8 journaling ideas for beginners

Daily journaling can be meditative, self-reflective, and extraordinarily nourishing — but where on earth do you start?

8 journaling ideas for beginners
The art of putting pen to paper seems to have aged since laptop and phones became glued to our hands. But not for journalling. Transferring your thoughts from your busy brain to paper is proven to help with anxiety. Even if you don't consider yourself a budding writer, journaling is for everyone—you don't have to be Shakespeare or Zadie Smith to put pen to paper.
According to a 2006 study, around 100 people were asked to spend 15 minutes journaling or drawing twice a week. Those who participated saw a significant reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety. The upsides and benefits of journaling are undeniable.
“Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.” – Zadie Smith
You may not know what sort of journal you want to write at first—a wellness journal, a reflection journal, a mindfulness journal—but once you start, you'll soon find your own journaling style. By practising some of these simple ideas, you'll soon realise the benefits journaling can have on your mind, your mood, and your overall well-being.

1. Firstly, don't overthink it

You can write about anything that comes to mind. There's no need to overthink it, just get the words down on paper, completely unedited, and without worrying about grammar or spelling. You shouldn't approach daily journaling with the idea that others are going to read it. Journaling is a private, meditative practice, so you can be as messy and non-linear as you like. Or, you can choose to keep things neat and tidy, it's totally up to you.
Getting your thoughts onto paper
Getting your thoughts onto paper

2. Start with some prompts

If you’re still staring at the page with no idea where to start, why not start with these prompts. Or try purchasing a guided journal such as this one from Heights.
  • What are you grateful for?
  • How are you feeling today? Happy, anxious?
  • What are your goals for the day?
  • How are you feeling about your personal relationships?
  • How’s work going?
  • What’s bugging you today?

3. Carry your journal (and a pen) with you

While daily journaling is a private, introspective exercise, you don't have to limit yourself to writing at home. Journaling in the park, in a cafe, or while out on a walk can be just as enjoyable. Carrying your journal with you also allows you to write down important thoughts as and when they come to you. Sometimes there's no telling when that big idea or realisation will come to you, so it's best to keep your journal close just in case.

4. Early bird? Give Morning Pages a try

Developed by Julia Cameron, author of 'The Artist's Way', Morning Pages are a stream-of-consciousness journaling habit done first thing every morning on a daily basis. The idea is to wake up, open your journal, and write three pages of longhand, detailing any thoughts that come into your head. This form of uncensored writing can help you focus your thoughts and get them out of your head so they don't linger there all day.
Journalling at night
Journalling at night

5. Night owl? Set aside time at night to write

Journaling in the evening can help you process the events of the day, which can be enormously beneficial for helping you wind down. Processing your thoughts and journaling at night also removes any distractions and background noise, which can be incredibly cathartic. Writing at night also gives you the opportunity to look back on your journal entries over the coming days and weeks to see how your perspective has changed.

6. Let your imagination run wild

Write, doodle or draw. Tapping into your creative side is a great way of getting in touch and processing your thoughts and feelings. It's your journal, so you can write about anything you want, there are no rules or boundaries—you're the creator of your own world! You don't need to limit yourself to words either, drawings, sketches, and other creative endeavours can also be an outlet for your creativity.
Journal at home or on the go
Journal at home or on the go

7. Work through difficult emotions

Daily journaling can be a powerful tool for self-discovery— it’s a great way to express your feelings and understand yourself better. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to make sense of your life by providing a framework in which you can explore different aspects of it. If you’re feeling stressed or angry about things, why not write them all on a piece of paper. And then burn it. This act of letting go can help you manage your powerful emotions.

8. List the things you're grateful for

It’s easy to ruminate on the negative things in your life and get caught up in them. However, journaling can be a great way to remind yourself that you have plenty of good things going on in your life as well. A simple way to keep track is to write down three things each day that you're grateful for, proud of and looking forward to. These can be small or huge—anything from brunch with a friend or finishing a project on time.
There are so many different ways of journaling, so it can take a little while to figure out the way(s) you prefer to put pen to paper. You might start with diary entries and mix in the odd poem, or begin with Morning Pages and tinker with short stories. You may prefer to write in the bath at midnight, or on the commute at daybreak—it's all about what makes you feel good.
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