Struggling to get started with journalling? You’re not alone. It sounds easy, to just write your thoughts down on paper, right? but it can be hard to know where to start. I haven’t always journalled but having tried different types of journalling over the last couple of years, it has made a big difference to the way I process my experiences. A journal can become your friend in a time of need or the centre of your daily self-care practice.
If you’re new to journalling, or you’re coming back to it after some time out or you’re looking to spice up your journalling practice, here’s our ultimate guide to journalling to get you going.
In this article we’re going to cover 12 journalling methods:
Reflection or reflective Journalling
Journalling with question prompts
Letter writing journalling
Journalling with visual prompts (photographs and affirmation cards)
Bullet journalling (or Bujo)
Sketchbook and scrapbook journalling
Planning & goal setting
Ok so, the first important question is whether it’s spelled Journaling or Journalling? Here in the UK it’s with two Ls but you will find it with one L, the American spelling. Just thought we'd clear that one up!
How to get started with journalling
4. Decide on when you want to journal
When do you feel like journalling? This may vary but you might find that journalling first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening a good time to journal. New habits can be difficult to keep at first so don’t worry about journalling every day. You might start journalling weekly, so perhaps at the end or start of the week. Do whatever suits you.
5. Get comfortable
You might want to have your favourite blanket with you, a cup of tea and make sure you’re not running on empty - there’s nothing worse than a tummy rumbling mid-journalling :)
6. Start journalling!
Try journalling out for a few days and if you don’t enjoy it, switch up your method. We’ve outlined 12 different methods to journalling below.
1. Choose your journalling method
There are lots of ways to journal. We’re going to talk about 12 of them in this article. Choose one to start with.
2. Gather simple journalling tools
All you need is pen/pencil and paper to start journaling, it’s as simple as that. We recommend starting this way, then you can decide which type of journal you’d like to invest in.
3. Find a safe space for journalling
This might be your bedroom, a favourite chair, a garden or in your favourite cafe. Journalling helps you express your emotions so you need to be in an environment where you feel comfortable to do so. It needs to be somewhere where you’re not going to be constantly looking over your shoulder for any reason.
12 ways to journal
1. Reflection Journalling
This might be the most common form of journalling that you recognise and is similar to that of keeping a diary and reflecting on the day or week that’s just finished.
Simply reflect on a period of time, it may be the past, the last year, month, week or day and write what comes to mind.
How did it make you feel?
What did you learn?
How does this make you think about the future?
You can simply use a piece of paper or a basic notebook for reflection journalling and almost all of the journalling methods we list here.
We love these recycled paper notebooks from our friends at Loop Loop.
2. Journalling with Question Prompts
Similar to reflection journalling, prompts can help you reflect on experiences that you might not immediately think of. Journalling prompts can guide you to answer some of the deeper questions you might not be used to talking about. I.e. It can be a lot easier to write about the nice lunch you had with a friend yesterday than your deepest darkest fears.
Here are 5 journalling prompts for building mental resilience:
What are you grateful for in your life?
What would you do if you had no fear?
What’s weighing you down right now?
What would you tell your younger self?
What experiences have you learned from most in your life?
We’ve designed a journalling prompt jar with 30 days of journalling prompts if you’d like to try some more or gift them to a friend who might like to try journalling.
3. Letter Writing Journalling
Dear diary… you might want to write as if you are writing to your diary or to yourself (now, in the past or in the future) or to someone else in your life. Simply imagine you’re writing that letter. It’s completely fine to write a letter to someone but not actually send it - it can be really therapeutic. You might actually want to send it after all and that’s ok too. At the end of the day journalling is a self-care practice and it’s for you to do what you want with it.
4. Gratitude Journalling
“Be grateful” - you may have been told this at some point in your life, but practicing gratitude for self-care isn’t about a guilt-trip. Gratitude can be used in a positive way, to notice things in your life that you can be thankful for. It allows us to appreciate some of the smaller and bigger things that we have or experience. Gratitude can help ground us from some of the swirling negative thoughts we can have.
