How to start journal : The Ultimate Beginners Journaling Guide

a beginners guide to journaling
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When you first think about journaling, what comes into your head? Maybe you are wondering how to start a journal, what do you need, and what will you write, and so on.

You don’t have to rack your brain or try to go overboard when it comes to journaling, as it can be done in a simple, easy, and beautiful way,

And it will serve you with so much value both in the short and long term.

Journaling is a great habit to pick up, especially early on, because it helps you unclutter your mind, focus more on the things that matter,

And it also serves as a reminder of who you were and what you have become as a result. There are so many ways on how to start a journal and with various journals out there,

You have the chance to pick which one you want to start with and go for it. Writing, drawing, or doodling, you can do that with a journal.

This post is a very comprehensive one, as it goes down to why journaling is good for you, the benefits of journaling, what you need to start,

As well as giving you some prompts to start with. This guide should serve as a nice starting point for you in your journaling journey and give you all the resources you need.

Hope you enjoy it.

Let’s go further on how to start a journal, things to do, and things you will need in your journey

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Getting started journaling isn’t something that you need to think about too hard.

Yes, there are numerous types and styles of journals and ways to do this that may or may not be more effective depending on your goals, but you can simply get some paper (or your computer) and get started today.

  • Dust Off Your Pen and Paper – You don’t need anything special to keep a journal; in fact, purists believe that using pen and paper is the best way to journal because you can carry it with you anywhere and you don’t need technology. So, there will be no excuses.
  • Do It First Thing in the Morning – Don’t procrastinate about keeping your journal. It’s best to do it in the morning before you begin your day so that you have the right frame of mind for the day. Plus, you only need five to ten minutes, so it’s not that big of a deal.
  • Do It Last Thing at Night – Another time to do it is before bed. This works especially well for gratitude journals. That way you can go to sleep thinking about all the things you are grateful for instead of things you’re worried about.
  • Write Every Single Day – Whenever you choose to do it, try to set it up so that it becomes a ritual and a habit. Journaling every single day is going to be more effective than just doing it when you feel like it.
  • Start Simply – Don’t start being worried about style and substance right now; just work on the daily habit with pen and paper (or if it’s easier for you, a computer or smartphone). Don’t make it hard – just get going.
  • Begin with today – Start right now and write about your day today. That’s the easiest thing to do. What of significance happened today? How did you feel about it? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?
  • Try Different Types of Journals – Once you develop the habit, you can start trying different types of journaling like a bullet journal, or a vision journal, or maybe even a project journal for your next project.
  • Keep It Private – The main thing to remember about your journal is that it should be kept private. The only exception is if you want to share thoughts with a therapist, counselor, or coach. Or if you want to turn it into a book or course, to help someone else overcome whatever you overcame.

Keeping a journal will help you deal with the things that happen to you as well as the things that have not happened to you.

The main reason is that writing it down helps you remember what you did right and what you did wrong. It helps you improve your decision-making capacity for similar situations.

The main thing on how to start a journal is just to get started journaling in any way that works for you.

types of journals to use in your journaling journey


When you begin journaling it will likely occur to you that having more than one type of journal might be the best way to keep everything organized better.

When you have more than one type of journal, you can simply go to the specific journal to work on one issue at a time or keep something organized so you can make better decisions.

