Get Started with Journaling: Mintoak’s Beginner's Guide to 17 Effective Techniques For Journaling
-By Priyasy Bokadia April 20, 2023 7 min read

Understanding Different Types of Journaling and Choosing the Right Technique

All I wanted was to live a life where I could be me, and be okay with that. I had no need for material possessions, money or even close friends with me on my journey. I never understood people very well anyway, and they never seemed to understand me very well either. All I wanted was my art and the chance to be the creator of my own world, my own reality. I wanted the open road and new beginnings every day.

Charlotte Eriksson

The benefits of journaling are endless, but getting started can be the hardest part. Always remember journaling is your space. “I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn,” wrote Anne Frank.

Journaling is a highly effective stress-relieving tool when people write in depth about their thoughts and feelings concerning difficult situations, just as they would in a therapy session. Journaling regularly is one of the many ways to manage stress and improve your mental health. Though you don’t necessarily need to write in your journal every day, regular writing is most helpful. If you write in your journal only when the mood strikes, there will be large gaps between journal entries. If you are short on time or feel overwhelmed by too many prompts at once, try setting aside 3 days each week for journalling—and pick just one prompt for each session.


How to Start Journaling?

To get started; you will need a journal, obviously. (Drop us a mail or comment and we will send it across)

Do you find it difficult to journal every day? Here are the top 17 tips & techniques on how to journal, along with life-changing benefits of writing that may surprise you!

1. Pen to Paper, Hand to Heart: Connecting Through Physical Touch in Journaling

Use pen and paper! Take a little diary or a journal with you and keep it in your bag. Consider all the time you squander on your phone when you might be writing down ideas and poetry or doodling what you see. While it may be tempting to use your computer or phone for journaling, studies have shown that writing by hand can be more effective in terms of memory retention and emotional processing. However, some people are comfortable with journaling on apps on their mobile phones and there is no harm. You do you!

2. The 24-Hour Journal: Write Anytime - Morning, Evening or Night

This pouring thoughts out on paper has relieved me. I feel better and full of confidence and resolution. ― Diet Eman, Things We Couldn't Say

Don’t let anyone tell you there is a right time to write a journal, because there isn’t. Some people find the morning to be the best time to put down their thoughts and plan the day. While some prefer to sit and reflect over the entire day, the only right way is whatever works best for you.

3. Small Habits, Big Results: Consistent Journaling Creates Lasting Change

When you’re creating a new habit, it is important to keep expectations within realistic bounds. Don't be discouraged if at first, your journaling seems shallow or repetitive. Remember, you are not expected to produce profound insights when you begin journaling. And, if you expect to see instant results, then your disappointment may make you want to give up on journaling altogether. The point is not to set a goal for the number of lines or pages you write each day; it's more important that you establish a routine.

Don’t feel pressured to write every day. It doesn’t matter if you can only come up with two sentences on some days—those are still yours, and they're just as important as the ones that take longer to write. There will be days when you forget to write entirely or don't find the time to journal, and that is alright. Journaling is not a punishment. Journal at your own speed. Be kind to yourself.

4. Change Your Surroundings: New Environment Can Help Your Journaling Practice

While journaling should be an everyday habit, you don’t have to glue yourself to one spot. Mix up different places. Peaceful environments are conducive to journaling. Find a place where you feel relaxed and comfortable when sitting in the same place and journaling becomes boring and difficult. Go on a day trip, head out to a nearby cafe, visit the library, sit in the garden or even cook. Some people get inspiration for their writing when relaxing on a café terrace and forgetting about their day-to-day hustle. A new environment usually stimulates a new sense and opens up more possibilities.

5. Rise Above Self-Pity: Journal to not give in to self-pity or self-blame

If you only write about the negative aspects of your life and never give yourself credit for anything, then journaling won’t do much good. Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal is a great way to let them out and can be helpful. If all you do is write about how depressed, anxious, or stressed out you are without coming up with solutions to the problems that cause these emotions, it's unlikely your journal will be beneficial. It's important to balance negative thoughts with positive ones.

6. One Technique Doesn't Fit All: Apply Different Journaling Techniques to Different Situations

Choose the technique that works for you. The descriptive technique is useful when you are describing your ideal day or what went well in the day, whereas bullets work for gratitude journaling and doodling works for creativity and personalizing. As you go down the blog, you will find multiple journaling techniques you can use.

7. Honesty Is The Best Policy: Write Without Fear of Being Judged

Virginia Woolf once famously said, The habit of writing for my eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments.

When writing becomes more about getting a reaction from people than expressing your true feelings, it is longer authentic. One of the advantages of journaling is that it provides a secure environment in which you can freely express yourself without being concerned about being judged. So write freely and truthfully without worrying about your writing's punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Be honest with yourself about your thoughts and feelings, because if you don't, who else will? Remember: Your writing is for your benefit, not other people's.

8. Writing Your Way to Success: Set and Achieve Goals With Regular Journaling

You can move up the corporate ladder by setting goals with purpose and creating a clear plan to achieve them. Use your journal to set goals for yourself and track your progress. This could be anything from personal goals to work-related plans. What do you need to do? Identify your goals, Make tangible goals, and hold yourself accountable; rank, prioritise and schedule your goals. Keep track of and expand your goals as you make progress, and most importantly, have a routine and be persistent.

