The ultimate journaling guide, easy tips for starting a personal journal in 2022.


Keeping a journal sounds really easy, right? Just pop open a notebook and start writing your heart out.


Now, for probably 10% of the population, they can do this regularly and consistently.


The rest of us 90% need a little more guidance with journaling. Yes, we all probably can grab a blank notebook and write a few pages. Beyond that, however, it gets forgotten about. Intentions removed, the notebook gets tossed in a corner for years… and then we see it, read our few pages, reminisce and say ‘I wish I could have kept it going longer’, maybe get inspired to start up a new one… and the cycle repeats itself.


So if you’re ready to learn how to start a journal along with journaling tips that will help you stay successful as a beginner, let’s get started!


(This article contains affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure.) 


Why Should I Keep a Journal


You may not be aware of this, but there are so many benefits to keeping a journal regularly.


In fact, here are some interesting facts about keeping a journal:


Journaling for beginners ultimate guide blog post


 I was actually very surprised and amazed at all of the health and wellness benefits that keeping a journal provides. But beyond the health benefits of journaling, journaling can help you:



That said, these amazing benefits of journaling will not do you an ounce of good if you do not have a reason for journaling, to begin with. So let’s explore how


Starting a Journal: Find Your Why


Before you start journaling, probably the most important thing you can do is ask yourself:


“Why do I want to journal?”


While you don’t always need a reason to write in a journal, it’s good to think about and consider what you hope journaling will help you accomplish. Honestly, journaling isn’t the best solution for every single person. It’s important that your reasons for journaling regularly match your personality, interests, and that it fits into your schedule.


Here are some other questions that are good to consider to help you find your why for journaling.


  • What do I hope to accomplish by keeping a journal?
  • How much time do I have to journal every day?
  • What do I want to write about in my journal?
  • Which types of journals interest me?


What Journaling Supplies Do I Need


The nice thing about traditional journaling is that you don’t have to have a lot of complicated items to start.

Journals on a desk.


I mean, really, all you need is:


  • A Notebook
  • A Pen


But a lot of people who journal regularly really enjoy investing in quality supplies that make their experience more fun and personal.


Here are some amazing, quality journaling products that many people utilize for their journaling experience.


Amazing Journal Notebooks


A good journaling notebook will allow you to write easily without the paper bleeding or tearing from writing. While many standard notebooks will get the job done, here are some excellent options to consider for journal notebooks.

Moleskine journalMoleskine Classic Hardcover Notebook

Leather traveling journalLeather Journal Travel Diary

Blue journal with tree on it.Tree of Life Refillable Writing Journal


Pens Perfect for Journaling


A good pen for journaling will write smoothly with minimal smear. Thankfully, there are a lot of great pen options for all people, including ballpoint, gel, and fineliner style pens. The nibs, or the writing point of the pen, come in all sizes so you can easily find the style suitable for you.


Organized journaling supplies and pens on a desk


Personally, one of my favorite journaling pens is the Pilot Frixion pen. This incredible pen style comes in many different colors and nib styles, not to mention writes very smoothly. However, what sets this pen apart from other journaling pens is that you can erase mistakes with this pen. 


Journal Tools to Fix Mistakes


A good journalist will likely have some supplies on hand to help correct mistakes they may make in their journals. Popular options include:

White out for journalsCorrection Tape

Correction tape for journalsWhite Out Pen

White Gel Pen


These options typically fix small mistakes as if they never happened.


For larger mistakes, here are some other options to have on hand to help cover or remove sections entirely: 

Colorbok Designer Scrapbook Paper

Happy Planner Stickers

21 Rolls Foil Washi Tape

Sakura Pigma Micron 08 Fineliner

Tombow MONO Permanent Adhesive Applicator

Elmer’s Glue Stick


Miscellaneous Journaling Supplies


Washi tape for journaling.


Beyond the traditional tools for journaling, there are some other supplies that are a lot of fun which can help add personality and style to your journal.

