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  • Darshana Ananth

Journaling 101: Basics of Starting a Journal

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Our minds witness a million thoughts every day. We go through good days, bad days, sad days, and days that are just ‘meh’. However, we can’t keep dwelling at the same spot or hold on to one emotion because time doesn’t wait for anyone. We try and push through to muster up the courage to face the coming moments of life. We’ve all come so far and it’s good to keep track of how we got here. Coming to the point, journaling is a way of pouring out what’s on your mind into paper or digital space, keeping a record of your thoughts and days in general. It’s your personal space and you can do whatever you want with it. There’s no right or wrong way of journaling.

Why Should I Journal?

The reasons to start a journal are many. It is said to help in relieving stress, also it is a record of your days that you can look back at, feeling nostalgic. There are benefits to writing on a paper because of its direct effect on our brain in retaining the important stuff and sometimes where ideas just click. It can become one of the steps in your self-care routine by going through your current emotional well-being. Journaling at night or in the morning is a way of unwinding or starting strong, respectively.

How Long Should I Journal?

You can start journaling for 5 minutes a day or even go up to 40 minutes. It is all up to you and what works best with your schedule. Many feel that they just don’t have the time to sit down and write. If you feel that’s the case, start small and write for 5 minutes or just five sentences on how your day went right before bed. You are doing this for yourself so take as much or as little time as you like. No rules or pressure, whatsoever.

Types of Journals

You can choose from a variety of journaling methods and start with what appeals or sticks the best with you. If you’d like, you can have more than one of these journals since each has its own unique purpose.

Free-Writing Journal

This is more of a traditional journaling technique where you write what you want in a designated journal or any notebook. It is very similar to keeping a diary. It can be practiced on a daily basis or whenever you feel like pouring out your emotions. A single entry can range from one paragraph to many pages depending on what feels right for you.

Bullet Journal

Bullet journaling has been in the spotlight for a while now. It is a way of planning your month with your monthly goals, weekly plans, daily to-do’s, a habit tracker and so much more. It is very versatile and fun to play with. There are thousands of bullet journal spreads to get inspiration from online. It lets you get creative and plan on stuff that you want to work on.

Check out for inspo: Amanda RachLee

Gratitude Journal

Giving thanks is a great way to start your day. In this journal, you list down things that you are grateful for on a daily or whenever you feel like it. It helps us focus more on the positive things in life. It is said to have certain physical and mental health benefits. You can also write a gratitude list at the end of the day to reflect on all the things that went right.

Morning Pages

Morning pages is done first thing in the morning where you write 3 pages straight. You might be thinking, “That’s a bit too much for me.” No worries, there is no right or wrong way of writing morning pages. You just write whatever pops in your mind, also known as stream of consciousness writing. Some of the benefits of this technique are gaining clarity, prioritizing, and being present. It is also said to reduce anxiety and bring out creativity. This can be practiced daily or whenever you have the time for it.

Special-Purpose Journal

There are journals that you can keep for specialized purposes. Some of the common ones are art journals, travel journals, food journals, finance journals, dream journals, and lots more. It tends to the specificity of tracking a hobby or memorabilia. You can get as creative as you like and play around with fun themes.

Digital Journal

If you’re not a ‘paper and pen’ person, you can always switch to a digital journal. There are many templates available online in maintaining a digital journal. Apps like Notion, Journal, and Day One serve as a great platform for journaling. This type of journaling is quite versatile since you get the freedom to edit and change up things frequently.

Journaling Prompts

Journaling prompts are an easy way to write down what you feel by answering specific questions or completing certain statements. If you’re confused regarding what you should write in your journal, you can just answer specific journaling prompts. You can use the same prompts every day or use different ones every other day. The purpose of this exercise is to reflect and get clarity. I’m sure you can find prompts that suit your style on the internet or you can create your own.

Some of my favorite prompts are:

  1. Your Daily Affirmation:

  2. Today I will focus on shifting my pattern of:

  3. I’m grateful for:

  4. Three traits my future self will have are:

  5. The person I’m becoming will experience more:

  6. I have the opportunity to be my future self when:

  7. When I think of the person I’m becoming, I feel:

Benefits of Journaling

  1. Record of your thoughts and ideas

  2. Gives mental clarity

  3. Inspires creativity

  4. Improves your writing skills

  5. Relieves stress

  6. Promotes self-reflection

  7. Elevates your mood

It’s not that we don’t have enough time to sit down and journal, we just don’t put in the effort to set aside a little time for self-reflection. I urge you to go ahead and purchase a journal or find a notebook that works for the purpose and just start.

Happy Journaling!

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