INSIDE: This ultimate guide contains fun and creative ways for how to start a journal you’ll love. Going through the motions of journaling can feel dull and boring, but now you’ll look forward to it every day!
How to Start a Journal You’ll Love
Have you noticed the word “journal” has turned into a verb over the past several years?
I think that’s kinda cool because it goes to show you that journaling is a popular activity that is making a difference in people’s lives.
I know it certainly has for me, but it hasn’t always, and that’s why I wanted to write this article.
Maybe you’re an avid journaler, but it’s starting to feel kinda dull as you find yourself just going through the motions.
Or maybe you’ve been wanting to start a journal but don’t really know where to begin.
I’ve been journaling all my life, but it hasn’t always been as fun as it could have been.
Along the way, I discovered many techniques that have helped me transform my journals into fun and easy expressions of myself, and the time I spend journaling has morphed into a creative adventure that has led to new levels of self-discovery and self-care.
When you journal like this, it’s never boring, and you’ll never just be going through the motions. You’ll look forward to your journaling time, so much so that you just might find yourself carrying your journal with you all the time!
In this Ultimate Guide to How to Start a Journal You’ll Love, I’m going to dive into…
- The many different types of journals you can create
- Tips for each type of journal
- Things you can do that will motivate you to journal every day
- Creative journaling ideas
- And fun journaling prompts
But first, I think it’s important to start off with why you’d want to journal in the first place.
Why Bother Journaling?
Journaling is more than just writing diary entries. It’s not just recording your feelings and what happens each day, although that can certainly be part of it.
Writing in a journal provides a multitude of health benefits, and understanding these benefits can help you make your journaling time even more productive and fun.
Here is what journaling can do for you…
It’s a Way to Release Tension
When you write in a journal, you can say whatever you want. It’s a way to vent without repercussions because there is no one to get hurt by anything you say.
Being able to vent in this way is an incredibly effective stress management technique because when we vent, we release pent-up tension, especially when we do it without worrying what others think.
It’s a way of letting go of everything we’ve been holding inside, and you’ll be amazed to find that many times when you’ve been stewing about something, releasing it into a journal cuts the charge of the emotion down considerably, and then it is often not as big of a deal anymore.
Writing down what is causing us stress helps us actually remove the stress from an internal space, and releases it to an open space. This can help us sort out the issues and keep them from bottling up in us.
It’s a Way to Better Understand Yourself
Writing down what you are feeling about a situation also helps you work through your emotions so you can get to the root of the problem.
When we write down our thoughts and feelings in a journal, we are able to reread what we wrote at a later time, which helps us to discover patterns that tell us what people or events are triggering our positive or negative reactions.
With that information in hand, we can make changes such as making a career change, letting go of toxic relationships, and developing a mindset that better supports our goals.
As a result of these new understandings and changes, you might find yourself experiencing less stress, feeling happier, having more energy, enjoying improved social interactions, wanting to get more exercise, and achieving better overall health.
It’s a Way to Express Your Creativity
Journaling is no longer about just writing down your feelings. There are so many different types of journals and creative journaling ideas available these days that it can serve as one of your main sources of creativity.
Later in this article, we will go over different types of journals and ways to be creative with them, but for now, I just wanted to list this as a health benefit because when we are enjoying more creativity in our lives, we feel more alive and excited about life. It also helps us develop more flexible and innovative thinking in all areas of our lives, which can serve us well.
It Can Help Us Achieve Our Goals
Most of us have some goal(s) in life, but typically that means we have things we hope to accomplish, without any real method of doing so.
When we set goals in a journal, however, we increase our chances of achieving our goals and dreams tremendously. Here’s how:
- Journaling About Our Goals Make Them Real – By simply writing down our goals, we connect them to reality in our minds, which helps us manifest them. It’s almost like a contract with ourselves.
- It Helps Us Stay Focused & Accountable – A journal is a great place to plan out and document the journey of your goals. You can write down how you plan to work on your goal each day and then write down what you actually do each day to get closer to achieving your goal(s). This helps you to stay focused on taking appropriate steps for your goal each day, and it helps you stay accountable to yourself.
- Your Journal Helps You Monitor & Track Your Progress – When we compare the steps we wanted to take and the steps we took each day to achieve our goal, we can easily evaluate what is working and what obstacles we need to overcome. You’ll be able to identify patterns that are and aren’t working so you can make changes accordingly.
