How To Start Journaling | How To Keep A Journal (+5 Benefits Of It!)

discomfort is the admission to a meaningful life | how to start journaling

Saying you’re going to ‘start journaling’ is one thing.

But learning how to actually ‘keep a journal’ is something completely different.

Believe me, I’ve been there.

I’m all about DIYs and pretty things and blogging, but to be able to keep up with a small business where I’m working from home, keeping up with family, and managing every single little part of it myself, you best bet life can seem to get unbearable sometimes.

This is where journaling has a way of always bringing me back around to some much-needed perspective.

Especially when I’m feeling lost, in a box, or absolutely stuck with no way out.

Lots of us end up in these dark mental situations with seemingly no way out. That’s why I thought it was important to write this blog post. For whoever might need it. Maybe you struggle with your mental health: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, what have you. And you can use any tools you can get to help get you through it.

DIYing a space where you can journal to your heart’s content is a tool I’d more than encourage you to learn to keep. To elaborate:

Here’s how I’ve been able to keep a journal, plus five benefits of keeping a journal that can be life-changing.

How to start journaling and keep a journal habit

I started journaling years ago.

I was going through a really difficult time emotionally and journaling helped me get through it all.

Now, as I run this blog as my creative business and am going through the journey of building a life I love and actually want to live, journaling is also helping me through it, and I’m doing it more and more each day.

The thing is, though, it’s pretty hard to start a habit, period. No matter how much you know that habit will help you and no matter how easy that habit might look.

Here’s how you can get started and what’s helped me along the way.

1. Create am external motivator

In other words, create a personal journaling space you can truly call your own!

This might be as simple as choosing a journal and going out of your way to personalize the cover, or hey, even pre-write and date some personal questions in a few pages ahead of time so they’re already there for you to answer when you’re trying to journal for the day.

You can take it a step further and do what I did and create a COMPLETE space where you plan out your days, write yourself reminders, create your grocery lists, AND set apart a space for you to journal in.

When you create a space where you know you’ll be writing out your thoughts and feelings, it becomes an external motivator that can help you stick with the habit. That’s what I did, and it’s what has worked for me so far.

Every day as I wake up, I look forward to leafing through my planner/journal, because I know I’ll find all the positive thoughts I’ve written down for myself, and I know it’s a place where I can find solace in writing down things I’m going through on a personal level (like resolving trauma or working through my insecurities).

2. Start so easy you can’t possibly fail at it

Too many times we think that to start a habit successfully, it has to be a “strong” start. As in, you’ve never really been a journaling person, but the first day you start journaling and force yourself to finish two full pages front and back.

YOU DON’T (AND PROBABLY SHOULDN’T) HAVE TO DO THIS!

Starting off super strong is usually the WORST way to start.

Sounds counterintuitive, right?

But think about it a little. If you start so easy you can’t possibly fail means telling yourself you’ll only write out a paragraph today, or maybe just three full sentences. And that’s it!

No more, no less!

When you make it easy, especially in the beginning, it doesn’t feel like a chore. It just feels like something you told yourself you would do.

Pretty soon, if you stick to it, it becomes something you simply just do, like taking out the trash.

Soon, you’ll find yourself wanting to write more than just three sentences to a paragraph. Keep in mind that there is no word or page count goal here ever.

The point is to journal to the point where you feel you’ve had your good ‘meditative journal practice’ for the day.

3. Stop all the judgement

I’d say the third step in sticking to your journaling journey is to STOP judging yourself. Notice yourself judging what you write down (because you will) and try your best to keep away from those sorts of thoughts.

Sometimes, though it’s hard to admit, we are our own worst judges. It can be easy to think everyone else is judging us about, well anything. But it’s that little negative voice in us that’s really doing all the judging a lot of the time.

And it’s stopping you from doing what you want. It’s stopping you from all the goodness in your life. There is absolutely nothing to judge about your journaling and what goes in it.

It’s simply there for you to process and embrace.

4. Write like nobody’s reading

Because hey, nobody except you is! (unless you decide to share your journal, in which case, it’s totally up to you!)

So two words: Get. Curious.

Get curious with yourself. I guarantee you. I guaran “friggin” tee you that as you start journaling certain parts of you out, and how you think, you’ll discover things about yourself that you had no idea lived within you.

I mean it would be a ton of different things. And this is where self-discovery starts. I’ve personally found this helpful in my own journey battling depression. I’ve been able to identify beliefs within me that aren’t serving me, and that are only holding me back from all the dreams I want to come true and bring into reality.

