How to start journaling for beginners — developing a journaling habit

Last week, we looked at the different ways to journal. Whether this is by mind dumping, a guided journal, or even an art journal, we explored various ways to get started. Maybe you are still on that journey to finding your desired way to journal, and that’s okay! But what if you’ve found a way that works for you and, yet, you are still not sticking to it? It can be so frustrating. I know I have felt very irritated with myself for not writing every day when I know it helps me so much. It is something I am still working on. However, over time, I have found some tricks that have helped me to develop my journaling habit. 

Make it easy

There are different ways to make journaling easy. This can be in terms of how you journal itself, but also establishing a routine. For example, I decided to use the five-minute journal to break down the barrier to entry. This made it easier to start writing as I knew how long I would be journaling for and what I’d be writing (which I needed, as mind dumping was not necessarily for me).

However, I also set myself a specific time to journal. I discovered I preferred to journal last thing in the evening, but before I started my night-time routine. This allowed me to reflect on the day but also give my brain time to switch off from my journal before I went to bed. I am someone who overthinks a lot, so I found that journaling right before turning out the lights didn’t stop my brain from going into overdrive. Instead, by writing my journal, and then giving myself time to brush my teeth, do my skincare, etc. my brain had time to settle. Setting this time each evening meant I knew when I would be journaling, so made it easier to pick the journal up. It was journaling time! 

I did notice that, even with a set time, if my journal wasn’t to hand then I would often make an excuse to not to do it. This made me realise that I also had to make it physically easy to pick up the journal. When my journal was left on the coffee table by the sofa, I could see it and it would make me more inclined to pick it up and write in it. Conversely, I am currently living a ‘nomadic’ lifestyle. This means that my notebook lives in my suitcase. Since it lives there, it is easy to forget about it and the habit is harder to stick to it. Remember the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’? This definitely applies to your journal. Make sure it is somewhere you can easily access!

Build a routine

This is somewhat covered above, but building routines really helps. When I was younger, I did not see the need for routines and fought against them somewhat. But routines are great tools for keeping grounded. Why not integrate your journal into a pre-existing routine so it becomes second nature? For me, as mentioned, I integrated it before I started my night-time routine, so it was like an add-on to this established part of my evening. If this doesn’t work for you, why not grab your journal instead of your phone in the morning? Or, after you finish your lunch, grab your journal and sit outside to write? 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, believes in what is called ‘habit stacking’. When we are trying to develop a new habit, it helps if we identify a current habit we already have and then add the new behaviour onto it. Our brains like routine, meaning that stacking a new habit into our routines in this way will allow our brain to link it to our pre-existing habit. In turn, we are more likely to stick to our new norms.

Set the scene

Giving yourself the right setting can help you to stick to your new journaling habit. For me, if I am in a room that is untidy or noisy, I feel quite stressed and I am unlikely to want to journal. However, by giving myself a space to journal, I feel encouraged to do just this. I used to journal in my living room, with nice lighting and my blanket. It felt cosy and I felt safe, meaning I was more inclined to start writing. This setting can take any shape or form. Whether it is outside, by the window, or at the desk with a candle burning, anything that makes you feel good is the best place to journal. 

Be kind to yourself

When I first started journaling, if I skipped a day, that would be the end for me. I felt I had a ‘all or nothing’ approach that made me less likely to stick with my new habit. Instead, being kind to myself, and not beating myself up about missing a day, meant that I felt more inclined to start where I had left off. We are busy, things get in the way, and sometimes journaling may not be a priority for us on certain days. And that’s okay too! Allow yourself to skip a day. Pick the journal back up the following day and carry on from there. 

On the theme of being kind to yourself, something which I do struggle with, remember that your journal does not have to be perfect. Do not worry about it being messy, or having the ideal handwriting, or comparing yourself to Pinterest-worthy bullet journals. If your journal is rough scribbles on a page, that is okay! Your journal is personal to you, and it does not have to meet any standard that you see elsewhere. Don’t worry about making the practice or the method perfect. By starting and letting yourself mess up the page in front of, you may learn that this is the type of journaling that works well for you. The fear of making something ‘perfect’ may in fact hinder you in getting started or sticking with your new habit. Let yourself be open to the imperfection. You may just stick with your journal. I know it worked for me. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *