How to Journal: A beginner’s guide to getting to Know Yourself

December 22, 2020

New Year. New Journal

2020 was a strange year indeed, but it was also your year of clarity. A chance to slow down and take note of the things that work and the things that don’t work. Whether you achieved a lot or a little, you should be proud that you survived. That is certainly enough. 

With 2021, you have the chance to define your vision and make bold steps towards building the life you were designed to live.

I like to start every new year with a new journal. My personal preference is a single subject spiral notebook (like the ones you probably used in high school). They’re not too fancy and take all the pressure away from being too precious. But depending on your taste and interest there are a variety of options.

Writing the first words on a fresh sheet of paper feels like a new beginning. It helps you cope with stress and anxiety. It’s also a beautiful way to record the life-changing moments and messages that you learn along the way. And most importantly, the blank page offers an opportunity to track your personal growth.  

In this article, we’ll cover reasons to journal, different ways to journal, and useful tips on how to journal. 


3 Reasons to Keep a Journal 


01. Journaling helps you clarify your feelings 

Think of your journal as a paper therapist. When you’re in a bit of a funk and not sure how to move forward, sometimes writing it all down will clear mental space. Translating your emotions into written word helps you process and take action. But more than that, it builds the ritual of reflection and healing. This ultimately leads to increased self-awareness. 


02.  Journaling amplifies your creativity

The best way to become a good writer is to do it regularly. Journaling gives you a safe space to learn how to express yourself creatively. It unleashes your imagination and helps you tap into new ideas. Your journal can be a space to brainstorm new concepts or an opportunity to reflect on your creative influences. You can write lists or capture mantras and quotes from your biggest influences. The combination of these elements helps you refine your taste and establish your creative point of view. 


03. Journaling helps you document your place in history 

One of the most magical parts of keeping a journal for many years is to look back and see who you were. Journaling helps you see your patterns--both over the course of many years and seasonally. It also serves as a great way to document the meaningful accomplishments that you might normally forget. Beyond that, journaling cultivates gratitude and helps you notice the small victories of daily life. 



6 Ways to Journal (for people that like to write and those that don’t)


When you think of keeping a journal, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional “Dear Diary” format--basically a letter that recaps your day.  But there are so many ways to keep a journal in 2020. You can write full sentences or fragments of ideas. You can draw illustrations or collage your favorite photos. Your journal can be time bound or ongoing. 

Here are 6 different ways to journal. 


01. Book of Lists

One of the easiest ways to journal is to make a series of lists in a notebook. It allows you to keep track of goals, but also is an interesting way to get to know yourself. Examples include: 

  • Things you need to buy for your Apartment
  • Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time
  • The Soundtrack of Summer 2020
  • Books I want to Read this Year
  • Places I’ve traveled to 
  • People I’ve dated and the things I learned 


02. Scrapbook / Art Journal

For visual focused creatives (and enthusiasts) the easiest way to journal is to use photos and drawing to tell your story. The Scrapbook method is a fun way to keep track of your memories. You can document the day to day with photos you’ve taken. Or you can print and compile your favorite bits of inspiration for later consumption. The simple act of collage helps you clear your mind and come up with new connections between disparate ideas. For people that enjoy drawing, you can draw a highlight from your day or illustrate the things that you bought while shopping this week. 


03. Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling is a way to rapidly log your tasks, events, and notes. Find focus and be productive while keeping track of your day to day. Founded by Ryder Carroll, this is a wildly popular way to organize your personal information. 


04. Gratitude Journal

Increase your positivity and focus on the good in your life by starting a gratitude journal. In the morning and the night you focus on something small or big to be thankful for. With daily practice, you will begin to see the love, joy, and grace that you experience every single day. 


05. Wellness Tracker 

One of the most common goals is to workout more or to lose weight. One of the easiest ways to build healthier habits is to track your progress. In your wellness tracker, you can plan your meals, document your workouts, and reflect on your fitness journey. It’s a useful tool to set goals but also helps you see how your willpower can ebb and flow over the course of the month. 


