How To Start Journaling by Lindsey Turnbull

A girl with long, black hair writes in a pink journal. She has orange headphones around her neck, and is wearing a beige hoodie, jeans, and Converse. She is leaning against a white brick wall.
How To Start Journaling
(for your best year yet!)
by Lindsey Turnbull

What if you could do one thing every day to improve your mental health, reduce stress, and feel more clarity? What if that thing was very cheap (or free!)? And only took a few minutes each day?

Would you do it?


There IS something you can do that is cost-effective, quick, and improves your mental health:

Keeping a journal. 

Journaling is a form of emotional, mental, even spiritual self-care!

Why Journaling?

Research shows that keeping a journal is one type of healthy outlet you can use to manage your mental health, making you happier, less anxious, and calmer overall.

A few minutes of writing, drawing, list making, each day can have huge rewards for the author. 

Journaling gives you, the writer, a way to let out complicated emotions, work through problems, document positive events and feelings, and find perspective by tracking recurring thoughts and patterns. It can even be a form of meditation.

Putting feelings on a page can also be a way to lighten your mental load, so to speak, by taking problems out of your head, and putting them on paper.

Journaling can act like a steam valve, a safe and non-judgmental space to let out frustrations, anger, fears, joy, etc. You can be as silly, as angry, as fearless as you want- no one ever has to read it.

The blank page can also be a place to write affirmations and practice positive self-talk.

Gif of a person writing

Find Your Journal! 

The best part about journaling is that you can completely make it your own process.

There are so many times of journals and journaling, that you can find something that works for you. Here are some examples of journals:

  • Bullet journals: for people who love lists and planners
  • Art journals: for those who express themselves better with art, rather than words
  • Brain Dump Journal: Pouring out every thought you have onto the page. You’re not telling a story or recapping a day, per say, just pouring out thoughts, worries, to-dos, etc.
  • Morning page journal: space to free-write first morning thoughts, for go-getters and early risers
  • Gratitude journal: for those who want to cultivate a more grateful existence
  • Prayer Journal: for those who are religious and/or who want to speak to their higher power
  • Food/music/movie/book journal: for those who love tracking what media they consume
  • Idea Journal: Tracking all the brilliance that’s rolling around in your head
  • Digital journal, blog, vlog: Anything like your notes app, a Google/Word Doc, etc.
  • A traditional diary-style journal

Some people prefer to keep multiple journals, separated by time (ie: morning/evening journaling), or topic (ie: Book journal, and art journal), while others prefer all of their thoughts be in one place.

Or really, any combination of the above. A journal is your own space to write, vent, celebrate, brain dump. It should be a friendly, comfortable, and safe, supportive space for you.

The journal you’re most likely to use regularly is the right kind of journal for you.

A gif of a knitted pig sitting at a desk, journaling

How to Make Journaling a Habit 

Making journaling a daily habit is the best way to reap the benefits. Here are some ways to add journaling into your life:

  1. Make it your own: Buy or make a journal that you love. Customize it with stickers, quotes, doodles, or anything that inspires and excites you. Pick out a special journaling pen.
  2. Keep your journal somewhere accessible, like your bag or nightstand. If it’s visible, you’re more likely to remember to do it. As long as it’s safe to do so!
  3. Add your new journaling habit to a habit you *already have.* For example, if you check your phone before bed, you could add in five minutes of journaling before or after scrolling. Or, if you’re bursting with ideas first thing in the morning, keep your journal next to your bed and jot down your first thoughts.
  4. Keep it low-stakes. You don’t *have* to journal for an hour. You don’t *have* to recap every thought you had in a day. You get to make the rules!
  5. Try a personal challenge. Challenge yourself to write a little bit each day, say 3 minutes. See if you can go 3 days, 7 days, a whole month. It takes, on average, 66 days to build a habit. See how long you can keep a streak going!(Pro tip: It’s OK if you miss a day, try not to miss two days in a row.)

Write, draw, bullet point, whatever feels important to you. Write honestly, because no one ever has to see what you’re writing, if you don’t let them.

The way journaling works BEST is to find a way that feels right FOR YOU.

Give it a try!

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Related Reading

How to Use Journaling for Self-Care

VIDEO: The Benefits of Journaling

The 6 Forms of Self-Care by Lindsey Turnbull

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