The Complete Start-up Guide to Life Changing Jouranling

You hear how amazing journaling is.

Your friends rant and rave about their amazing journaling sessions. Everyone seems to be keeping a journal.

Yet every time you decide to start you don’t.

You feel like you are missing something. 

​You understand the concept, but don’t quite know how to get started.

how to journal

​​​Don’t worry I am going to help you.

In this article we are going to cover the basics of journaling.

We will cover the types of journaling, when to journal, where to journal and more.

At the end you will be ready to sit down and get started on your path to amazing journaling.

​Types of Journaling

The first road block you must overcome before you can start journaling is to know why you want to journal.  

It is hard to get started with anything and stick with it when you don’t know why you are doing it.  Especially when your first reason for journaling is that your friends say you need to! This will never help you stick with jouranling.

To make things harder for you the word journaling has become a very broad term. What used to just be a diary, has become many more things.

To help you decide why you want to journal, and thus what type of journaling you will do. We are going to cover some types and reasons for journaling.

The Major Journal Types:

  • ​Goal Achievement – you are tracking your goals and taking notes on ways to improve. This can also include your schedule and other daily tasks. Common ones you hear about are: Bullet Journal, Day planners and Franklin Covey.
  • Keep memories – you write down what happened so that you have a record of it later. Thus, creating a memoir for your family and yourself.
  • Emotional healing and growth – you want to process how you feel and grow from that. (This is the main form of journaling that I do and teach.)
  • Stream of Conscious/free write/morning pages – this has many different names. The basic idea is that you write with no plan.  No filter, no topic, let it all come out! (This would by my second preferred method and is also used when working on emotional healing).

There are many more niche journals you can do also. Some of these examples include:

  • ​Dream journal – this is where you record all your dreams. (I do this in my regular journal, and then if needed use it to do some emotional growth work from.)
  • Judgement Journal – this is a concept that I use from Gabby Bernstein’s book the Judgement Detox. I started a separate journal for this, because it is more of a workbook approach with a step by step process. Yet, I often end up doing emotional healing work in that book too.
  • Gratitude journal – write down at least three things you are thankful for every day. Gratitude has been shown to improve happiness, so this is a great way to stay on the positive side.
  • Travel journal – this is designed to track your adventures around the world.  So you can look back and remember your journey.

While there are many more that I could list, these are the basics.

Once you decide what type of journal you want to do and why, you can move on to the next decision. Don't worry about getting this right the first time. You may change what you prefer to journal about, or even start more than one journal later on. (I am up to three journals - emotional/free write, business and judgement.)

Paper  or Electronic: What Works Best for Journaling

Don’t under estimate the importance of this decision. This can be a big factor in your ability to stick with a journaling plan. More importantly it will impact what you get out of your journaling session.

Depending on your goal, pen may be better than an electronic journal. Even if you are more of a tech person.

When journaling about anything that has to do with feelings or brainstorming there are major advantages to using paper.

Paper is a Must For Emotional Writing

So why should you use a paper journal for your emotional work? Recently scientists have begun studying the impacts of paper vs computer for writing.  

They are studying everything from improved learning, to emotional processing and what parts of the brain are activated.

They have discovered that writing by hand requires you to process and reframe more than taking notes with a computer. It also activates different parts of the brain and more parts of the brain.

Finally, research is showing that writing by hand allows our brains to regulate emotions better than with a computer.

If you are starting to journal to process your emotions, or free write, you are better off with paper. Thus, you need to make sure you like your paper and pen.

Paper & Pen You Like

Trust me the worst thing is getting ready to start a journal session and ending up with a sore hand or arm.  For me this usually comes when I use a wire bound notebook.  Every time I try and use one for writing I end up more focused on the wire than my feelings. 

It was not till I found my perfect journal that I was able to focus on the writing and not the journal. 

Along with that, every pen worked fine until I found that perfect one and it made all the difference in the world. 

Make sure you like your pen and journal. Might seem picky, but once you find the perfect combination you will be amazed at the difference it makes.  When you can flow and enjoy your writing it makes it easier to get in touch with your emotions.

​My Favorites

best paper journal

A Quick Note on Non-Emotional Writing

If you are journaling for a non-emotional ​reason, then use what works best for you. There are electronic apps and software designed for different types of journals.  For example, Travel & Leisure did this round up of electronic travel journals. This way you don't have to carry pen and paper.

Google what type of journal you are doing. Then add the word ‘electronic’ or ‘app’ and you will find many options to choose from.   

If you prefer paper for the specialty journals, then you can find custom journals for what you are doing.  For example, this one allows you to not only plan your trip but take notes for the future. It gives you a full review of your trips when you look back years later! I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded

Location, Location, Location

Where you journal can also make all the difference in having a great journal session. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Find a Safe Space – you need to ensure you won’t be interrupted or feel like others are watching over your shoulder.