9. Beyond Words: Drawing and Doodling Can Help You Find Calm and Clarity

Doodling is like a safety valve that allows us to release pressure in a safe and non-threatening way. Yet there's a whole lot more going on than meets the eye. To begin with, doodling provides us with a strong mirror into our subconscious, which can lead to exploring ideas and thoughts we wouldn’t have dived into otherwise. Doodling or drawing has always been considered a creative way of expressing your emotions; however, it is not a creative competition. Do not pressure yourself to doodle the perfect sketch. It is an outlet to journal your thoughts and emotions in ways other than writing. Let’s face it, sometimes we might have a lot to say but nothing to say, and in times like those, doodling is a big saviour.

10. Quote Journaling: Let Others Inspire You

A lot of people consider creative journaling an effective method to cut through writer’s block. Quote Journaling is yet another way to keep a journal on days you can’t write or draw the thoughts on your mind. A quote journal is not a huge list of quotes that inspire you, but a place for you to journal your thoughts on the quotes you like. You can pick one quote every day and start journaling your thoughts about it. It can be as small as one or two sentences or as long as a paragraph. Feel free to write down anything that comes to mind when you read the quote—how it motivates you, how relevant it is to your current situation, and so on.

11. Fearless Journaling: Confronting Your Worst-Case Scenarios on the Page

We all have fears, worries, and anxieties that seldom manifest in real life. But that doesn’t stop us from constantly thinking on repeat about the worst-case scenario. This is where journaling comes into the picture. Writing or doodling about the worst things that could happen to you brings you in touch with your fears and helps you identify your anxiety triggers. You can start by writing about the most horrible thing that could happen to you, which often worries you, and then start analyzing it by answering a few questions like - what are the chances that scenario could happen, how would you deal with it, what would be the consequences, and so forth. Additionally, later in the future, you can also look back on your similar past journal entries and compare.

12. Food Journaling: Uncovering the Relationship Between Your Diet and Well-Being

Have you heard of mindful eating? Food journaling helps you become aware of what, how, when, and why you are eating. It helps you track your daily eating habits and helps you further understand food items that work for you and ones that don’t. For instance, list the things you consume every day, draw your favorite meals, or sketch or write about food dates you don't want to forget—these are just a few of the many ways to start food journaling. In particular, for those who love food, food journaling can help improve your mood on days you feel low.

As Jennie Shortridge, the author of Eating Heaven, said, If I could write anything I wanted to, I'd write about the splendour of butter and sugar hitting your taste buds at the same time, or smooth pasta and sharp Romano, or a fat strawberry dipped in bittersweet chocolate.

13. Journaling Prompts: Writing Prompts for Everyday Inspiration

Just like quote journaling, journaling prompts help you on days you are short on words but have turmoil inside and set a path for you. On days like these, a list of various journal prompts is a saviour. You could just Google or hop onto Pinterest for journaling prompts. You can find journaling prompts for multiple themes and topics, from self-reflection to food cravings to personal or work issues.

14. Dream Journaling: Weaving a Tapestry of Your Dreams

According to Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University, “Dreams represent a part of ourselves that we don't generally pay as much attention to as our waking, verbal-reasoning self.” Barrett further adds that dream journaling “can get in touch with your intuition and some of your emotions that you may not be aware of.”

Dream journaling gives you the freedom to write about your very first dream or the most recent one. Although, please know, dream journaling is not to analyze your dreams but to help you understand your emotions and the effect your dreams have on your day-to-day life. One of the important keys to an effective dream journaling technique is that you write or doodle in detail about your dream as soon as you are awake, i.e., in the morning, while your dreams are still fresh in your mind. The later in the day it is, the more difficult it is to remember what you dreamed of. Also, writing down your dreams strengthens your overall memory.

15. Confront Your Fears, Celebrate Your Victories: Rewrite Your Narrative

Celebrating your success is as important as addressing your fears regularly. Write about a time you overcame your fears and were proud of yourself. Journaling about your fears and successes can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health and personal growth. Writing in your journal can help you manage your fears and challenging emotions because it serves as your safe haven. Similarly, giving yourself a pat on the back for your achievements can uplift your mood and instil in you a sense of appreciation for life's finer things.

16. Affirmations & Gratitude: Feel Relaxed, Cheerful, and Focused

Sometimes, when I’ve felt despondent for several days, it helps to discipline myself by saying, ‘I’m going to think only positive thoughts.’ Enough is enough! wrote Larry Godwin in his book Transcending Depression: Quest Without a Compass.

Let’s face it: life can be cruel at times, and even something as simple as getting out of bed can seem like a big task. On days like these, it is natural to get caught up in negative thinking and dwell on the negative aspects of our lives instead of the positive ones. This is where gratitude affirmations and gratitude practice meet to create positive energies around you. You must practice gratitude journaling with a positive note at the start of the day as well as at the end of the day. You can take a few minutes every day to simply write out what you are grateful for when you go to sleep at night; you will not only go to bed thinking grateful thoughts but also wake up thinking them. It will help boost your positivity and pave a better way to handle difficult situations in your life with a grateful attitude.

17. Silent Voices: Healing Through Unsent Letters

Unsent letters are a great journaling activity for achieving clarity and closure. An unsent letter can help calm the turmoil within and achieve a calmer state of mind. Even if the letter is only for your eyes, committing to the act of writing regularly, i.e., forming a habit, can help you channel overwhelming emotions. A letter to a loved one you have lost, A letter to your future self, A letter to prepare yourself for a difficult event, a letter of apology, or a love letter.

Where Can I Buy A Journal?

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