  1. Bullet Journals This type of journal is useful for anyone who has lots of to-do lists, loves using a pen and paper, and who enjoys goal tracking. Your journal should have a table of contents that you create as you add to the journal so you can find things. You’ll use symbols, colors, and lines to make your bullet journal. You should be able to understand at a glance what’s on the page.
  2. Vision Journals You may have heard of vision boards and this is essentially it, except it’s a journal that helps lead you to your vision. The way it works is that you set up the journal to have only one goal per page. Then you can write words, add pictures, or draw something that enables you to make plans to reach that goal. When you do reach the goal, be sure to go back and add the date of achievement.
  3. Line a Day Journals – This journal is what it’s called – you write down only one line a day. You will simply write in the journal a short line about what you did that day. It should be only a sentence or two at the most, and should not take up that much space in your journal. Some people like using a calendar and a pen for this.
  4. Classic Journal This is simply a diary, and you can write whatever you want in it every day. It can be long, short, or you can skip days if you want to. The classic journal is just like the diary that you may be kept as a child. You write whatever you want in it daily.
  5. Prayer Journal This is a particular type of journal where you essentially act like your diary or journal is your higher power. Write God your prayers instead of saying them. Write them down so you remember them and can look back on them.
  6. Dream Journal Some people like tracking their dreams because they believe that dreams provide signs for life. If you want to track your dreams, you have to train yourself to write in your dream journal every morning while you still remember the dream. Write about the dream and then research what it means and write about that too.
  7. Food Journal Write down everything you eat every day. Some people like to include the calorie contents and so forth. It can also help to write down why you eat it, how you felt about eating it, and things like that.
  8. Travel Journal A wonderful way to remember your travels is to keep a travel journal. Some people like making one for each trip so that it’s easier to remember. You can write your thoughts in your journal, but you can also attach tickets, pics, and memories.
  9. Gratitude Journal – This is just what it sounds like. It’s a journal where you record each day what you’re thankful for and grateful for. Nothing can be negative in this journal because it’s designed to help you think more positively.
  10. Project Journal This is a handy journal to keep, especially for anyone who regularly works on projects. Keeping a journal of each project you work on that records actions taken, results, and data will help you improve every project but will also help you look back on this one with excitement.

If you want to start a journal to help work through a problem, keeping specific journals for different things is an effective way to go about it.

It’s also a great way to store your thoughts and memories for the future in a more organized and useful manner.


When it comes to learning how to start a journal, one way to ensure that journaling works for you are to do it long-term.

Long-term journaling gives you more insight into your life because you’ll be able to look to the past, present, and even the future (sort of) to get answers in your life.

But first, you have to do it. And you need to do it daily to make it a habit. Let’s review a few tips for making journaling part of your daily routine.

  • Make It Easy – Don’t make it a huge deal, and it’ll be simpler to get done. For example, it’s easier to use a notebook and paper than a computer for most people. You can have the book in your bag or on your bedside table or wherever you plan to write in it.
  • Choose a Time That Works – The best times to do it are early morning, first thing, or the last thing before you go to bed. However, that might not work for some people. If you know a better time, do it. For example, some people like journaling while on lunch at work in the park. It’s up to you.
  • Get a Drink and Eat a Snack – You don’t want to have any excuses or extraneous thoughts while you’re writing in your journal. Make sure you’re fed and hydrated. That will surely keep your head straight, and your mind focused.
  • Create a Comfortable and Assessable Space – It’s easier to get into your thoughts if you’re comfortable and not thinking about how bad your tailbone hurts or your wrist hurts. Some people like using a desk, some a comfy easy chair, others their bed. Set a comfy area for yourself to dive deep into your thoughts.
  • Combine It with Something Else You Enjoy Doing – If you enjoy cleaning the house, then reading in your clean house with the windows open and the breeze flowing in, why not journal at that moment? If it’s a daily thing, add journaling to it, and it’ll create a habit fast.
  • Add Some Relaxing Music to Set the Mood – Now it’s true that some people prefer silence, so that’s fine if you do. But consider trying some music that doesn’t have words and that is relaxing, to help you gather your thoughts and say calm and focused.
  • Use a Particular Type of Journal – For some people, using a style of journaling like bullet journaling, prayer journaling, project journaling, and more, works better since it defines some rules for entry.
  • Consider Using Journaling Prompts – You can also find journaling prompts online for any type of journal you want to use. To get some prompts, check out the other posts on various types of journal prompts.
  • Reward Yourself – When you have been diligent for a month writing in your journal, take some time to read what you wrote, then reward yourself for doing it. You might buy some colored pens or some scrapbooking materials so you can add some definition and interest to your journal.

To truly experience the full benefits of journaling, it needs to be done most days, which is why you need to find a way to incorporate journaling into your everyday life. The best way to accomplish this is to make it easy and turn it into a habit.



Any type of journal that you keep can be beneficial. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to document your life or to work through problems – you can use a journal to do it all.

From tracking your projects to documenting vacation to overcoming anxiety, a journal will work for you if you pick the right type and make journaling a ritual.

