The Benefits of Journaling and How To Start
You can experience a greater sense of well being with journaling daily. Try these tips, tools and prompts to help you get started.
When I decided to give this journaling thing a try, my first thought was there is no way I could squeeze one more thing into my day. There was also the fact that I was a little skeptical about some of the benefits.
Despite a busy life and a little skepticism, there was something appealing about the freedom of thought and expression without rules expectations or judgment.
At first, as you might expect with trying something new, I would describe journaling as a little uncomfortable. Too often I was staring at a blank page asking myself, “what am I supposed to write?” Now, I’ve been journaling for 5 months. Every. Single. Day. It took about a month to become a habit and a few more months to become effortless.
Putting my thoughts and sometimes randomness on paper has helped me create a deeper self awareness and a mindset of clarity.
Ask the experts.
What does the research say?
Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, psychologist and author of Opening Up By Writing It Down, describes how taking a few minutes to write personal experiences or problems can help you:
- Heal emotional wounds
- Feel a greater sense of well-being
- Decrease stress
- Improve relationships
- Boost your immune system
In 2002, Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth of Syracuse University reported that writing about emotions and stress boosted the immune systems of patients with chronic disease. Journaling has been shown to be associated with drops in depression, anxiety, and increases in positive mood, social engagement, and quality of close relationships.
Still not sold on the idea of a daily journaling practice?
Think about this, journaling:
- is a great way to tune into your intuition and gain insight into yourself
- is a judgment free zone to write about who you are and the things that are important to you
- can give you clarity by giving you a safe space to let your guard down and allowing thoughts to flow freely without regard to rules and judgement
- can help you problem solving by processing pros and cons and/or brainstorming to generate solutions
- helps keep you focused on your goals to track your progress, re-assess and make changes when needed
- can help clear the mind at the end to a stressful day
If you’re new to daily journaling, one of the biggest challenges can be what to write and prompts can be really helpful in overcoming that challenge.
[Tweet “Start a #journaling practice with these 50 journaling prompts. #wellness #selflove #selfcare”]
Scan the list of prompts and journal about whatever peaks your interest. With regular journaling, the list will inspire you to create meaningful prompts of your own.
50 Journaling Prompts
- Inspirational quotes
- What is the dominant emotion in your life right now?
- Reflect on a quote
- What would you ask for if a genie granted you three wishes?
- List your strengths
- Personal goals
- How would your best friend describe you?
- Meaningful events
- Gratitude list
- Challenges you’re currently facing
- Brainstorm solutions to challenges you’re currently facing
- Recall a memory and the feelings associated with the memory
- Recall the details of a dream and any feelings associated with the dream
- Affirmations (write your daily affirmation over and over, 5, 10, 15… times)
- Write a letter to yourself
- Complete the sentence, “Today I feel _____________________.”
- A compliment you received and how it made me feel
- List 5 positive traits about yourself
- Fears you’re facing
- List the things that make you happy
- Your feelings about another person
- List your dreams, hopes and desires
- Where do you see yourself in one year
- What do you like most about your life right now?
- What would you like to change and is in your power to change about your life right now?
- Reflect on a negative thought cycle
- Spontaneous journaling by writing down everything that comes to mind
- Recall the details of the last time you laughed so hard you had tears in your eyes
- What are you really proud of about yourself?
- What do you fear most?
- What is the nicest compliment anyone has ever paid you?
- Complete the sentence, “I feel the most confident when ________________.”
- Create a mindmap to brainstorm a project you’re working on or thinking about
- Details and feelings associated with upcoming or recent changes in your life
- A synopsis of your day
- List 5 short-term goals
- The most fun you’ve ever had
- List 3 things you want in a relationship
- What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this week?
- What would you do if money were not object?
- What would your perfect day look like?
- What’s your wildest dream?
- What makes you unique?
- List 5 things that went well today/yesterday?
- What are the priorities in your life right now?
- If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
- Instead of writing words, draw, sketch or doodle your journal entry
- What is your guilty pleasure?
- List 5 things you love about yourself
- If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Looking for more journaling inspiration and prompts? Click below for 58 prompts!
With a commitment and these tips, you can create a journaling habit too.
How did I make journaling a daily habit?
- Make yourself a priority! The benefits far outreach the time it takes to journal yes, you’re worth it.
- You’ll need a place to actually keep your journaling. Here are some ideas: commercial journals, notebook, blog, text document on your computer or a simple piece of paper.
- Don’t worry about the fact it’s not the beginning of the year or a new month. Start from today.
- Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Don’t think of the ‘forest.’ Just focus on the one day at a time.
- Make journaling a part of your daily routine.
- Even with regular journaling everyone experiences writer’s block. Keep the list of journaling prompts close by to jumpstart your creativity and ideas.
- Set a time limit. A blank journal page and unlimited time can be overwhelming.
- Your journaling does not have to be prolific or profound. Focus on the content of your words, not how they’re written.
- Do not edit. It’s unnecessarily time consuming and overthinking can get in the way of what our intuition is telling us.
- Keep in mind your writing is only for you. Take into consideration where you write and where you keep your journal for privacy.
- Journal the same time everyday.
- Find a place to journal that you can use daily and with minimal distractions, e.g. TV, computer, talking, phone, etc.
- Date each entry.
- Keep it simple.
Does daily journaling still feel overwhelming?
Try this. Simply answer the following 3 questions daily:
- What made you feel calm today?
- What are you grateful for?
- What were three highlights of the day?
With time and creating a journaling habit you will begin to expand the topics and increase the variety of your journal entries.
One More Tip
Consider journaling by hand. When I started journaling I was tempted to turn to the keyboard on my laptop. Research shows that pen and paper have measurable benefits over keyboards. According to Suzanne Baruch Asherson, occupational therapist, handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres. Research shows that writing stimulates an area of the brain called the RAS (reticular activating system), which filters and brings clearly to the forefront the information we’re focusing on.
Interestingly, Maud Purcell, psychotherapist and journaling expert, says “Writing accesses you’re the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.”
If handwriting isn’t comfortable for you? Use a computer.
In the Beginner’s Guide To Journaling I’ve included journaling prompts and a habit tracker. They were both instrumental in the success of my daily journaling practice. The habit tracker was a great visual reminder to journal and an easy way to follow my progress.
I would love to chat.
Do (or would) you journal with pen and paper or keyboard? Do you journal regularly? What benefits have you experienced from journaling?
be the best version of YOU
Wow! This is what i was just thinking. I was about to think to start a journaling and i am glad i had found this. Thanks for sharing.
Journaling is something I used to do when I was younger. I haven’t done it in years. I really did enjoy it when I did it. You are right that it helps you see just how grateful you should be.
These are great writing prompts you have here. I haven’t done journaling like I could. But actually looked at a previous journal and let me in a little bit on where I was at.
I absolutely love journaling! It makes me feel great when I’m collecting Journalist book every year!
Journaling is so helpful especially when it comes to our mental health. I find it relaxing and it’s easier for me to talk about my emotions when I write them down.
I’ve thought about starting a journal in the new year, these are great tips! I tried to download the prompts, but it won’t let me because it says I already subscribe to your list.
Hi Stephanie, if you’re already a subscriber (thank you!!) you should be able to access the journaling download in the resource library. Shoot me an email if you need the link and password again.
When I go to the library, it still asks for my name and email and gives me the same error, that I am already subscribed.
Ooooo I love the journaling prompts and the downloadable printables!
My therapist has asked me to start a journal but I’ve never actually done it because I find it hard to actually sit down and start! It’s one of my new years resolutions to start journaling daily! This post is just what i needed!
Daily journaling does sound very helpful to many people. I can see why it can heal many people.
Journaling is a great was to exercise our writing styes. It’s also highly recommended as a way to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression when you’re suffering from those
These are great prompts forjournaling! I love writing in general but I have never thought of it as journaling because I’m not very consistent with it.
I love to journal and have done so for two decades now! It began as a way to speak when I couldn’t definitely didn’t turn grateful until recent years. Love all the prompts!
Very nice article & love the 50 JOURNALING PROMPTS – Thanks for sharing!
I love journaling! As a kid and a teen, I would write every day, but as an adult, I’ve found that I’ll let months go by without writing a single sentence. I try to make it a priority and find that my mind is more clear and focused throughout the day. Usually, it’s because I’m writing in a journal and not scrolling through social media for the umpteenth time.
I love the idea of journaling but like you, I’m not quite sure where I’ll find the time. After reading the benefits the psychologist gave (can boost your immune system!) maybe I’ll have to see if I can just make a little time.
I’m always amazed as to what comes out of my head when I actually take pen to paper and I start writing stuff down 🙂
Jill, how do you decide on your daily affirmation? Do you change it often? Do you say it to yourself aloud also? Thanks for the wonderful journaling tips and prompts. So excited to begin journaling again and these are wonderful!
I really don’t remember the last time I journaled. These ideas made me think going to my old days when I just think of writing and writing until my feeling is free from stress. Thanks for sharing.
I’ve always wanted to journal, I’ve just never started so I really enjoyed this post. Thank for your inspiring me!
I haven’t journaled since maybe high school, I have bought the supplies to journal but never but pen to paper. I need to start doing it again.
Some really great points to consider. Thanks for sharing. I blog our adventures which is almost like keeping a Journal.
What a great post — so helpful to people who aren’t journaling yet! I started this year and have found great success writing down what I’m grateful for, my wins, losses, accomplishments etc…it’ll be fun to look back on them in the future.
I do know there are some great things about journaling and that it can be helpful. My only problem is that the good things that come happen so far into the future that I don’t get the kind of benefit to me when it would be beneficial. Maybe I need to keep with it more.
I’ve started journaling and it’s helping me a lot. Especially with goals. It’s so important to write them down and to go over them every day. The more you write the more it’s easy to manifest.
these are such good suggestions. i have kept a journal since i was a little girl. now that i am blogging, i find that your list is helpful for generating ideas for the blog too.
I personally love the therapeutic effects of writing and journaling. I started free writing first thing in the morning and that has immensely helped in clearing my thoughts and mind before the day consumes it. Thank you for sharing these prompts as it will be very helpful in the coming days for when I get stuck 🙂
One reason for journal ling that resonated with me is that it promotes healing of emotional wounds. Writing in general does that me as it provides catharsis. I also like the list of journal prompts you selected to share.Thanks for sharing
Journaling does have a lot of healing benefits. I mainly like it because it makes me focus more on the positive things in life. I try not to focus so much on the negatives.
Journaling is actually a great way to relieve stress and take out whatever is going on in our mind. Although I agree, it tough to start this one and I love your tips. I would to try and start writing my daily deeds, lets see how I progress.
This is such good information! I’ve always liked journaling and find it very helpful to get things out on paper. I really like the prompts you provided above too! Thanks!
OMG yes! I too journal! Journalling is so good for you. You could even improve your memory! I use journalling to recall what I do and just relieve my brain from all the stress. It’s very soothing.
Shi Hui | IreviewUread
I used to keep my food journal. It helped me a lot with creating my healthy habits. I also learned a lot about food. Journaling is amazing. These are some amazing tips Jill. I wish I have more time to continue journaling.
I really want to get back into my BuJo! Thanks for this.
Alix | apintsizedlifeblog.com
Putting your thoughts, emotions and goals into writing can be a powerful too! It helps to review and reflect, as well! #mindfulness
I love all the prompts you listed! I have a hard time journaling, but will definitely have to bookmark this for another time 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
This is great – love the prompts. I remember I used to have to journal every day in my senior year of high school… haven’t found the motivation to do it recently, but maybe I’ll try again, but this time digitally.
A few of my friends journal, and they tell me how helpful it is to reflect and totally their own form of therapy! Thanks for the extra info, will definitely consider starting!
Hi Abbey. One of the reasons I started was to get out of my head. It works wonders.
I started listening to a podcast called ‘Mortified’ which is hilarious… rude but hilarious. It’s all about people getting up in front of an audience and reading from their teenage journals. I never kept a journal when I was a teenager because I hated the thought of anyone reading what I wrote! I distinctly remember thinking – “these thoughts are mine” but I wish I knew that writing out your thoughts could really stop you being inside of your head so much. could have done wonders for my mental health! I do it now, and highly recommend it.
Hi Claire. I didn’t journal when i was younger either. I wish I had. Getting out of my head is one of the reasons I started. Thank you.
Have a wonderful day!
I love these prompts! This is a habit i need to get back into.
These are such great journaling prompts! This got me thinking about how long it has been since I last journaled, you’ve inspired me! Thank you! 🙂
Hi Lena. Thank you for your kind words. Have a beautiful day!
I write down my affirmations each day which is my way of journaling. It is super therapeutic.
Hi Jenny. Sometimes I do the same thing. I write one affirmation repeatedly. It really is therapeutic.
Have a beautiful day!
These are some great prompts! I have some ideas already thanks
I used to journal all the time and it was very therapeutic for me. I don’t know why I stopped, but I really need to get back into because it really does help to gather your thoughts and sort of let go of the things that are bothering you.
Hi Channing. Yes to everything you said. Especially the part about you getting back to journaling 😉
Have a beautiful day!