It’s touted as one of the best wellness tools available. Journaling is as inexpensive as it is beneficial. It’s swimming in a pool of positive mental and physical health outcomes and costs next to nothing. If you have a pen and a piece of paper, then you can journal too.

Of course it isn’t really that easy. Writing down your thoughts for the very first time is like starting your car in the cold. It doesn’t always work at first, but once the engine turns over you’re on the move. Today, we’re going to fuel your journaling curiosity with a few definitions, some helpful tips, and a roadmap.

Meet Journaling

Hailed as one of the most effective acts of self-care, journaling is so much more than just another health trend. Journaling really is just the simple act of writing down one’s feelings and thoughts as a way to organize and understand them better.1 It’s self-reflection in its purest form, done privately and without judgment.

It’s not frivolous homework. On the contrary, a consistent journaling practice is linked to countless real-life benefits for you and the people you interact with on the daily.

Journaling on a regular basis can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Manage anxiety
  • Prioritize and cope with fears
  • Track symptoms of illnesses
  • Help you process complex emotions
  • Help you plan ahead2

It doesn’t take a long time to start reaping the rewards of this healthy habit either. Many of the benefits listed above begin to take effect immediately.

Three Steps to Start Journaling

As intimidating as journaling can be for someone just starting out, actually doing it isn’t all that complicated. Having said that, structuring things out into an itemized list creates a visual cue that may help the information stick.

Step 1: Get a pen and a journal.

Choosing a journal and a pen to commit to is an important part of the journaling process. You want a pen that’s fun to write with and a journal that invites you to return to it every day. It sounds hokey, but the journal’s aesthetic really can set the tone early on. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but the tools you use should feel special.

There really are a lot of journal types to choose from. Bible journals, creative writing journals, and beginner-friendly instructional journals provide a thematic structure for the journaling process and provide a great alternative to the familiar blank notebook. All the more reason to take your time in choosing the right one for you.

Step 2: Prepare a list of prompts.

If you’ve invested in a themed journal, then you could probably skip this step. Most of those come loaded with prompts already, which is why they can be so helpful for those just starting out.

If you’re kicking it old school though, creating a list of prompts and keeping it on hand when it comes time to journal is a great way to stop overthinking and just start writing. Again, the importance of journaling is just taking the time to write. So make a list of prompts and save it in your phone, or write them down on the first page of your journal and add to it as you go.

We’ll even get you started! Here’s a list of helpful journaling prompts to help break the journaling ice:

  • What did I learn today?
  • What can wait until next week?
  • How were my emotions today?
  • Why do I feel this way?
  • How do I feel right now?
  • How was my day?

Step 3: Write.

There’s no way around it. The best pen in the world, and the globe’s most luxurious notebook, can’t journal for you. So turn your brain off for a split second and just let your thoughts flow through your pen. The results might surprise you.

Don’t force yourself to write 500 words if you aren’t in the mood for it, but be sure to check in with a few thoughts at least once per day. Over time, journaling will just become a part of your life, along with the numerous other benefits associated with this powerful practice.

Write Your Own Story

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for long term journaling success is to seriously think about why you want to journal in the first place. There’s no wrong answer, but establishing a purpose is essential to being able to push through the tougher days.

Either way, you’re on the right track. Learning about journaling is a positive step, whether you pick up a notebook and begin journaling or not. It isn’t for everybody, and it doesn’t have to be for you. But, if you keep searching, you’re sure to find something else that excites you.