Mental Health

Journaling 101: How to Journal For a Better Mindset

Looking to express yourself in a healthy and mature way? Welcome to the world of journaling, where you express yourself without any fear of the repercussions! Read on to learn more about how to journal and where to start.

By Aditi
24 Aug 2022

It can be hard to process feelings and be present all the time when things are falling apart. At such moments, Self-care seems unachievable and, frankly, too time-consuming. But journalling is the perfect act of self-care that enables you to be more present, aware, and able to process your emotions. In this article, we’ll tell you all about how to journal and we’ll get your started with some easy journaling prompts as well.


If you’ve ever gone through your period of angst as a teenager, you may remember a hidden diary or two where you’ve let out your emotions. Your diary becomes the one place of solace where you can confess what you’re struggling with and who hurt you. According to a 2001 article published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology General, expressive writing can help reduce intrusive and avoidant thoughts about negative situations and memories. Writing down your fears and triumphs is therapeutic.


However, it can be incredibly challenging to put our feelings into words, whether speaking to someone else or just thinking about it. Journalling is a great way to express emotions without fear of judgement, retaliation, or stress. Here’s what you need to know about how to journal and more.


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What is Journaling?

Journalling is an activity where you record your thoughts, feelings, memories, and actions on any day, week, or month (depending on how often you’re doing it). It can be done in a traditional diary or notebook, on paper, or even on an electronic device. While many people relate journalling to the traditional pen-and-paper method, you can adopt journaling on your phone or even through video logs. There is no ‘correct’ way to journal, and what suits you may not suit someone else.


You don’t always have to write what you feel while journaling either. You are free to doodle, draw, or mention key words to encompass what you want to say. You might find that you have plenty of things to write about in a journal once you get started, and it doesn’t have to be something comprehensive. There are many types of journaling, and you can slowly discover which one suits you the best by trying them all out.


Types of Journaling

Every person is unique, and similarly, what journalling style you choose will be unique to your personality and habits. You might find that you like two different journaling styles, and a combination of them would suit your needs better. Here are some common types of journaling that you can get started with:


1. Daily Journaling

It consists of noting down everything that has happened to you and what you felt about it on a daily basis. You could even take out five minutes every other hour to jot down a few lines in your journal to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything. It can help you to check in with your emotions and be a great memory guide to revisit later.


2. Reflective Journaling

There are many experiences you will go through that are personal just to you. Reflective journaling helps you reflect on emotions and memories to understand yourself better and set future goals. Stress and anxiety can prevent you from being fully relaxed, and reflective journaling is great to include in your night-time routine. It can help you ease your worries and sleep with a lighter heart.


3. Bullet Journalling

If you’re active on social media, you may have seen this journalling style blow up in the past few years. Bullet journaling is very organised and combines different components into one diary. From having a daily planner/calendar, to-do list, defined goals, and more, there are many things you can include. It also allows you to get creative with different materials like stickers, tape, and coloured pens to create a journal you’re proud of.


4. Art Journaling

When words just don’t do it for you, try getting a bit creative through art instead. Similar to a sketchbook, art journaling can help you reground your emotions and express them in a healthy way. Whether you document your emotions or express your individualism through your journal, that’s completely up to you.


5. Visual Journaling

If you’re creatively inclined, using your artistic talents in your journal is the perfect way to go. You can doodle what’s going on in your life or what you’re feeling and even colour these illustrations. Unlike art journaling, visual journaling encompasses various types of visual media, like photos, prints, and other visual material.


6. Consciousness Journaling

Without any prompts or goals in mind, when you are simply journalling what comes into your mind, that is consciousness journaling. The challenge is not to stop writing or censor yourself when journaling. It can be a great way to understand what’s going on in your mind.


7. Travel Journaling

When you want to keep specific memories forever, travel journaling is a great way to achieve that. It is a combination of visual journaling and collaging, and you can include mementos in it as well. If you are susceptible to migraines or other health conditions, tracking your food intake for the day can help you identify triggers that might be worsening your condition.


8. Gratitude Journaling

Practising gratitude is a great way to start or end your day, and it can make you happier holistically too. A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology shows that higher levels of gratitude enhance a person’s life satisfaction as well.


9. Food Journaling

Whether you’re trying to stick to a new diet or just want to document your life in food, food journaling is great for many reasons. You can list out all the food you’ve consumed in a day or all the recipes you want to try out or have tried out that day. Including photos and mementos can also be a great idea.


10. Meditation Journaling

When you want to be mindful and clear-headed about your journaling, it’s best to enter a meditative state. It enables you to introspect and discover new facets of your personality.


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Journaling Supplies to Get

Journalling is a personal act, and the medium you use to express yourself can really depend on the goal and intention behind journaling. You might be very unmotivated to get started with journaling, in which case, buying bright coloured pens and stickers may motivate you to journal.


