Last week, I shared many of the reasons why you should start a journal. Today, I want to share more of the in’s and out’s of how to start a journal. What it looks like to journal. What types of journals you could have and the various formats.
Journaling is a very individual thing. No two people necessarily “journal” in the same way. There is no right or wrong here, and many people journal in a variety of formats. I personally have a number of different places and things that I keep track of in a journal format.
The key to journaling is simply to do it. Try different formats, different types of journals, and see what works for you. The goal, as I mentioned in last week’s post, is to improve your life by allowing your thoughts a chance to teach and grow you as a person. Journaling allows you to pay attention and notice things better.
Tools for Journaling
You don’t need anything fancy to journal. You simply need a way to write out your words and thoughts. However, there are a lot of ways and places you can write these days.
Notebook and Pen
The most popular way to journal is to simply grab a notebook and a pen and just start writing. You can use any notebook, it’s all about personal preference here (and maybe a little bit about budget).
I love using a Leichtturm 1917 journal for my bullet journal and I have used one for regular journaling as well. They are a bit on the pricey side though, so usually I grab something a little cheaper for my daily journal writing. I have a lot of words (if you haven’t noticed), so I can’t afford to buy a new Leichtturm every other week.
Amazon has a ton of inspirational journals to choose from and you can also find them in stores like Target and Barnes and Noble. These journals usually have a pretty cover usually with a verse or a quote on the cover and sometimes on each page. This is usually what I tend to use for my own journaling. They are pretty, functional, and affordable.
Or, if that’s still too fancy for you, just grab a simple spiral notebook or legal pad like you used to use in high school for your class notes.
Keep in mind, if you just like words (like me), you’ll be fine with a simple lined notebook for your writing. However, if you’re more of an artsy person you might want to consider a journal with large margins or blank pages to give you space to doodle. Doodling and drawing can be incredibly valuable when journaling as well.
Computer and/or Apps
There is something special about writing things out with a pen to paper. Studies have shown that it is more beneficial to hand write things we want to learn or really focus on (which is the point of journaling). However, there are a number of reasons that people might want to journal digitally. Here are a few of the reasons:
If I’m journaling about something particularly private and close to my heart I have been known to type it out. You can password protect files on your computer or type them directly into Google drive or another online document management system that is kept behind the safety of your private password.
Sometimes, when my brain is overwhelmed and running a hundred miles a minute it is helpful to do a brain dump. I can write out all of my thoughts, all of the things I need to do, all of my worries, and anything else that’s floating around up there. But sometimes I write too slow or I can get a hand cramp after a while. If I know I have a lot to say and just want to get it all out so I can look things over and sort, process, or analyze, typing is often incredibly valuable.
Let’s be real, these days we always have our phone/devices in our hands or our purse, but you might not always have a pen and paper (that crumpled receipt on the bottom of your purse isn’t exactly conducive to journaling). If you’re sitting in your doctor’s office waiting room or the school carpool line and you just need to get some things off your chest, you can type out your thoughts on your phone in a pinch.
There are a number of apps available for journaling. I haven’t used any of them as that seems far too fancy for me. If I’m going to journal digitally I just go to my notes app on my phone or start a fresh Google Doc. But if that sounds like something up your alley, be sure to do a search for journaling apps and see what looks good.
As I said before, there are many ways that you can journal. I personally start my day by writing at least three things I’m thankful for in the gratitude pages of my bullet journal. As I go through my day, if I hear a quote or a thought that really inspires me, I also have a section in my bullet journal for “What I’m learning”. As I’m reading my Bible in the morning I write out the scriptures I’m reading and any observations and applications I want to consider. I also sometimes write out full prayers, especially if I’m particularly overwhelmed and want to pour out my heart to God and listen for His response. (Writing out your thoughts as you’re praying can help you notice when God speaks to you.) And finally, when I’m stressed out or need to sort out my thoughts or feelings during the day I will free write whatever is on my mind.
There are so many ways that you can journal and many people are like me and tend to use a variety of these formats. Here are some journaling formats that you might want to experiment with to see what works best for you and your life situation:
- Free Write
- Bible Journaling
- Diary/Story Style
- Progress/Personal Development
Today’s Action Step
Grab some paper or hop on your computer and try out one of the journaling formats above. Do some experimenting to see what you love and what works best for you.
Additional Journaling Resources