Journaling is Sooooo Good for Mental Health
There are so many reasons journaling is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Here are a few of the most important ones:
- Journaling Helps You Figure Out the Real Issue – When you start journaling, you’ll likely start off venting about your problems and frustrations. As you continue writing, however, you might find yourself getting to a deeper root cause, one that you didn’t think of before you started writing about it.
- You’ll Discover Your Triggers – When we write down our feelings on a consistent basis, we discover so much about ourselves, including what triggers our biggest issues in life. Then, we are better able to work through and conquer them.
- Journaling Helps Reduce Loneliness – A journal can feel like a companion, especially when you are feeling lonely. Even though you are simply writing to yourself, you’d be amazed how much it can help with this issue. Sometimes, we are our best sounding board.
As you can see, journaling is an amazing activity for our health. It helps on so many levels, and it certainly benefits not only your mind but also your spirit and even your body when you take the stress management aspect into account.
7 Different Types of Journals
Each person brings their own creative expression to their journal. Since we are all different, it’s only fitting that there are many different types of journals available.
Here’s a list of 7 different types of journals to help you determine what kind of journal will work best for you. Just keep in mind, you aren’t limited to this list, and you can even make up a whole new type that will work best for you.
Devotional Journals are one of the most common journals on the market probably because motivational quotes seem to be very popular at the moment.
These journals are not specific to any certain religion or spiritual practice. Instead, there are versions available for nearly every spiritual belief. Typically, they contain a scripture, passage, or quote on various pages, and you are given the space to write about your thoughts related to that quote.
This is a great type of journal for people who like to have a writing prompt and enjoy pondering deep thoughts. Of course, you can always journal about whatever you want on the pages as well and then just enjoy reading the quotes.
Weight Loss Journals
Weight Loss Journals provide an easy way to track your weight loss goals and achievements each day. It might include noting things like what you ate, how long you worked out, what kind of workout you completed, and your weight. Typically, you’ll be able to utilize handy checklists and even a small area where you can write down your thoughts for the day regarding your weight management.
These journals can be such a blessing when you are starting off on a new weight loss journey. It can be difficult to do a number of things related to our health goals, such as:
- Figuring out which weight loss methods will work best for you
- Understanding what isn’t working
- Developing routines that are different from what you are used to
- Dealing with the emotional stuff that comes up throughout the process
A Weight Loss Journal can help with all of these things.
Here are some important tips for making your Weight Loss Journal work:
- Make Your Journal Part of Your Life – Instead of trying to note what you did that day related to your weight loss goals at the end of the day, keep your journal with you and note each thing as you do it. This keeps your ideas and feelings fresh in your mind so that they will be more accurate. Plus, it helps you turn your weight loss goals and journal into a seamless part of your life.
- Review & Look for Patterns – Go back through your journal entries at the end of each week so that you can discover patterns for overeating, skipping your workouts, stress, and emotional difficulties related to your weight loss goals. Doing so will help you understand what is derailing you so you can make adjustments.
- Be Flexible – We often get the best results when we try new things and step outside of our comfort zone, and this is also true with weight loss. When you exhibit flexibility like this, be sure to jot it down in your journal, as well as why you made the change and how well it worked out.
- Journal Your Rewards – Reward systems can be incredibly motivating, but they don’t always work. When you journal your rewards, you ensure this strategy will work for you. That means first setting a milestone you want to reach (this should be smaller than your goal so that you can have several milestones along the way to reaching your goal). Then, you’ll write down the reward you want to give yourself when you reach a certain milestone, why you want it, and what having that reward would mean to you. Be sure to reread what you wrote each day so you keep it fresh in your mind. Then, when you earn the reward, take a picture of you and your reward and paste it in your journal. On days when you are having a tough time sticking with your weight loss plan, these milestones and pictures can serve as motivation to push you forward to the next milestone.
Wreck Journals are really fun and can help you open your mind and accept imperfection. They include different prompts each day, some of which can include poking holes in a page, drawing or completing an image, or even ripping out the page and throwing it away. The idea behind these journals is to release stress and get your creative juices flowing.