If you are considering journalling the traditional way, with pen and paper, you should consider buying a new journal or diary. It can be like a fresh start, and the possibilities of how you will be using the journal can be enough to excite you. Here are some supplies you should consider buying:


  • Journal/diary
  • Pens or pencils
  • Ruler
  • Stickers
  • Post-it notes


Benefits of Journaling

  • Journaling is therapeutic: Research has been conducted extensively about journaling, and the general consensus is that it benefits people immensely, especially in stressful situations. A 2002 study by the University of Iowa (USA) shows that writing about traumatic events has been linked to improvement in both mental and physical health. Individuals had decreased distress, depression, and positive changes in their immune functions simply by expressing themselves in a journal.
  • Journaling may reduce anxiety and hostility: A 2006 study in The Arts of Psychotherapy reveals that participants who were asked to spend 15 minutes journaling/drawing about a stressful event, their plans for the day, and more twice every week. Participants saw a high decrease in depression, anxiety, and hostility, even if they were highly distressed at the start of the study. Even though not all of them journaled about their emotions or feelings, there was a positive correlation between journaling and their quality of life.
  • Journaling may bolster the immune system: A 2002 American Psychological Association publication covers how writing over time can strengthen the immune system and benefit people battling terminal diseases. Individuals are given the time to interpret their experiences and move past them organically, which can help them better understand their emotions. An older 1995 study about the correlation between vaccination efficacy and journalling published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology shows that the hepatitis B vaccination was more effective for those who expressed themselves through writing. Another 2013 study published by Scientific American shows that writing may actually help physical injuries heal faster.
  • Journaling makes you smarter: A 2003 paper published in the Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle of the University of Victoria reveals that writing has a positive correlation with intelligence (IQ).


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Journaling Time

It can be challenging to find the right ‘journaling time’ for you, and finding the motivation to do it at the same time every day can be equally tough. However, you should keep in mind that journaling is not something that needs to be done at the same time every day, but you should ensure that you’re doing it regularly.


From wide-ranging mental to health benefits, there are many reasons why you should be journaling. But, at the same time, many of us are reluctant to take up this activity because we are unsure of how to journal or even when to do so. The unwillingness to confront our emotions or to understand ourselves better is something that many of us struggle with.


Many people want to hide or ignore their emotions rather than disclose them openly, whether to themselves or others. In a society where being strong and emotionally stable are seen as badges of honour, it can be challenging to understand how to navigate your emotions without being overwhelmed. You don’t have to necessarily record your daily activities or even write about your emotions when you don’t want to. It’s a judgement-free zone where you can be yourself, no inhibitions needed.


Once you take pen to paper and make it a habit, journaling will become a habit you might not want to let go of. Whether you do it in the morning, afternoon, or night, that’s completely up to you. It doesn’t have to be done every day; you just need to figure out a schedule and time that works out for your needs.


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What to Write in a Journal

Depending on the intention and goals you are setting for yourself, what you write in a journal can be vastly different from what somebody else is writing. For example, if you want to become more productive, your journaling time might consist of setting a to-do list and goals you want to accomplish.


If you are journaling for mental health, you might want to begin the day by expressing gratitude for your life and the things that bring you happiness. Journal writing can become easier over time, especially when you have conclusive goals to work towards.


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How to Start a Journal

Starting anything new can be the toughest part of a new activity. While you might look through many journaling ideas for beginners, it’s not guaranteed to help you out in the long term. Writing in a journal should be something you are excited about, so you need to look for ideas that inspire and motivate you. Some prompts you can ask yourself through journaling are:


  • What made you happy today?
  • What is a situation you wish you reacted to differently?
  • What is one thing you would have changed about today?
  • Who made you happy today?
  • What did you feel today?
  • Is there anything you want to change about your day or your behaviour?
  • What do you want to do tomorrow?
  • What are some things you are grateful for?
  • What is a memory that is hard for you to talk about?
  • What do I know today that I didn’t know yesterday/a year ago/a week ago?
  • What is keeping me from being my most productive self?
  • Am I feeling stressed/distressed/fatigued/exhausted, and why?
  • What emotions am I unable to let go off?
  • Is someone pushing my boundaries?
  • Are my actions, goals, and aspirations making me happy?
  • Am I satisfied with myself?


When you are struggling with journaling, you might need external motivators. Setting alarms or giving yourself daily prompts can give you the push you want.


Journaling Tips

  • Set aside time to write: While it might seem easy to start journaling in theory, it can be harder to make it a constant habit in your life. By intentionally setting anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour to write, you can make it a consistent habit you can stick to.
  • Set an achievable target to write: It’s important to not overdo it in the start and burn yourself out before it’s truly begun making a change. If you’re not used to writing, it might be best to do a paragraph every day for a week and then gradually increase how much your journal.
  • Be patient: If you don’t feel comfortable revealing your emotions on paper, it’s best not to force yourself at the start. Your comfort is crucial to maintaining a good journaling habit, so only write as much as you’re comfortable with.
  • It’s not a school or work assignment: Don’t be preoccupied with keeping everything neat, as you will probably be the only person given access to your journal.
  • Remember the goal: Try to insert a few positive affirmations so you can have something positive to mark your journaling experience. Remind yourself every day why you are journaling and what it is intended to do for you.


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What does it mean to be journaling?

Journaling means expressing yourself and your emotions through words, art, or even scribbles. It is creating an intentional log where you can vent or express yourself without any fear of reciprocation or confrontation.







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