06. Today in 3 Sentences

This is my go to method of journaling during the week. The goal is to think about everything that happened in your day and distill it into three sentences. 

It can be dry, like: Woke up late. Work was hectic. Incredible dinner with friends. 

But it can also be a small opportunity to be poetic. For example: A weary boy sings the blues. He’s wearing blue jeans. And his favorite blue shirt. 

While not as literal, this example was written as a reminder of a live show that I saw one night in New Orleans. Anyone else reading it might not understand, but for me, it conjures a memory. 



Useful Tips for Maintaining Your Journaling habit


It’s hard to stick to habits that support your growth as an individual. Did you know it takes the average person 66 days to make a new behavior automatic? So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve already tried to start a journal, but it didn’t quite go as expected. Here are a few ways to set yourself up for success with your new journaling practice. 


01. Find a time that works for you. 

Not everyone is a morning person, so waking early might not work for your personality type to start journaling daily. Try different times to see what works for you. Maybe you try journaling at night before bed. Or maybe you fit it in during your lunch break as a way to break up the day. 


02. Use journaling prompts. 

Sometimes it's hard trying to figure out what you want to add to your journal. Journaling prompts are a great way to take off some of the pressure. Whether its a list of questions for you to answer to get to know yourself better or a list of things for you to illustrate. Pinterest is your friend here for quickly finding new ideas. 


03. Find a space that works for you. 

For me, I love writing in my journal at my kitchen bar. I need a clean surface and a fresh cup of coffee to start my morning. But there are a lot of different options for you. You could journal in bed before you close your eyes. Or you could prefer to sit on your porch and journal with the smell of fresh air. 


04. Don’t be too precious 

You can’t get journaling wrong. It’s not meant to be seen by the world. It’s a personal practice just for you to look back on. It’s okay to scribble, to make mistakes, to spill coffee, or to write with your worst handwriting. 


05. Keep your journal with you. 

Whether you heading out for a coffee or going on a vacation, try to keep your journal handy. You never know when you’ll have a free minute out to capture your ideas.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

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How to Journal: A beginner’s guide to getting to Know Yourself

December 22, 2020

New Year. New Journal

2020 was a strange year indeed, but it was also your year of clarity. A chance to slow down and take note of the things that work and the things that don’t work. Whether you achieved a lot or a little, you should be proud that you survived. That is certainly enough. 

With 2021, you have the chance to define your vision and make bold steps towards building the life you were designed to live.

I like to start every new year with a new journal. My personal preference is a single subject spiral notebook (like the ones you probably used in high school). They’re not too fancy and take all the pressure away from being too precious. But depending on your taste and interest there are a variety of options.

Writing the first words on a fresh sheet of paper feels like a new beginning. It helps you cope with stress and anxiety. It’s also a beautiful way to record the life-changing moments and messages that you learn along the way. And most importantly, the blank page offers an opportunity to track your personal growth.  

In this article, we’ll cover reasons to journal, different ways to journal, and useful tips on how to journal. 


3 Reasons to Keep a Journal 


01. Journaling helps you clarify your feelings 

Think of your journal as a paper therapist. When you’re in a bit of a funk and not sure how to move forward, sometimes writing it all down will clear mental space. Translating your emotions into written word helps you process and take action. But more than that, it builds the ritual of reflection and healing. This ultimately leads to increased self-awareness. 


02.  Journaling amplifies your creativity

The best way to become a good writer is to do it regularly. Journaling gives you a safe space to learn how to express yourself creatively. It unleashes your imagination and helps you tap into new ideas. Your journal can be a space to brainstorm new concepts or an opportunity to reflect on your creative influences. You can write lists or capture mantras and quotes from your biggest influences. The combination of these elements helps you refine your taste and establish your creative point of view. 


03. Journaling helps you document your place in history 

One of the most magical parts of keeping a journal for many years is to look back and see who you were. Journaling helps you see your patterns--both over the course of many years and seasonally. It also serves as a great way to document the meaningful accomplishments that you might normally forget. Beyond that, journaling cultivates gratitude and helps you notice the small victories of daily life. 