  • Find the Right Medium for You – For some people, that’s pen and paper. Many experts claim that’s the best way because of its simplicity. However, you have to do what works for you, and what works for you is what you will do daily. If you make it too hard, you won’t do it.
  • Turn Journaling Daily into a Habit – To be most effective, journaling has to go on for a long time. It’s a long-term strategy to improve your life and not something that is going to have any effect overnight. For this reason, ritualize your journaling so that it becomes a daily habit.
  • Set Up a Comfy Journaling Spot – Find a good space you can journal in each day, one which is relaxing and without stress. Some people like to keep their journals by their bedside so that each night when they get into bed, they can quickly write in their journals.
  • Choose the Right Style of Journal for Your Needs – The type of journal you want to keep depends on how you plan to use it. You may want to track a project; in which case you’ll need a project journal. If you want to simply document your life, you’d want a classic journal.
  • Learn to use Your Journal to Work Through Life and Reach Goals – Don’t just write in the journal; actively seek to improve something in your life – whether it’s the thoughts that drive your feelings or improving your actions so that you experience more success.
  • Consider Using More Than Writing to Document Your Life – You don’t need to just use text. You can use images, pictures, tickets, and other memories inside your journal too. Sometimes a few pictures and mementos mean more than anything you can write to help you remember.
  • Read and Reflect Occasionally – Take at least a few minutes to re-read parts of your journal. Once you’ve kept it for a year, it’s fun to go back and read the same day from last year to find out what’s different now and what’s the same and why.
  • Keep Your Journal Secure – You don’t want to worry about anyone getting into your private business when you’re not around, so keep it hidden. If it’s on your computer, keep it password protected.

If you know why you want to journal, it’ll be easier to figure out which type of journal you need to keep to make your journaling more effective.

Sometimes you just want to document your life, while other times you want to work through something difficult. It depends on your goals and the point of the journal.



Journaling can help you achieve your goals because it will force you to think about them, consider the why and how, and delve deeper into the situation so that you can examine all sides of it.

Read on to find out how journaling can help.

  • It Forces You to Write Down Your Goals – When you start a journal, it is a way to force yourself to document your goals. Whether you write them down on paper or you use technology to get it all down doesn’t matter. Once they’re written, they are ready to tackle.
  • It Makes You Consider Why and How – As you enter data into your journal, you’ll be forced to face the why and how of your goal. This is especially true if you write down a goal and focus on it in your journal.
  • It Enables You to Examine the Opportunities and Threats – When you are focused on goal making with your journal, you’ll also explore opportunities and threats coming your way due to your goals. It helps you avoid roadblocks in advance.
  • It Makes You Develop Steps for Success Based on Your Goals – When you see it written down, you’ll want to notice and pull out any steps you’ve developed in your journal and put them in your calendar for scheduling.
  • It Helps You Improve Goal Setting and Achievement – Each time you intentionally set goals, define steps to achieve the goals, and perform them, you are setting yourself up for being able to improve your skills.
  • It Provides Accountability – Even if no one else is reading your journal, a private journal can help you become accountable to yourself. If you develop the habit of looking at your journal each day and put something else in there each day, it’ll work great for helping you become more accountable.
  • It Provides a Permanent Record – Having a permanent record of the things you’ve done in your life, whether it’s personal or work, is a beautiful thing. Hardly anyone has a perfect memory, so you’ll maintain the lessons learned better with the record to look back at.
  • It May Be Inspirational – Depending on the journal, you might even be able to take the information inside and compile it into a real book for others to read to inspire them. You might also take from it steps for your success for a project and turn it into a course to inspire someone else.

Journaling is an excellent way to work toward achieving all your goals.

It will even help you make better goals because the process of entering facts in your journal will cause you to see them in a more logical way that is more useful.

how effective journaling is for you


Keeping any type of journal will help with improving any mental health issues. However, if you want to tackle a specific problem you’re having,

it will help to determine the right type of journal to keep. Keeping a particular kind of journal may work best for your issue.

  • Boosts Your Mood – If you want to boost your mood, keeping a gratitude journal is where it’s at. All you have to do is once a day, preferably before bed, write down what you’re grateful for today. It might not seem like much but it’s very powerful for going to sleep, thinking positively about your life.