Floral washi tapeFloral Washi Tape


Happy planner stickers for journalsHappy Planner Value Pack Stickers

Decorative Paper Clips

Sticky Notes

Notebook Charms


Types of Journals


Some people may enjoy the creativity and freedom you can have with a journal. The opportunity to write about anything and everything is exhilarating for certain types of people!


For other people though, their ‘why’ may indicate a need for journaling to help fill a specific need.


Luckily, there are many different types of journals that exist in the world to help people who need a little more focus when it comes to creating the journaling habit.


If you want a more thorough overview of the different types of journals that exist, I would highly encourage you to read this blog post about different types of journals. For now, I will go ahead and provide a brief description of what each type of journal accomplishes. I’ll also add some helpful journal recommendations for each type of journaling.


Journaling for Mental Health


Are you looking at how to journal for mental health benefits? A journal is an incredible way to help increase confidence and self-awareness while reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. There are numerous studies like this one that show the incredible mental health benefits of journaling.


If you’re ready to get started journaling to improve mental health, here are some incredible guided journal options you will want to check out.

Rage page guided journalRage Page: A Journal for the Bad Days 

Start where you are guided journalStart Where You Are: A Journal for Self Exploration

Self-Care: A Day and Night Reflection Journal

I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal

Present, Not Perfection: A Journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go, and Loving Who You Are


Bible Journals


Bible journals are unique in that the journaling actually happens within a bible (or another book of prayer, if that’s permitted within your religion).


Here are some recommended bibles that are perfect for journaling.


Bible for journaling with floral cover
ESV Journaling Bible with Floral Border Design

How to journal with a bibleNIV Journal the Word Bible

My Creative Bible KJV: Hardcover Bible for Creative Journaling

Inspire Bible NLT for Coloring and Creating Journaling


New to bible journaling? Learn how to start a bible journal here!


Prayer Journals


Prayer journals provide a safe place to write down prayers about anything. These types of journals can be done in a plain notebook if you feel confident in using your own prompts and guidelines to write.

If you’d like to keep a prayer journal but require more guided options, here are some excellent prayer journal recommendations:

I'm not broken prayer journalI’m Not Broken: The Power of Prayer, Scripture, and Interactive Journaling

40 day journal devotionalThe 40 Day Journal for Her Morning Cup with Jesus

My Prayer Journal: A 3 Month Guide to Prayer, Praise, and Thanks

The Prayer Map for Women: A Creative Journal


Bullet Journals


If you’re a long time visitor to my blog, you are fully aware that I am a huge advocate for bullet journals. Bullet journals are more of a DIY planner option, though a lot of people do combine journaling into their bullet journal structures.


If you’re looking for more information, here are some resources to help you learn more and get started:


What is a Bullet Journal

How to Start a Bullet Journal


While many people prefer to set up their bullet journals by hand, people who enjoy the concept but don’t have the time to create have some opportunities. Here are some tools and printables that are perfect for people who want to explore journaling in their bullet journals.


Ready to get started? Here are some of the supplies that are must haves for my own bullet journal.


Bullet Journal Notebooks


Here are a few of my favorite bullet journal notebooks that I recommend:

Scribbles that matter for starting a journalScribbles that Matter A5 Dot Grid Notebook (Read the review here)

Leuchhturm journalLeuchtturm1917 A5 Dot Grid Notebook (Read the review here)

Scrivwell A5 Dot Grid Notebook

Archer and Olive A5 Dot Grid Notebook


Fineliners and Pens


A good pen is a necessity for bullet journaling. Here are some of the top-rated pens that people love in the bullet journal community!

Tombow mono drawing pens for journaling Tombow Mono Fineliners

Faber Castell fineliners journaling suppliesFaber Castell Fineliners

Tombow dual brush pens journalingTombow Dual Brush Pens

Sakura Micron Fineliners

Pilot Frixion Pens

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens

Staedtler Triplus Fineliners


Markers and Highlighters


If you love the idea of decorating and drawing in your bullet journal, you’ll definitely want to pick up these markers.

Crayola Super Tip Markers JournalCrayola Super Tip markers

Zebra mildliners for journaling decorationZebra Mildliners

Beautiful Tombow markers for journal decorationTombow Twintone Markers


This is literally just brushing the surface on everything you can purchase for your bullet journal. Make sure to read my How to Start a Bullet Journal Guide to learn more about awesome supplies, as well as my Bullet Journal One Stop Shop Guide for other great ideas bullet journalists love that you can find all on Amazon!


Pregnancy Journals


A pregnancy journal is a great way to record information in regard to everything about your pregnancy. You can log your symptoms, your changes, you reactions to discovering when you were pregnant, your hopes for the future, and anything else you want to remember in your journey.


You can even utilize a pregnancy journal for the first weeks of postpartum, as well, by logging feedings, diaper changes, firsts, emotions, and more.

Expecting you pregnancy journalExpecting You: A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal

My pregnancy journal for guided journalingMy Pregnancy Journal

Studio Oh! Guided Pregnancy Journal

Erin Condren Petite Planner Pregnancy Journal

Bump to Birthday: Pregnancy and First Year Baby Journal

Weekly Pregnancy Journal with Stickers and Rearrangeable Pages


Art Journals


Art journals or junk journals are fun ways to express your creative side while journaling. It’s up to you whether you choose to write as well as create art, but some people find painting, doodling, and sketching a better way to journal overall.

Art journaling tutorialsThe Painted Art Journal

No excuses art journalingNo Excuses Art Journaling

Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures (book)

365 Days of Art

Art Doodle Love: A Journal of Self-Discovery




If you think about a scrapbook, in a way it’s a type of journal that shares written experiences with pictures and flat memorabilia. When you look at a scrapbook, you’re looking at the story of what somebody went through in their life from their own eyes.


Scrapbook Photo Album DIY Kit

DIY Journaling Scrapbook Set 

Scrapbook Kit with 80 Page Photo Album


Idea Journals


An idea journal is a specific type of journal where you write down goals, achievements, ideas for future projects, observations, or anything else to help inspire and motivate you in your journey. The purpose of an idea journal is to help provide data, encouragement, a starting point, motivation, 


Ultimately though, idea journaling can help you to:


  • Remember and further develop ideas
  • Help you evaluate lessons you’ve learned from your work
  • Improve your observation skills


Idea journals are a perfect journaling option for writers, artists, students, research, or even people who work from home and need extra encouragement. 


Here are some terrific idea journals to try:

Bright Ideas Journal guided journalingBright Ideas Productivity Journal

Journal sparks creative idea journalJournal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking

Every Day is Epic: A Guided Journaling for Daydreams, Creative Rants, and Bright Ideas


Dream Journals


Dream journals are a little bit more unusual because rather than writing out ideas, goals, desires, or past events, this type of journal is about tracking your dreams.


Beyond dream tracking however, this helpful type of journal can also help you discover more about your sleep health.

Weird dream journaling notebookWeird Shit I Dream About: Bedside Table Dream Journal

Dream diary guided journal logBook Factory Dream Journal and Log Book

Sleep Journal: 8 Weeks of Tracking Your Sleep Patterns


Food Journals


Food journals are more concrete than other types of journals as you log your food and drink intake into this type of notebook. While this type of journaling may not help you dig down your deepest desires, food journaling can help you become more mindful of what you are consuming on a daily basis.


Not to mention, the big benefit is that there are studies like this one that shows journaling your food intake can actually play a beneficial role in helping you to lose weight.

eat drink be healthy journalEat Drink Be Healthy: Meal and Exercise Notebook

hello new me journalingHello New Me: A Daily Food and Exercise Journal to Help You Become the Best Version of Yourself

Food Journal and Fitness Diary with Daily Gratitude and Meal Planner for Healthy Living and Weight Loss


As you can see, there are dozens of different types of journals beyond the traditional notebook. What you choose will be up to you and your preferences, but hopefully, this guide has helped you figure out which type of journal best suits your needs.


Now, let’s get started working on your journal!


How to Start a Journal Video


How you start your journal will be customized based on your needs. However, here is a quick, helpful video that talks about the process of starting your first (or next) journal.




What to write in a journal


There are so many creative things that you can write in a journal. If you choose to keep a general ‘dear diary’ type of journal, here are some things you can write about in your journal:


General Journaling Ideas and Concepts


Some people don’t like the idea of using a guided journal or prompts to get them started, but may find selecting certain themes can provide focus and


  • Write about what you did for the day
  • Write about what scares you
  • Journal about your goals for the next five years
  • Jot down your ultimate dreams
  • Write about decisions you need to make
  • Write about what you will do for the day ahead


While these points aren’t necessarily specific prompts, you’ll notice that you can write about so many different types of topics and stories relating to each idea.


Journal Prompt Ideas


If you decide that writing about general topics is not specific enough to get you going, I would highly recommend looking at journaling prompts.


Journaling prompts still puts the control in your hands over what you choose to write.


Prompts can be related to specific themes, such as:



If you just need ideas to get you going or don’t want to stick to a specific journaling theme, you can do journal prompts such as these:



These types of prompts don’t necessarily revolve around specific concepts or themes like the ones mentioned above. That said, you can either choose to follow a guided prompt challenge or have a list you can pick and choose from.


Guided Journals


A guided journal is a type of journal that provides a theme and/or prompts for you to follow. Typically guided journals will revolve around specific themes, such as religion, self-improvement, or even parenting. Here are some examples below:

One Question a Day JournalOne Question a Day: A 5 Year Journal

Getting to Good: A Guided Journal

The Sunrise Manifesto Guided Journal

The Me Journal: A Questionnaire Keepsake


Additionally, you can create your own guided journal by using the same type of guided prompt for journaling every day.


For example, as a part of my Miracle Morning routine, I regularly write out these 3 prompts daily:


  • Things I’m Grateful For
  • What I’m Proud Of
  • Tasks to Complete Today


This type of DIY guided journaling option is great for me because it helps me to boost my self-esteem, think of others, and think out my task list for the day.


Easy Tips for Keeping a Journal Regularly


After learning about literally everything you could learn about journals, now is the part where we make journaling part of your daily routine. Journaling as a hobby is very easy to establish, so here are a few tips to help you get started.


Journal Consistently


One of the best ways you can establish the journaling habit is to journal at the same time every single day. Pick a time of day where you know you have the time to devote to writing for at least a few minutes.


Personally, I love journaling as part of my miracle morning. But some people may prefer to journal at work or journal before bedtime. There is no right or wrong answer, but if you have the ability to pick a consistent time to journal, this can really help you to establish the habit faster.


Journal 5 Minutes A Day


Woman writing in her journal


Sometimes, based on your schedule, journaling at the same time every single day just isn’t going to work. It’s ok, and that it is important to be realistic.


The journaling habit doesn’t have to be big nor overly complicated. Writing for five minutes a day is a great way to establish a routine that isn’t overwhelming.


You can find five minutes a day right?


You can even buy a cute little case so you can bring your journal and supplies with you anywhere, so if you need to write on the bus, or at work, you have that option easily available. 


Want another journal hack related to this tip? Use a timer! Set it for five minutes to journal and write until it goes off. Don’t have one? Your watch or smartphone likely has a timer app already installed, or you can buy a small pocket timer for journaling here.


Know What You Want to Write About


If you have a guided journal, this isn’t a point you have to worry about as much since your prompts are laid out in front of you.

The Ultimate Guide to Journaling Blog Post

But if you don’t have a guided journal, sometimes trying to figure out what you want to write about can actually prevent you from writing effectively. Having a list of prompts you’d like to write can be extraordinarily helpful if you aren’t coming up with ideas on your own.

When you are feeling a bit more inspired, I’d recommend writing out a list of potential prompt ideas to select in a page at the back of your journal.


Set Reminders to Journal

If you do choose to journal at a consistent time daily, take some of the guesswork out of writing by setting alarms and reminders to help prompt you when it’s time to write.


I would only recommend this suggestion if you are able to keep your journaling commitment at the same time regularly. Personally, I find that over time I tend to ignore reminders if they are vague and not-specific. But if you do have a specific time to journal, an alarm will serve as a very helpful reminder to get started.


Eliminate Distractions While Journaling


Generally listening to calm, quiet music is perfectly fine while journaling, but it’s critical that your journaling zone is a place free of distraction.

Pile of colorful journaling notebooks


This means no journaling while watching shows, no journaling with kids running around, and keep your phone away from you. Journaling time should be considered a sacred time and you shouldn’t have to worry about anything else beyond your writing.


And if finding quiet is hard (I’m a parent, I know how it goes!), a good pair of noise-canceling headphones will become your best friend for journaling.


Carry Your Journal With You


If you are pretty good about keeping your items secure, why not carry your journal with you? I did this frequently with my bullet journal and it made it very easy to keep it updated on a regular basis.


Then, while you’re out and about, you can pull your journal out if you need it.


By the way, I love this backpack for carrying all of my bullet journal supplies. It’s literally perfect because it can hold everything else, including my laptop and a plethora of other supplies I carry with me daily!


Keep Journal Entries Short


When people think of journaling, I think it’s easy to think of these super long journal entries that are multiple pages in length.


Why does journaling have to be that difficult?


Journal entries don’t have to be very long! I’d be intimidated if I were expecting to write multiple pages every single time I sit down to write. If you are dreading the concept of writing an entire page for every prompt, start with a smaller goal. For instance, for the first month, get in the habit by starting with five sentences. You can always write more if you want to, but you know you can stop after you finish those particular sentences.


Have Fun with Your Journal


Journaling doesn’t have to be boring and serious. Have fun! I recommended a lot of great ways to spice up your journal and personalize it to fit your needs.


Decorated journal notebook


Don’t be afraid to use fun pens, stickers, washi tape, markers, and other accessories to personalize your journal. 


You can also select cute notebooks, fun covers, and adorable pen holders to make the journaling process more interesting and engaging. 


General Journaling Tips and Reminders


Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing in a journal. For some, these tips may seem obvious and straightforward. Yet for people who struggle with motivation, perfectionism, or even getting started, these tips will help you to overcome potential barriers while writing.


  • What you write about doesn’t have to be perfect
  • You can write about anything you want
  • Don’t limit yourself to writing only
  • You can change your mind if you don’t like a prompt
  • There is no right or wrong way to journal
  • Make the experience enjoyable
  • Keep a brain dump
  • You don’t have to finish what you start


The last tip is probably the most important. If you’re stuck for a way to finish a journal entry, that is OK! You can even write that you ran out of ideas on how to finish the post.


Related: How to Start a Brain Dump


How to Journal If you’re Not a Writer


Some people love the concept of journaling but think they can’t journal because they aren’t very good at writing. I believe there is a lot of misconceptions that journaling means you have to fill an entire page with juicy details and secrets. That style of writing isn’t for everybody.


Journaling for non-writers could look like these examples below:


Drawing in Your Journal


A lot of people don’t think about art when it comes to drawing, but many of us drew in our journals when we were children in school. Just because we’re grown up doesn’t mean we have to abandon that habit!


If drawing helps you tell a story, explain a concept, or express your emotions better than words could, keeping a drawing journal is just fine. 


Writing Lists in Your Journal

Pretty journals for journaling

Journaling doesn’t have to be pretty flowery sentences. Journaling can be writing down a sequence of events. Your grocery list. Your meal plan. It can even be a to-do list.  


Writing Out Pros and Cons


For people who need to work through issues, writing pros and cons can be a more structured way to journal. Though it’s much less abstract than most types of journal writing, you can get creative in how you look at pros and cons.  


A Brain Dump


A brain type of a very abstract type of journaling where you jot down anything you want to write down. This could be an idea, a typical journal entry, a poem, doodles, an email address, a reminder, even song lyrics- what’s beautiful is that there are no expectations when it comes to a brain dump. 


Read more about how to set up a brain dump here!


Writing the Same Entry Daily


Remember earlier when I talked about my Miracle Morning prompts? As part of my Miracle Morning, my journaling routine is actually very specific. I write out these specific things every day:


  • What I’m Grateful For
  • What I’m Proud Of
  • Five Things I Need to Do Today


While this is a little different from traditional journaling prompts that provide different ideas for journaling every day, this type of prompt is more like a consistent summary.


Writing in a journal


The beautiful thing about this type of journaling is that while the prompts are always the same, the answers will vary from day-to-day. Sure, you’ll probably write some types of similar content (I’d say I’m grateful for coffee at least 5 days a month), but sometimes my answers surprise me when I go back to read what I wrote.


Want to learn more about Miracle Morning? Get your copy of Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod here!


What to Expect When You Start Journaling


So, you’ve started journaling, and everything is happy sunshine and unicorns, right?


Not necessarily.


Now, not that this is meant to scare you away from journaling by any means! But since my page is called ‘Planning Mindfully’, one of the things I like to make my readers aware of are some of the pitfalls and frustrations that people may come across as they begin their journaling journeys. There will be plenty of people who experience ease while starting their journals, while others may come across some or all of these scenarios listed below.


Journaling Can Cause Intense Emotion


I think the other misconception many people have when you start journaling is that it’s supposed to look like a happy field of flowers, where you feel 100% better as soon as you write it out on paper.


Um, not quite.


Journaling can actually surface up some intense emotions. You may experience moments of anger or sadness when writing.


On the flip side, you may experience extreme feelings of gratitude and joy.


Journaling can feel difficult sometimes


You think you’re going to sit down and write a full page… but then you only write three sentences.


What gives? Isn’t this supposed to be easy?


Depending on the subject matter you’re writing about, that can also prove to be challenging. If you’re writing about a prompt that is difficult to express, or working on a prompt that isn’t very interesting, you may feel like getting out more than a couple of sentences is really tough.


All of this is very normal to experience. If you aren’t able to write more than a few sentences because you don’t like the prompt, it’s emotionally triggering, or you just don’t feel like writing, you don’t have to torture yourself trying to write pages upon pages in your journal. 


Journaling gets easier with practice


People don’t really think about journaling as being a skill to practice and improve on. Journaling is challenging at first because it isn’t a regular habit that you’ve established. All of a sudden you’re going from writing little to nothing in a day to writing, well, more than that.


Stack of journals


Most activities you try for the first time, or even come back to after a long hiatus… it takes some time to get comfortable with writing again.


My advice is to just keep writing and keep trying. If you can’t go past a few sentences, that’s ok! Try again tomorrow. 


Mistakes in your journal are normal


Having used a bullet journal for a long time, I can say pretty confidently that making mistakes in your notebook is going to be a regular experience.

For my journal entry sections, I’ve actually been scribbling out brief mistakes and then I continue writing.

For people who don’t like the idea of making mistakes but want to fix them, here are some tools that I’d recommend you keep in your journaling supplies arsenal:


White Out

Correction Pen

 Cute Stickers

Washi Tape


While nobody is ever able to prevent mistakes, these tools can help hide mistakes so they won’t bother you nearly as much.


Missed time doesn’t mean you have to quit


Missed a day in your journal? Or a week?


What if you missed a whole month or an entire year?


Life can be funny sometimes, you know? It’s so good at throwing a zillion curveballs that distract us and keep us away from the things we intend to do on a regular basis. That said, there is no reason to allow that to cause us to feel guilt. We all experience it. You don’t have to let it serve as an excuse to never journal again.


That’s the beauty of most journals, too. Just flip to the next page and keep writing.


It probably won’t be easy to restart, but trust me, you’ll thank me later.


Final thoughts on starting a journal


Hopefully, this post got you completely ready and inspired to start writing in your very first journal! While this post may seem surprisingly long for something as simple as writing in a notebook regularly, I like to think of journaling as a long term game.

And the last thing I want is for you to get inspired to start, to only throw your notebook in a pile a week later and forget about it. I’ve done it! I don’t desire for you to repeat that particular scenario, you know?


I’d love to know why you hope you start a journal in the comments! What do you hope that a journal will help you accomplish?


How to Journal: Helpful Journaling Tips for Beginners