Here are some fun things to do in your wreck journal:
- Spill something on a page and turn it into a drawing
- Splatter paint on a page
- Fill a page with circles (there are lots of creative ways to do this)
- Poke holes in a page
- Put a bunch of sticky things on a page
- Scribble all over a page
- Draw all over the page with one non-stop line
- Sew on a page
- Draw with glue and then color in between the glue lines
- Color outside of the lines
- Glue a bunch of stuff onto a page
- Search Pinterest to see visual examples of wreck journal ideas
Goal Planning Journals
Goal Planning Journals provide you with an organized way to develop, focus on, and stick to your goals. They usually include a series of prompts and checklists that help you solidify what you really want and the best path to get you there.
These journals come in a large variety and can be themed to different goals such as career, spirituality, children, weight loss, or certain niche careers like blogging. Depending on the theme of your goal planning journal, it might include a checklist with a small writing area or prompts giving you tasks to complete and a place to record thoughts regarding those tasks.
I especially love The Rituals for Living Dreambook, which is truly the most unique planner I’ve found for setting goals, creating rituals, and nurturing your mind, body, and spirit all in one place. There’s a video that explains it all on this page – check it out, you won’t regret it!
Bullet Journals are my new favorite type of journal because they offer the best way to completely customize your journal to be exactly what you need it to be. Based on your needs, your bullet journal might include calendars, segmented to do lists, habit trackers, mood trackers, goals, gratitude lists, shopping lists, meal plans, and so much more – the sky is the limit really!
The reason it is called a Bullet Journal is because the person who developed it used bullets and different symbols for different tasks, and each month he would move the tasks he didn’t complete over and leave off tasks he was no longer interested in completing. Since then, these journals have become so much more as people have put their own creativity into them.
As I use my Bullet Journal more and more, I will be writing an article with tons of tips and examples. In the meantime, though, here are some tips that will help you get started with a Bullet Journal:
- Watch the video at http://bulletjournal.com, which explains the initial concept of the Bullet Journal, and provides you with a foundational understanding of how it works.
- Then, check out Kara Benz’s posts, which show you how far you can take your Bullet Journal and many creative ideas you can include.
- Then scale it way back. Kara’s journals are amazing, but they can be quite overwhelming for most of us. You don’t want to find yourself procrastinating because you worry you won’t be able to make your journal look as nice or because you don’t have the time to make each page look like a work of art. Just pick out a couple creative ideas to incorporate into your journal and keep the rest pretty simple for now.
- Next, you want to gather your supplies, but again don’t go all out right now. I’m on my first bullet journal and I just used a regular journal I had lying around and my favorite black pen. For my next one, I will probably order a journal with dots (like this one) because it will help me keep it a little neater, but for now I’m fine with my plain pages. If you want to start off with color and embellishments from the get-go, here are the ones that seem to work best:
- Just get started! Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just have fun and assume this first one is just a practice run. That way, you won’t hold yourself up from starting, and you can begin playing around and seeing what works best for you.
In the past, I have created many journals that focus on one main area of my life that I currently want to work on, so I am calling these Theme Journals. These journals work best when you carry them with you all the time so you can constantly jot down and track things that happen in your life that are in keeping with your theme. Here are some ideas for Theme Journals you might want to create:
- Happiness Journal – If improving your happiness and life fulfillment is your main area of focus at the moment, why not create a Happiness Journal (one whole journal dedicated to bringing more happiness into your life). You might include daily notes of things that make you happy, how something that seemed bad turned out to be good, quotes or jokes you come across that make you happy, or moments with people who make you feel good. The more you write in this type of journal, the easier you will let go of negative thoughts and start looking for what makes you happy instead.
- Gratitude Journal – Gratitude Journals are similar to Happiness Journals, but the focus is more on noting down what you are thankful for, which isn’t always what makes us happy. You might be thankful that you haven’t lost your job in the midst of downsizing, for example, even though your job doesn’t really make you happy. The power of these journals comes from the fact that when we focus on showing gratitude for our blessings, we end up naturally attracting more to be grateful for in our lives. Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, it shifts us into a mindset of appreciating what we do have, and that can do wonders for our level of fulfillment in life.
- Healing Journal – Perhaps you are going through some health challenges at the moment or maybe you just really want to make better lifestyle choices. A Healing Journal can help you in either case because it gets you to focus on the things that will heal your body or help you thrive. You could note down how you feel each day, what you ate, what exercises you did, whether you took your vitamins, and how much water you drank. You can also jot down new healthy lifestyle products and services you discover or quotes you come across that inspire you to be healthier.