  • Increases Your Sense of Well-Being – As you write out your thoughts, you’ll start seeing issues from a new angle just because you’re opening your mind to think about them. This is going to make you feel more capable of dealing with whatever happens.


  • Lessens Symptoms of Depression – Understand that depression is something different from sadness and that you likely need a counselor. Writing it all down can make it seem less horrific so that you can feel better. Plus, you can look back at days you thought life was “over” and see better days after.


  • Reduces Anxiety – The problem with anxiety is that it was designed to help us get away from immediate danger. It triggers the “fight or flight” response. If each time you have that anxious feeling you choose to write in your journal how you are feeling and why you’ll start to control it better. And as a way to move further, use this anxiety journal prompts that will help.


  • Lowers Avoidance Behaviors – Many people who have mental health issues practice avoidance behaviors such as not going to places that cause them anxiety, or not doing the things they need to do due to how they feel. When you write it out, it helps you get the feelings out but do the thing anyway.


  • You’ll Sleep Better – Pouring your heart out into a journal is a great way to get things off your chest. However, for sleep, go to the gratitude journal and write down what you’re thankful for today and go to sleep thinking of that.


  • Makes You a Kinder Person – Exploring your emotional state and accepting your feelings while you work through what makes you who you are in your journal is going to make you naturally more empathetic to others too. Letting go of judgment for self improves your thoughts for others also.


  • Improves Your Memory – This is almost a situation where you want to say “duh” but it has to be said. Writing down things helps you remember them because you can go back and read them, but also because they act of writing something down enables you to recall it.


One thing that can help you make your journaling work is to learn how to keep one effectively.

Make some journaling rules, do it every day to create a habit, and keep it private unless you decide to let your therapist see it or you decide to use it to help others.

This is for you and only you for the most part.




It doesn’t matter what your issue is; if you want to overcome it, you can find a way to use journaling to help.

You can set up a particular type of journal like a gratitude journal to help yourself become more thankful for what you do have,

and you can also keep a bullet journal and set goals to overcome the loneliness you’re experiencing if more social connections will do it. The possibilities are truly endless.

Let’s look in more detail at how journaling can help combat loneliness.

  • Allows You to Explore Your Thoughts and Feelings

Journaling can help to simply focus on writing expressively your thoughts and feelings surrounding the loneliness that you are feeling.

If you can write about each part of your feelings, and when you first noticed them, you may identify the core cause of the feelings.

When you do that, you can develop a plan to solve the problem.

  • Gives You a Way to Express Your Thoughts and Feelings

Writing is a time-honored way of expressing thoughts and feelings safely. You never have to let anyone read it.

You can write it down in the form of letters to people, or yourself, or even to someone you don’t know that you keep for yourself when you’re done but completed to get it out in the light to study by you.

  • Provides a Way to Understand Your Thoughts and Feelings

Sometimes you may not even know what you are feeling. It can be hard to understand and express what we feel even to ourselves.

But when you focus on writing it down, it can help you understand everything in a new way from a new direction that you may not have considered.

  • Helps Foster Social Connections

It might seem like a strange notion to consider, but writing can even help you foster social connections.

The main reason is that as you read through what you’ve written, you’re going to discover ways to overcome your situation to find the healthy social connections you need.

  • Helps You See the Big Picture More Easily

Looking back at the things you’ve written over time about any topic can provide insight into the situation that you never saw coming.

That’s because having the journal to look back on provides a way to see the bigger picture.

You may feel super-lonely today, but it’s still less than yesterday, which lets you know it’s going to get even better from here.

  • Provides a Means to Understand and Organize Your Thoughts

When understanding how to start a journal, writing things down, especially when you choose a particular method like the bullet journal, will help you get your thoughts down in an organized and useful way.

When your thoughts are a jumble, you might not see the real point but when they’re organized, it makes all the difference.

For example, in writing it all down, you may realize that your loneliness is due to being with the wrong partner who does not value you.

  • You’ll Sharpen Your Observation Skills

Once you start writing regularly and it’s become a habit, something amazing will happen.

Your observation skills will be sharper, and you’ll have an easier time coming up with descriptive and expressive words to use in your journal.