It is hard to be honest with yourself if you are scared that other people are reading what you are writing and you don't want them to.  (​I will say as you grow personally you will care less about that. I will now journal on a plane ​without covering it!)

where to jouranl

No Interruptions - If you are interrupted too much, then it is hard to keep a good line of thought. This may mean you have to set aside time when everyone knows you need to quiet. I get up early before my son, so I know I will have the time I need to have a good journal session.

It could also be you go where others can't even find you! At a nearby park, your back yard or even hiding in your car (althrough that would make the next thing hard)!

Get Comfy – it is hard to write if your chair is hard, the room is cold, and the sun is shining in your eyes. 

You must make sure your focus is on your emotions and writing, not on how you physically feel.  Set up a place where you can get everything just right and have it ready to go.

I sit in the same chair every morning. I have the ideal lighting set up, the right temperature and my favorite blanket.   

When Should You Journal

There are two ways to approach when you journal. The first is based on time of day, making it a regular practice. The other is based on when you need to deal with something in the moment.

Time Based

Ideally you will set a time that you can journal on a regular basis. This will allow you to get better at it as you do it more. Plus, a regular time will ​make it a habit ​and not just something you do once in a while.

There are different benefits to ​the various times of day.

Morning – morning is a great time to journal if you do it right away upon waking. While you sleep your subconscious and spirit guides help you process your emotions and experiences. Journaling will help these come to light before your mind is cluttered with daily life.

Evening – at night it is a great way to process everything that occurred during the day. It can be a brain dump, so that you can have a restful night’s sleep. You don’t end up laying awake for hours trying to get you mind slowing down. You can also use it as a time to list out all the questions you have. Then your subconscious can help you work on those overnight. 

You can do both times of day if you want. I always do morning and most evenings as well.  Although my morning is the must do for me.

Situation Based

​While a regular time is a great thing to establish so you can actively work on emotional healing all the time.  Journaling is something you should feel comfortable doing anytime you need to.

Just the other night I was wide awake at 2:15 am. I ended up journaling and tapping till 3:45 am. I had some of the most amazing breakthroughs and progress forward that I have had in a long time. Don’t assume you can only do it at a specific time.

Here are some things that can trigger needing a journal session.

  • ​Processing an emotion – during the day we have many things occur. Sometimes it is beneficial to stop what you are doing and journal about it right away. This can help you stop a possible experience from turning into a negative subconscious belief.  Or becoming a destructive block to the rest of your day. The sooner you deal with what happens to you and your feelings that result the better.
  • ​Solve a problem – working through a problem on paper can be very beneficial.  You can do pros and cons lists. You can run through different options and how they may play out. You can even “talk” to your spirit guides about what to do. This is one of my favorite ways to get in touch with guidance from the universe.

How to Journal

We have finally made it to the how to part! (Don’t worry the rest of the steps were equally as important.)

Journaling is an art. It takes time to learn how to master it. I have been journaling for about 20 years. Yet it was not till about four years ago that I mastered the process and flow.

learn to journal

There are different ways to journal. You will find over time that some work for you. You will also find that you begin to blend different styles of journal writing. Here is a short round up to get you started:

  • ​Log of what you did for goals that day and your current progress on them.
  • ​Write down what happened to you for future review. This is great for travel, memory and goal journals.
  • ​Brain dump – if your mind is wandering to a million thoughts, get them all on paper. This frees up your mind for either other tasks or to process what you have written. It is hard to keep your mind full and relax!  I love this one for bed time.
  • Ask questions – I love to create a list of everything I am pondering in life. Especially right before bed. Then my subconscious and the universe can get to work on solving them for me.  My questions have ranged from where should we go for dinner to what is my life purpose. Nothing is too silly or small to ask about.
  • Free writing.  Free writing is just that. You write about anything you want. You let it flow. This to me is the best way to uncover a block. If you keep asking yourself why you do something – free writing can help you pull it out.  Do not filter anything.
  • Emotional healing – to do this type of journaling, break down what happened and process that situation. Ask yourself what you felt, why and how it could have been different.

Final Thoughts

There is no right or wrong in this process. You need to do what works for you. Allow yourself time to learn. Don’t do things by a text book plan. Experimenting will help you learn how to journal better.

Like any skill, it takes time to learn. So, don’t judge yourself, and keep practicing!

Need someone to help you break down all the great aha’s you have in journaling?

Check out my coaching services today.  

About the Author Andrea Travillian

Andrea Travillian is an emotional healing coach. She helps clients break free of making the same mistakes over again. She has her MBA and undergraduate in finance and her coaching certificate. She is an author, speaker, and most importantly mom.

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