Travel Journals are great ways to document trips and vacations. Taking photos is one thing, but actually writing out your feelings in the moment will help you create more meaningful memories.
We all think we are going to remember everything about our vacations, but emotions quickly fade to general overall feelings, and then the moment will never be as vivid again. A Travel Journal can bring those memories back to life for us again and again.
Deciding how you want to organize and maintain a Travel Journal while on your trip can be challenging, however, so here are some tips that can help:
- Plan Out Your Trips in Your Journal – Mount a map of the city you are going to right in your journal and circle the places you want to see while on your trip. Make a list of the events you want to attend and their dates and times. Consider breaking your Travel Journal into sections based on each place you are going to be visiting.
- Prompt Yourself Ahead of Time – A fun way to journal when traveling is to write out prompts ahead of time that are designed for your specific trip. The prompts give you something to reflect on and answer throughout your trip, and you can even use them to push yourself to visit places you normally wouldn’t, such as a prompt asking what the local cafe and best coffee house is like.
- Include Scrapbook Pages – Add photos, stickers, flowers you find, maps, postcards, receipts, tickets, and anything you can mount into your journal for more creativity and visual appeal.
- Set End Goals For Your Travel Journal – Setting a goal for the end result of your Travel Journal is a great way to keep yourself journaling throughout your trip. There are many ways to do this. You might consider any of the following:
- Create a summary page that contains pictures from each place you went to on your trip with captions for each one. Plan each photo that will go on the page and write the captions while you are still at the place you are recording.
- Include a final thoughts section, where you write about the most important points of each part of your trip (as you complete them).
- Make sure you take a photo when you arrive back home or when the plane is landing for full closure.
Motivation Tips to Keep You Journaling
Even I have times when my motivation to journal wanes (and I am all about journaling)!
It happens. We get excited about starting a new journal, and then the excitement wears off a bit, we start to get out of the habit, and before you know it, we haven’t journaled in a month.
I know that when that happens to me, I’m pretty bummed. I can’t stand when there are gaps in my journals, and I miss the health benefits of journaling when I don’t keep up with it.
Over the years, I’ve discovered some tips that help me get back on track and keep myself on track when that happens. I’ll share them with you here…
Create Daily Prompts at the Beginning of the Week
Journaling can get boring when we always write about the same things, but coming up with unique prompts can keep you excited. These should be things that make you excited to think about and write about.
The best way to go about this is to create them a week ahead so that you have things to focus on for the week and instead of feeling like you don’t know what to write when you open your journal, you’ll be excited to open your journal because you are already excited about your prompt. Here are some prompt ideas to get you started:
- Brainstorm ideas for a project you want to start
- Create a new specific goal
- Reflect on a past event or situation
- Write a poem about someone you admire
- Make a list of movies you want to see
- Write about what family means to you
Think Outside of the Box
We aren’t limited to words when we write in a journal and a big part of what makes journaling so fun is all the other creative things we can do with a journal. Here are some ideas:
- Mount things like photos, pressed flowers, and mementos
- Creative lettering for headings and quotes
- Stamping and coloring
- Create your own charts, such as Habit Trackers and Mood Trackers
- Use creative bullets, such as swirlies or arrows
- Mixed media (markers, colored pencils, washi tape, watercolors, pastels, pen and ink, glitter, etc.)
Always remember to make your journal completely yours. You can make it more personal by adding in elements that have special meaning to you. For example, certain clippings, quotes, and drawings might have no meaning to someone else but have significant meaning to you.
Make Your Journal Pretty
Another fun way to make your journal completely yours is to decorate it in your style, both inside and out. There are so many fun ways to make your journal a full visual expression of you. When you decorate your journal, it becomes more inviting to you, and you find yourself wanting to write in it more often.
Here are some ideas:
- Use Washi Tape – This adds a cool decorative element to either the cover or inside pages. You can use washi tape to decorate the sides of your pages, add a border, separate entries, mark off certain times of the year, or draw attention to special entries. This paper-based tape comes in various styles and designs, and you are sure to find something that matches your style.
- Use Stickers – Stickers are an easy and fun way to add a playful and decorative element to your journal. Just like with washi tape, there are tons of stickers available, so it’s easy to find something that is an expression of you. You can find inspirational words, flowers, designs, or anything you can dream up. You can add them to the cover, the corners of pages, or inside your journal entries.