This is going to lead to even more breakthroughs due to having more clarity.

  • Focuses Your Gratitude Skills

Something funny happens when writing in a journal, even if it’s not specifically a gratitude journal per se.What happens is that as you’re writing (even if you’re upset), you’ll become calmer – especially when you read it back.

You’ll become grateful for what you do have that is positive in your life, even if it’s simply the ability to breathe in and out today.

If you want to combat loneliness, consider writing about and exploring why you feel lonely. You also should remember to read the definition of “loneliness” to ensure that this is what you are experiencing.

No one ever needs to be lonely, even when they are alone if they know how to work through their thoughts and feelings. Journaling can help with that.



 Stress affects almost everyone at some time in their lives. For some people, it’s more of a problem with their genetics and for some, it’s due to their situation.

Whatever reason you are stressed, congratulations for recognizing it and wanting to do something about it. Here are some good ways to journal to combat your stress.

  • Write Daily for 5 to 15 Minutes

The thing about journaling that is important is you need to do it daily long term for it to work. It takes a lot of writing and insight to figure out why you’re dealing with stress and how to overcome it.

  • Write about Your Worries

Go straight to the problem and write about your worries. Describe them from every single angle you can come up with. The more descriptive, the better.

Go back to the first time you felt this feeling regarding this topic so that you can get to the bottom of it.

  • Describe What’s Happening Now

Put out of your mind what you did, what someone else did, or what can be done – right now write about precisely what is happening right now and where you stand with the issue causing your stress.

If it’s generalized stress, try to make a list of things that might be contributing.

  • Document the Worst That Can Happen

As you look at the situation, one thing that often causes stress is the unknown, or the “worst thing” that you think can happen. Describe this worst thing but make it realistic.

For example, don’t make up something like an airplane falling at your wedding party. That isn’t realistic. However, bad weather, rude in-laws, and other issues may be.

  • Document the Best That Can Happen

Let’s get serious by thinking about and writing about the very best (realistic) outcome of the situation you’re stressing about.

Include potential steps and tactics to achieve this best-case scenario so that you can see it to fruition if you so choose.

  • Document What Is Happening

As you are writing, be very careful to be realistic and honest above all else. Other than when you imagine the best and worst, ensure that you are also documenting the reality of what is happening to you right now. That way, you can narrow down identifying the stress-inducing situation.

  • Write a Counter-Argument to Yourself

A really good way to overcome some stress about a situation is to argue with yourself. First, tell your story as a letter to yourself about what is happening.

Then write a letter back to yourself in answer, arguing all the negativity and turning it into positivity. If your best friend wrote that, what would you say back?

Surprisingly, writing can accomplish so much, but if you go into journaling to help with stress under the right attitude and with a goal in mind, you can achieve a lot.

The important thing is that you need to be honest with yourself so that you can find out the true causes of your stress. In this way, the actions you take to overcome them are effective.

journal prompts for mental health



  1. How is your mental health right now?
  2. How has your mental health changed since the beginning of the year?
  3. What are you doing to improve your mental health?
  4. What severity is your mental health on a scale of 1 to 10?
  5. Do you believe childhood trauma has impacted your current mental health?
  6. What mental illnesses do you struggle with?
  7. How old were you when you knew you had mental health issues?
  8. How has your mental health changed over the years?
  9. What types of medical treatments have you tried for your mental health?
  10. Have you been to therapy or counseling for your mental health?
  11. What natural remedies do you use for your mental health?
  12. Have lifestyle changes made an impact on your mental state?
  13. What are some daily habits or routines that help your mental health?
  14. Describe your mental health morning routine.
  15. Describe your mental health nighttime routine.
  16. What are some things people get wrong about mental health?
  17. What do you wish you could explain to people about mental health?
  18. What misconceptions about mental health did you learn about?
  19. What has been your experience with stress?
  20. How has stress impacted your life?
  21. What are some of your stress-relieving methods?
  22. What is your experience with anxiety?
  23. Have you been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder?
  24. What do you do daily to help with your anxiety?
  25. What anxiety triggers do you have?
  26. Have you given anything up to help with your anxiety?
  27. Do you have people you can talk to about your anxiety?
  28. Do you suffer from depression?
  29. Has your depression been officially diagnosed?
  30. What severity is your depression?
  31. What are some of your depression triggers?
  32. Does journaling your feelings help with your mental health?
  33. Have you found a specific form of journaling that helps the most?
  34. How do you feel about the stream of consciousness journaling?
  35. Start a gratitude journal and write 5-10 things you are grateful for.
  36. Do you find journaling your daily feelings and thoughts is helpful?
  37. Does writing about a specific topic in your journal help you?
  38. Write something creative in your journal today, such as a poem or short story.
  39. How are you feeling today?
  40. What is something that made you feel happy recently?
  41. What is something that made you feel sad recently?
  42. What is something new you tried recently?
  43. Focus on gratitude today. What are you most grateful for?
  44. How is your mental health different when you spend more time alone?
  45. How often do you reach out to other people?
  46. How do you feel about other people reaching out to you?
  47. What kind of self-care practices are part of your routine?
  48. Do you practice self-love?
  49. How do you feel about self-help for your mental health?
  50. What can you do TODAY to improve your mental health?