6 Ways to Journal (for people that like to write and those that don’t)


When you think of keeping a journal, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is the traditional “Dear Diary” format--basically a letter that recaps your day.  But there are so many ways to keep a journal in 2020. You can write full sentences or fragments of ideas. You can draw illustrations or collage your favorite photos. Your journal can be time bound or ongoing. 

Here are 6 different ways to journal. 


01. Book of Lists

One of the easiest ways to journal is to make a series of lists in a notebook. It allows you to keep track of goals, but also is an interesting way to get to know yourself. Examples include: 

  • Things you need to buy for your Apartment
  • Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time
  • The Soundtrack of Summer 2020
  • Books I want to Read this Year
  • Places I’ve traveled to 
  • People I’ve dated and the things I learned 


02. Scrapbook / Art Journal

For visual focused creatives (and enthusiasts) the easiest way to journal is to use photos and drawing to tell your story. The Scrapbook method is a fun way to keep track of your memories. You can document the day to day with photos you’ve taken. Or you can print and compile your favorite bits of inspiration for later consumption. The simple act of collage helps you clear your mind and come up with new connections between disparate ideas. For people that enjoy drawing, you can draw a highlight from your day or illustrate the things that you bought while shopping this week. 


03. Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling is a way to rapidly log your tasks, events, and notes. Find focus and be productive while keeping track of your day to day. Founded by Ryder Carroll, this is a wildly popular way to organize your personal information. 


04. Gratitude Journal

Increase your positivity and focus on the good in your life by starting a gratitude journal. In the morning and the night you focus on something small or big to be thankful for. With daily practice, you will begin to see the love, joy, and grace that you experience every single day. 


05. Wellness Tracker 

One of the most common goals is to workout more or to lose weight. One of the easiest ways to build healthier habits is to track your progress. In your wellness tracker, you can plan your meals, document your workouts, and reflect on your fitness journey. It’s a useful tool to set goals but also helps you see how your willpower can ebb and flow over the course of the month. 


06. Today in 3 Sentences

This is my go to method of journaling during the week. The goal is to think about everything that happened in your day and distill it into three sentences. 

It can be dry, like: Woke up late. Work was hectic. Incredible dinner with friends. 

But it can also be a small opportunity to be poetic. For example: A weary boy sings the blues. He’s wearing blue jeans. And his favorite blue shirt. 

While not as literal, this example was written as a reminder of a live show that I saw one night in New Orleans. Anyone else reading it might not understand, but for me, it conjures a memory. 



Useful Tips for Maintaining Your Journaling habit


It’s hard to stick to habits that support your growth as an individual. Did you know it takes the average person 66 days to make a new behavior automatic? So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve already tried to start a journal, but it didn’t quite go as expected. Here are a few ways to set yourself up for success with your new journaling practice. 


01. Find a time that works for you. 

Not everyone is a morning person, so waking early might not work for your personality type to start journaling daily. Try different times to see what works for you. Maybe you try journaling at night before bed. Or maybe you fit it in during your lunch break as a way to break up the day. 


02. Use journaling prompts. 

Sometimes it's hard trying to figure out what you want to add to your journal. Journaling prompts are a great way to take off some of the pressure. Whether its a list of questions for you to answer to get to know yourself better or a list of things for you to illustrate. Pinterest is your friend here for quickly finding new ideas. 


03. Find a space that works for you. 

For me, I love writing in my journal at my kitchen bar. I need a clean surface and a fresh cup of coffee to start my morning. But there are a lot of different options for you. You could journal in bed before you close your eyes. Or you could prefer to sit on your porch and journal with the smell of fresh air. 


04. Don’t be too precious 

You can’t get journaling wrong. It’s not meant to be seen by the world. It’s a personal practice just for you to look back on. It’s okay to scribble, to make mistakes, to spill coffee, or to write with your worst handwriting. 


05. Keep your journal with you. 

Whether you heading out for a coffee or going on a vacation, try to keep your journal handy. You never know when you’ll have a free minute out to capture your ideas.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

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