At Holstee we have long been fans of journaling for the clarity, perspective, and fulfillment it brings. Journaling has also been proven to have numerous physical and emotional benefits, including helping alleviate the symptoms of depression, boosting immune function, and improving overall mental function.

We created Reflection.app a tool too help guide meaningful self-reflection, bringing perspective to past days, weeks, months and years.

But despite its numerous benefits, it can be challenging to start and keep a journaling practice. It can be difficult to know how to begin, and once you begin it can be difficult to maintain the practice amidst the distractions of life.

In this article, we’re going to share four steps to help you kickstart and keep your new journaling habit.

Ready? Let’s dive in.


Contents:


Step #1: Choose A Time and Environment When You Will Journal

One of the biggest keys to journaling is making it a habit. The more you can get in the habit of journaling, the easier it will become and the less resistance you’ll feel. The more intentional you can be with your journaling practice, the more success you’ll have. On the other hand, if you only journal when you feel like it, you’ll have a hard time gaining momentum.

Choose a specific time you will journal every single day. Maybe it’s the first thing in the morning. Or maybe it’s at your lunch break or at the end of the day. The time of day doesn’t really matter so much. What matters is that you give yourself time and space even if it means blocking off and scheduling time into your calendar with a recurring event.

Preparing your journaling environment. Create a ritual that will make it easier and more pleasant for you to dive into your journal. Treat yourself to a lovely pen or notebook or the perfect online journaling app, light your favorite candle, and put on your favorite writing tunes.

Is there a quiet time every day you can find to journal? Maybe it’s every morning with a cup of tea? Or maybe it’s at the end of the day, right before you leave work as you bring the professional day to an end and before for some time present with your family. Or maybe it’s Sunday evening before the new week begins.

Make the process itself as enjoyable as possible — love the process and you will love returning to your journal!

And the more you stick with it, the more it will become a habit and the easier it will be to do.

Step #2: Lower the Barriers to Help You Build a Consistent Writing Practice

One of the key mistakes people make when thinking about how to start a journal is assuming that they need to journal for long periods of time in order to make it a valuable experience, but that is not always the case.

You can journal as long or as short as you want. What matters is that you have the time to appropriately reflect on your day, process your experiences, and learn valuable lessons from those experiences. Some people find that five minutes per day is sufficient for journaling. Others spend thirty minutes or more. You simply need to find what works for you and go with it.

The key to journaling is consistency. Ultimately, it’s not about the length of time you journal, but that you do it on a consistent basis. What matters is that you simply “show up” and write in your journal. The more consistent you are with your journaling, the more benefit you’ll derive.

Consistency is the key.

Step #3: Write About What’s On Your Mind

This is where many people get stuck. They don’t know exactly what to journal about.

When it comes to journaling, you literally can write about whatever is on your mind. In fact, what makes journaling so powerful is the ability to get the thoughts floating around your mind, out of your head and onto the page. Through this self-reflection, you can examine your thoughts, desires, motivations, and actions and then take appropriate action based on that examination.

Here are a few topics to get you started:

  • Highlights from your day
  • Lowlights from you day
  • Insights from books you read
  • People you are grateful for
  • Sticky problems you need to work through
  • Your fears
  • Your goals
  • Areas where you’d like to growth
  • Plans you need to put in motion
  • Notes to your future or past self
  • Things you love
  • People you love
  • Your hopes and dreams

Journaling allows you to get “outside” your head, in a sense. It enables you to get your thoughts and feelings down on paper, analyze those thoughts and feelings, and then work through them in a healthy, holistic way.

Looking for more inspiration on what to write? View this list of journal writing prompts.

Step #4: Reflect On What You Wrote In Your Journal

While simply writing down your experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in your journal in itself is helpful, the next step of reflecting on what you have written can give you an increased sense of clarity and perspective. There is great power in self-reflection and few tools allow you to look back more effectively than a journal.

 

The end-of-month reviews built into Reflection.app provide an excellent framework for this, but you can also do this with any journal. When reflecting on your past journal entries, see if any patterns start to emerge. Do your highlights have anything in common? Are they the result of being around particular people or doing particular activities. What about your lowlights? Is there anything that seems to consistently bring you down?

Want to develop your self-reflection abilities? Here is a framework for a meaningful personal self-reflection.

Make The Time, Enjoy The Process, and Experience The Benefits

Yes, journaling takes both time and effort, but it’s time and effort well-spent. A journal allows you to process both the joys and sorrows you experienced, to learn valuable lessons from your experiences, and to make progress on your biggest goals.

Productivity guru Tim Ferriss says, “I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found.

Ultimately, journaling isn’t about achieving something or being productive. It’s about building a deeper, more meaningful relationship with yourself.

Start journaling today — your future self will thank you.

Begin your day feeling grounded and inspired.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Reflection.

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Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.

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