So get curious about yourself. Because chances are, there is A LOT you don’t know about you that’s waiting to be discovered by your best ally, YOU.

5. Remember it doesn’t have to look any type of way

And last, your journal doesn’t have to look like the perfect journals you see floating out there on Pinterest.

Don’t put that pressure on yourself. The more you journal, the more you realize you’ll get better at it. And that’s when you can start adding all your artsy bits if you want and yes, you can even get fancy with it.

Your journal only has to look like YOU make it. How YOU prefer for it to look. Because it is YOUR space. Your safe space, where you get to write your heart out.

6. BONUS step: Find a PEN that’ll help you to keep writing

And finally, one more thing you can do to make your journaling life easier is to invest some time into finding a pen you LOVE using.

I found a set of Sakura Jelly Roll Classic Black Pens I love that flows onto my pages JUST right and makes it SO much more fun to write with than if I was just using the average blue bic pen you find on every corner. You know, like the ones that you have to press really hard for any ink to come out and then they randomly stop writing unless you shake them again?

Little things like this can make a difference, especially if you care about those things and you’re creative like me (and hey, we’re all creative in SOME way!)

The 5 top benefits of keeping a journal

Okay so I thought this post wouldn’t be complete without listing a few solid benefits of journaling.

Here we go!

You’re 42% more likely to reach your goals if you write. them. down.

And this isn’t me saying this, this is science. A study found that when people write down what they intend on carrying out, chances are they actually make it happen.

When you write out all your hopes and dreams and what you’re going to do to make them happen, it helps you get rid of excuses. It helps you make it so that you don’t lose focus.

If you think about it, in a way, when you write something down, you’ve already taken the tiniest step in bringing it into the world. Its out there, in written form, the next step is to make it REAL.

You find hidden patterns and triggers about yourself

Once you keep up the practice of journaling, you start noticing certain patterns of thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself and others.

And once those patterns are apparent to you, you feel EMPOWERED. Because suddenly you aren’t feeling in the dark, you can work to try and change them!

You gain self-respect (say what?)

Yeah, this is one lots of us probably don’t think about.

But when you start a habit and keep it, one of the side effects of that is that you start to trust yourself MORE.

Have you ever noticed how you feel when you tell yourself you’re going to do a task and you actually get’r done?

You feel pretty darn great about yourself. You feel like if you told yourself you’d do something and you did it, heck you can probably do three more things. And this is how you gain self-respect.

In our lives, we respect that people that hold their word and do what they say they do. Are you that person to yourself? If not, start building a habit that gets you there.

You’ll geniunely love yourself more for it. But remember, it’s a journey, not a marathon.

You’re kinder to the people in your life (it improves your mood!)

I mean does this need any more explanation?

I can personally say I am SO much more at peace with myself when I’m nicer to the people I care about. Because sometimes we can get so caught up in our day to day lives that we aren’t always the most patient. And we can snap.

We become dismissive.

We stop paying attention.

We stop following through.

We stop showing up when we can.

Journaling works as an emotional regulator, much like breathing exercises. It helps you get perspective on your emotions. Especially you’re negative ones. Because it is okay to feel negative emotion.

Let me say that again, for those who think there’s something wrong with you for not feeling positive all the time: IT IS OKAY TO FEEL NEGATIVE EMOTIONS.

The problem becomes when we act upon them and respond badly. Journaling helps you regulate whatever you might be feeling on any given day, so you are able to respond better to the situations and relationships in your life.

Journaling always leads to growth, you can’t go backwards with it

This is probably one of the best cherries on top! Why?

Because there is no win-lose scenario if you DO start journaling. There is only win-win.

You don’t lose anything by journaling. There are so many good benefits to starting a journaling practice that it’s almost as if you’re at a loss if you DON’T start it.

But the trick is that. Starting.

Will you start journaling this year and see how it changes your life?

Feel free to leave me a comment below. I read every one.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Gail,

    Honestly the order of your BUJO pages is entirely up to you. Before starting your weekly or daily spreads, you can definitely leave 5-10 intentionally blank pages near the beginning of your journal that you know you’ll fill with different types of spreads as you go along. Remember that a bujo also includes an index at the beginning of your journal, which is useful when you number each page at the bottom right. This way you can easily look up what page you need to get to from the index since you write them down in a list w their page number as you create them. Hope this makes sense!

  2. I’m starting a BuJo but don’t know how to layout pages, do I need a different journal for blogging ideas, story ideas, etc. How many pages for each section or just go with the flow and not be able to find anything.

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