When you’re gratitude journalling, use the prompts to explore what and why you’re grateful:
What can I be grateful for today?
What can I be grateful for in my life?
We’re definitely going to recommend our gratitude planner here but again, you can get started with simple paper and pen and see how you like it.
5. Journalling with visual prompts (photographs and affirmation cards)
If you’d prefer a visual input for journaling you can use photographs of yourself or others. You might want to write the things that you’d like to say to the person in the photograph. This might be your younger self or a relative that you haven’t been able to speak to in person or someone you’ve lost in your life. This practice can help pinpoint suppressed feelings and help you to feel happier within yourself, as can all of the methods listed here.
You can also use positive affirmation cards as visual journalling prompts. We’ve created a set with 52 unique illustrations and affirmations that might be helpful for this, you can find them here.
6. Bullet journalling (or Bujo)
The “bullet” in bullet journalling refers to a dot matrix on a page that can be used to create artwork as well as the practice of using bulleted lists in the practice. With bullet journalling, you can create the design of the journal page as well as the journal entry itself. Bullet journals often come with plastic templates, a little like rulers, that can help you form the sections of your page.
Bullet journalling is a blank canvas for you to journal in the way you prefer, so you can use all of the physical journalling methods detailed in this list and you can change your page design every day if you like! Bullet journalling definitely requires a little more time than other forms of journalling but it can be very rewarding for those who like to doodle or design.
Due to the visual nature of bullet journalling, there are lots of bullet journalling bloggers out there. You can see some of their amazing graphics for inspiration on Instagram by searching using the hashtag #bujo or #bulletjournaling We love @tryingtobullet for inspiration when you’re getting started.
7. Sketchbook and scrapbook journalling
If you enjoy creating art or being a bit more creative, you can use scrapbooking or sketching to create your journal. How about drawing a simple sketch every day or every week to represent the events or your feelings? You can use a simple notebook to do this, we’d recommend using something that’s well bound and hardback so that it is strong enough for glueing in different media.
Scrappy happy days
8. Dream journalling
Ever had a notepad next to your bed? Often our mind explores and represents our true feelings within our dreams. It can be helpful to record and reflect on what you see and experience in your dreams. To dream journal, write down or sketch what you saw. Reflect on anything you notice and whether similar dreams recur. This type of journaling is best done first thing, as soon as you wake up so your dreams aren’t forgotten. Don’t worry if you can’t remember any, that’s very normal.
9. Free writing
Free writing is a method that can be used to get raw emotions down on paper. The aim is to write anything and everything that comes to mind. Sentences and even words don’t need to make sense. Decide how long you’re going to write for and keep writing. You may feel like your thoughts come to a natural end, try to push yourself to keep writing for the time you decided on.
10. Planning & goal setting
You might think of using planning and goal setting for work but have you ever planned how to manage your well-being? Using some of the techniques like SMART goals and writing about areas of your life that you’d like to work on can help set intentions to move you further towards better health and happiness.
11. Digital journalling
Prefer keeping notes digitally? You might want to type your thoughts and feelings into your phone or laptop. You can use the standard notes app or other journalling apps like Day One, Notion or Diarium.
12. Audio journalling
Tired of typing? You could try audio journalling using the app Otter. By speaking into your device, Otter transcribes for you. You can record up to 45 minutes for free. You can also use it for conversations, just make sure you request permission before recording anyone else.
Time to talk
Should I keep my journal forever?
It’s completely up to you whether you want to keep, discard or destroy your notebooks or journals. You may want to re-read your writing the next week or see what you’ve written in years to come. If you do decide to keep your journals, we’d recommend dating them somewhere if you haven’t already and storing them somewhere dry, maybe in a memory box.
So that’s it!
We’d LOVE to hear about which journalling method you try and how you get on. You can tag us on social media using @adbramind
Libby (& Adel) from adbra x
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