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The Benefits of Journaling: How to Start and Stick with It

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Growing up you may have kept a diary to journal your innermost thoughts. You trusted this special book to lock away your secrets. The hopes and dreams of your younger self spilled out to help you navigate those complicated teen years. As time passed, you may have stopped keeping a diary. However, that doesn’t mean life got any less complicated. So, it’s time to pick the pen back up. As an adult, journaling can be one of the most beneficial self-care practices.  

Benefits of Journaling

Many studies link journaling to improved mental health and emotional well-being. By committing to the repetitious act of journaling, you become more comfortable confronting your emotions, processing events, and recognizing opportunities to cope with challenges. In turn, you can distance yourself from the negative spaces and focus more on the positive. Over time, you will experience improved moods, stress reduction, and personal growth. 

Eventually, your journaling journey can lead to self-improvement and insightful goal-setting. So, use your journal as a tool to get to know yourself better – to live intentionally now and into the future.   

Choosing Your Journaling Style

Journaling is not a one-size-fits-all practice. You may have begun your writing journey with the “Dear Diary” format, but now that you’re ready to write with more intentionality, select a style that’s more befitting to your current needs. Consider these common journaling styles.  

Reflective Journaling

This style of journaling most closely parallels your diary writing experience. Each entry is an opportunity to reflect on what’s happening in life and how those experiences make you feel. The self-reflection evident in this journaling style can help you understand yourself better, plan for the future, and begin goal-setting. 

Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling is a very organized system similar to keeping a diary or calendar. You will use a journal with a dot grid pattern to bullet short thoughts on defined topics. You can use colored pens or stickers to define sections for processing past occurrences, organize present thoughts and feelings, and develop future plans or goal-setting. 

Gratitude Journaling

A gratitude journal serves as a daily check-in for you to focus on the things you are most thankful for in your life. Commonly, you will list five things you are grateful for each day. Gratitude journaling is ideal for improving mental health and maintaining happiness.

Journaling with Prompts

When you use prompts to focus your journaling, it can eliminate common writing challenges – such as writer’s block, top selection, or getting started. Prompts allow you to answer a question. You can buy journal books that offer prompts or you can find prompt ideas online to create a journal. Some people even choose to respond to the same prompt each day. Consider questions like:

 “What am I grateful for?”  

“What challenges am I overcoming?”

“What have I learned from recent events?”

Stream-of-Consciousness Writing

The opposite of using prompts is stream-of-consciousness writing.  This style allows you to free-write your thoughts as they occur. Write anything that comes to mind and embrace the spontaneity of your thoughts until you fill three pages. As you explore your mind, you’ll gain personal insights that help you understand your feelings and experiences. 

Start Your Journaling Journey

Starting something new can be daunting. So, as you plan how to start journaling, remember to give yourself grace and follow these journaling tips. 

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Start Journaling

  1. Choose the journaling style that appeals most to you. (After all, you will have more luck sticking with journaling if you enjoy it.)
  2. Choose where you will write. Select someplace comfortable that poses little distraction and fosters creativity. 
  3. Select a consistent time to write each day. 
  4. Set a timeframe for writing. Many beginners plan 10-15 minutes per day. 
  5. Prepare for obstacles. Writer’s block is real. If you face it, just take a deep breath and write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t edit or censor yourself. Write any thought – even if it’s “Writing is hard.”
  6. Write. Be present in the moment and make the first entry.
  7. Practice self-reflection. Read what you have written and over time look for patterns or themes in your thoughts and experiences. 
  8. Keep Going. Stick with journaling each day to form a healthy habit. 
  9. Be flexible. As you learn what works best for you, allow yourself to make adjustments to your journal style or schedule.
  10. Acknowledge the benefits of journaling, such as personal development, stress reduction, and self-improvement. 

Commit to Your Journaling Journey

The benefits of journaling compound over time. So, commit to the habit. In the beginning, you may need to set reminders to help you stick with journaling. But as time goes on, the practice will become second nature. So, use the journaling tips in this article to get started. Through your journaling journey, you will experience personal growth. Along the way, if you need support, turn to the sisterhood of women at the I’m Loving Me Project – a group of women ready to support and motivate you. So, you can stay committed to your self-reflective journey.

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