- Add a Collage to the Cover – Whether you cut out magazine graphics, print out words and images, or draw your own, a collage is a fun way to express yourself visually. You can add the collage to your cover or on an inside spread to serve as a vision board.
- Use Creative Lettering – Add your own decorative page numbers or headings using creative lettering. There are many books that can help you learn lettering and adding it to your journal entries can quickly transform your pages into works of art.
- Add Photo Corners – Photo corners are especially fun if you like to add photos to your journal pages. These little stickers hold pictures in place and makes them look more beautiful than simply gluing the images on the pages directly.
- Use Colored Pencils or Markers – Always remember, you aren’t limited to a pen or pencil when you journal. It’s fun to add color using your favorite medium, such as markers or colored pencils. Many people even add watercolors to their pages. You might want to add color to headings or goals, or even draw and color little doodles on your pages. Keep in mind, however, that journals with heavier paper work best when you are adding color so that you don’t end up with bleed-through or tears in your pages.
- Use Scrapbooking Supplies – There is an insane amount of scrapbooking supplies available, and it’s an easy way to spruce up your journal pages. Some of these supplies I already mentioned (stickers and washi tape), but there are also printed papers, stamps, Distress Oxide, embellishments, envelopes, embossing and die-cutting tools, and more.
Trade Journal Ideas With Friends
Motivation often comes when we feed off of one another, so sharing some of your less personal entries with a friend can lead to positive feedback that sparks you to stay motivated with your journaling. Better yet, if your friend also loves to journal, you can trade ideas, so you always have a fresh bank of creative ideas for your journal.
Answer Questions in Your Journal
These days, most of us lack the time for deep self-discovery, and it can lead us to feel lost and unfulfilled. Pondering profound questions that help you discover more about yourself and what you want in life is one of the best uses for journaling. You’ll achieve greater self-confidence and happiness in life as a result.
The best way to approach this kind of activity is to let the answers just flow out of you in a stream of consciousness – don’t filter; just write. Here are some questions you might consider asking yourself:
- Why am I journaling? – By getting to the root of the reason you want to journal, you’ll get more out of it and stick with it.
- What is the overall theme of your life right now? – The answer to this could be positive or negative, and it can lead to an exploration of how you can either make a needed change or continue down an already fulfilling path.
- What traits do I love about a person I admire? – We can learn a lot by evaluating what we like about the people we look up to, and then we can work to harness those characteristics ourselves.
- In what ways am I similar to a person I can’t stand? – Although it can be hard to swallow, we tend to get the most annoyed or angry at people when they are doing something that we also do. Of course, we don’t realize this, and it can seem crazy. But take some time to honestly ponder this theory using a real situation in your life and then see what you think.
- What do I need to let go if? – When things are causing us stress, it is often because we are trying too hard to force something to happen. Sometimes releasing that control is the best thing for us. Consider that and see if it helps.
Fun Journaling Prompts
While our journal can be used for therapeutic, self-discovery, and health purposes, it can also be a wonderful source of fun, play, and creativity for us. Here are some fun journaling prompts to help you get the most enjoyment out of your journaling practice:
- What would I do if? – Starting a journal entry off with this phrase is a fun way to discover yourself and be creative. This prompt can be used over and over and over again, and it’ll never get boring. Here are some ways you might complete the question:
- What would I do if my internet service was out for a month?
- What would I do if I came home to a house full of balls (as if your house turned into a giant ball pit)?
- What would I do if I won the lottery?
- If I were? – This prompt can help you see things from many perspectives; therefore it’s a fun way to open your mind. Here are some ideas for how you could use this prompt:
- If I were a lawyer…
- If I were a free spirit…
- If I were a clown in the circus…
- If I woke up today and was living my dream life, what would I be doing? – This is the ultimate question to ask yourself for self-discovery and before you set any new goals. You’ll learn what really matters to you at this moment, and as you reread the passage a year, 2 years, or 5 years from now, you’ll notice how your desires change, which can be a very revealing activity.
Journaling is certainly one of my favorite things to do, especially when there are so many options. It allows me to express my creativity, stay organized, stay in tune with myself, and have fun all at the same time.
I hope you got a lot our of this How to Start a Journal You’ll Love Guide. Please comment below with your favorite tip from above or your own tip that works for you. I can’t wait to hear all your amazing ideas!
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