  1. What does it mean to you to be healthy?
  2. What have been your biggest health struggles while being at home?
  3. How has your mental health been?
  4. What has been giving you anxiety?
  5. What are your biggest fears during quarantine?
  6. How has your physical health changed?
  7. What weight trends have you noticed recently?
  8. How has your diet changed since spending more time at home?
  9. What is causing you the most worries?
  10. How has your exercise routine changed?
  11. Are there any home workouts you have tried?
  12. Pick at least 3 new at-home workouts you can try in the next week.
  13. Pick an exercise you can do with others you live with.
  14. What do you think is the most important aspect of nutrition?
  15. What are some healthier food items you can add while at home?
  16. To improve your nutrition, try adding some structure to your day, then journal about your experience.
  1. How have your cravings changed since you have been home?
  2. Do you feel you are a boredom eater?
  3. Have you noticed any emotional eating tendencies?
  4. Go outside to walk and get fresh air, then journal how you feel afterward.
  5. What is a way you can embrace and take advantage of being at home?
  6. What are the main sources of your stress lately?
  7. What are some stress-relieving activities you have tried?
  8. What hobbies have been keeping you busy?
  9. How are you dealing with your kids’ health and wellness while being at home more often?
  1. In what ways are your kids getting exercise?
  2. How are you focusing on proper nutrition for your kids?
  3. Try creating a new daily routine that encourages healthy habits.
  4. What are 5 things you miss from before you were quarantined?
  5. What are 5 things you look forward to when things get back to normal?
  6. Name 5 people you can’t wait to spend more time with.
  7. What are 5 things you can be grateful for right now?
  8. Make a list of healthy snacks you can add to your diet.
  9. How have you been socializing lately?
  10. List some ways you can reach out to people more.
  11. What is something you have always wanted to try?
  12. If your productivity is suffering, what are some reasons you think that is?
  13. Give yourself a break – what are some things you believe you have done right?
  14. List self-care activities you have participated in while being at home.
  15. List some NEW self-care activities for your shelter-in-place time?
  16. What is a creative activity you can try while being at home?
  17. List the main things that have been on your mind lately.
  18. When you think of how you spend your time when you are bored, what comes to mind first?
  1. When the shelter in place orders is lifted, what is a way you can get out more?
  2. How has quarantine changed your mindset?
  3. What do you think you took for granted before quarantine?
  4. Have you read any books while in isolation?
  5. How do you think life will be different moving forward.
  6. What are some changes you have made that have improved your health so far?
  7. List 10 ways you can be physically and mentally healthier while at home.



When you learn how to start a journal, there are so many benefits. The effects it has on you, the different kinds of journals to start with and so much more.

Journaling is a great habit to incorporate into your daily life, and with this comprehensive guide on how to start a journal, you have all you need to start and keep going.

Take your personal development and self-help journey to the max by keeping a journal. You might think it’s not needed, but the compounding benefits of journaling are endless.

As always, you may need to come back to this post, and if you want an easier way, why not take the full guide with you, so you always have something to look back on when you need to.

I hope to start today, start somewhere, start small and see yourself progress exceptionally.




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