get home later than usual and just want to go to bed. Or you might think nothing interesting happened during the day so you don’t want to write. But it’s important to keep up the habit!

So determine your why. Why are you wanting to journal? Is it for your mental health? Is it to document your life to look back on one day? Do you use journaling as a sounding board for ideas? Do you use journaling as a form of self-care? Is journaling just something fun you do to be creative? Are you working on your writing skills?

There could be several reasons why you want to journal. I found that journaling made me a more positive person and happier during the day. That was a big motivator to keep going.

Red-haired woman writing in a notebook in bed

Benefits of journaling

Since journaling became so popular on social media it hasn’t been a secret that it has many amazing benefits. I know you might be thinking how writing in a diary or jotting a few thoughts down could have any benefits – I felt the same when I started. However, I already mentioned a few of the small changes I noticed in my mood and mindset. Let’s look at what science has to say about journaling.

Journaling has been shown to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. During this study the participants only had to do a 3-minute journal exercise and many of them found it helpful even 12-18 months later.

There have also been studies showing physical wellness benefits such as fewer doctor visits, lower blood pressure, and improved mood (all from journaling your feelings).

From the mental health side of things, journaling has shown to be a great way for people to express their feelings, cope with complex emotions, and work through difficult thoughts and experiences. All of that leads to better mental health overall!

And finally, journaling can help you move forward in life. If you are feeling stuck or don’t know your next steps, journaling can help you find clarity (by working through your thoughts and emotions). I know I have worked through some times I’ve felt super stuck in my career, relationships, and even my blog! Journaling allows you to open up in a way you might not to your friends or family so you can get a clearer understanding of what you really want.

Dark-haired woman journaling in bed

Journal prompts to get you started

So as I mentioned, getting started with journaling can be a bit tricky when you don’t know what to write about. Using journal prompts can be a great way to get your thoughts flowing and open you up to writing about other things. Having some structure and guidance is never a bad thing!

Here are 10 journal prompts to help you get started as a journaling newbie:

  • List 5 things you are grateful for this past week
  • What do you feel happy about right now and why?
  • What negative thought keeps coming up for you? Why is it bothering you?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? Why?
  • What is your favourite book, movie, TV show, or game and why?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • List 5 of your top goals you want to achieve and create a plan for each
  • What is a world issue you feel passionate about?
  • What does an ideal day look like to you?
Journal and a candle on wooden table

Just start

At the end of the day, journaling is not super complicated. You just need to grab some paper and a pen and write!

You can make tweaks and changes as you go. Just because you write about one thing today doesn’t mean you need to revisit it tomorrow. Each day can be different.

Some days you might take 3 minutes to jot down a few thoughts. Another day you might draw your emotions. Another day you might journal your childhood trauma over 6 pages. It doesn’t matter – all that matters is you write and you do it consistently.

Find your own journaling path and use the tips above for some guidance!

I hope you find love in journaling. It is a really freeing practice and experience but give it time because it might feel a little weird or silly at first.

I didn’t just have a love for journaling when I started. It took a couple of months to be consistent. It became a HABIT over time.

Let me know how your journaling practice goes and if you need any more journal tips or prompts check out my blog!

Happy writing ♥️

Have you tried journaling? How does this practice make you feel? Share your experience in the comments!

Journaling for Newbies Author Headshot_Deanna

Featured Author

Deanna of Life by Deanna

Deanna is a personal growth blogger and freelance writer. She created Life by Deanna to inspire other women to focus on growth, create lives they love, and dream big. Check out her blog for more posts on personal growth, wellness, and lifestyle. When she isn’t writing she is reading, cuddling with her cat, and probably eating mac and cheese!

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