Journaling 101: Five ways to begin journaling and stick with it

For many, the beginning of the new year marks the turning of a page, and for those who journal, that’s more than just a figurative statement. Whether you’ve been journaling for years or are looking to start in the new year, the benefits of putting some words onto paper every day are well documented. 

"Journaling allows you to focus on the present moment and process your thoughts and feelings," says Alice Poulin, LCPC, CCS, clinical supervisor, Adult Inpatient, Northern Light Acadia Hospital. "It can also help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can lead to increased resilience and overall well-being."

If you’re just beginning your journaling journey, you may very well spend your first day staring at a blank page racking your brain for words. In the weeks that follow, you might struggle to hardwire the process into your day-to-day activities. Never fear, here are five ways to not only get you started journaling, but to also help you develop the routine and keep it going.

  1. Incorporate journaling into your morning or nightly routine. Sure, it sounds easy, but this is one of the biggest hurdles when you’re just getting started. Mornings are hectic and more often than not, evenings aren’t much better. If you can find a window of time to be alone with your thoughts, open your journal and jot something down. If you can, consider setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier and build out that time for your journaling.

  2. Find the type of journaling that works best for you. There are several methods of journaling, and each one has its own purpose. For example, bullet journaling became a trend several years back specifically among busy professionals looking to journal while also enhancing their productivity, helping them organize to-do lists and goals. Perhaps you’d benefit from a gratitude journal to help put some of your success and appreciation from and for friends and loved ones into perspective. Or, if you’d rather, just pick up a standard everyday journal and figure out what style works best for you along the way.

  3. When in doubt, start small! One of the easiest ways to journal is one-line-a-day journal, which usually doubles as a five-year memory book. These offer you a chance to write just one sentence each day – a thought, a quote, a milestone – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be profound or life-changing. It’s simply a way for you to keep up with the practice without having to dedicate large amounts of time to it.

  4. Use prompts! Let’s face it, sometimes we all need a little inspiration. There are several websites, apps, and card decks that can assist you, posing questions or offering topics for you to journal about.

  5. Be present, but don’t forget to reflect. Possibly the most important part of journaling is to look back when you reach important milestones. Has it been a year of journaling already? Flip back to the beginning and read through your first entry from the year. (Sidenote: It’s okay to cringe a little). Did you get a promotion? Find moments of triumph where you wrote about a proud moment along the way. Page by page, you can see how far you’ve come in your life, your work, or your hobbies.