How to Journal: 7 Top Tips to Get Started with Purposeful Journaling + FREE DOWNLOAD

how to journal: 7 top tips to start a purposeful journaling practice

From my own experience, learning how to journal has been a powerful tool in my self development journey. It’s a practice that allows you to identify what you are feeling, recognise triggers, process and reflect. When my head is filled with thoughts, procrastination, overwhelm, anxiety, stress… journaling is one of the tools I always go to. It’s always one of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning.

How to journal 

Journaling is a process of expressing yourself, letting it out and going deep.  

Journaling can seem like a daunting thing, but it really doesn’t have to be. It is simply writing down your thoughts, feelings, emotions, events and using it as a tool to identify, process and reflect.  

Find a safe space where you feel comfortable opening up, grab a pen (and some colours if you wish) and a notebook and get comfy (you may be there for a while!) and come with an open mind. Personally, I love to make it a little ritual. I will do my morning meditation and maybe a yoga practice too, make breakfast and a coffee and set myself up for a little journaling session.  

The best way to start is to just write and let is flow out of you.  

Why journaling?

I have found journaling to be so powerful because it allows me to bring awareness to negative thought patterns and habits that sit in my subconscious and are stuck in a vicious loop. Writing it out and exploring these thoughts, help me identify why they keep happening and change them into new, productive thought patterns.

By bringing awareness to them, it allows me to:

  • break free from the shackles of negative thought cycles
  • create new pathways, thoughts and habits
  • not let negative thoughts take over or run my life
  • take back control
  • increase my understanding/awareness
  • introduce more compassion

And many, many more.

I am really passionate about journaling, and I hope through a consistent practice it can help you in the same way it has helped me.

Struggling to think of what to write? 

If you struggle and cannot think of anything, I would recommend starting by writing down exactly how you feel in the moment and see where it goes.

Describe what you can see, here and feel. Describe what happened in your day, or if there is anything bothering you. Sometimes, the hardest part is starting.

Other times, I personally find doing a yoga practise or meditation beforehand can help, as this practise alone can help bring us into the present moment and become a witness to our thoughts. We can then take pen to paper and write out what came up for us during the practise – was your mind wandering, if so where to? Could you concentrate? If not, why not? Are you resisting sitting in silence? Why could that be?

You can also start by using some prompts. There are many different ones you can use, depending on your goals and what you are feeling. I have created a document with 50 of my go to journal prompts that have helped me when I am feeling anxious or disconnected with myself. Download them here.  

free download

My 7 important tips to get started with a journaling practise  

#1 Be real and honest with yourself  

Write like no one is watching… because they’re not!  

If you are a perfectionist like me, when you start journaling you may try to write it in a certain way, as if someone is going to be reading it or marking it.  

This is yours and yours only.  

Treat it like a safe space to open up and be honest. There is no reason to hold back or hide anything. This might be hard at first, but the more you write, the more you will feel safe and can open up. Don’t write what you think you should be writing, or what other people write, don’t lie to yourself. This is an opportunity to shine the light on things that need shining on. 

Take your mask off. Be real, be honest and be authentic.  

#2 There is no limit 

Don’t hold back. You can write as much or as little as you feel like.  

There is no right or wrong, either. Some days you might not have much to say, some days you might have a lot to process and others, you might want to work through something specific.  

#3 Don’t stress about it  

You may feel stress if you are working through something, this is normal, you are not alone. But try not to allow the process of journaling to stress you out or stay attached to that stress. It is supposed to be a mindful, releasing, freeing practice, not a chore.  (Although – if you are really resisting, sometimes it can feel like a chore. It’s important to ask yourself, if the thing you are resisting the most, is the thing you need the most?)

If you are feeling stressed about it, ask yourself why? What is triggering this response? 

#4 Start small and simple  

If you are lost or stuck with starting, start small. It’s a habit you want to build over time. Try committing to just 5 minutes a day and/or 3 prompts.  

#5 Get curious  

This is a safe space. Be vulnerable, get curious with yourself, ask questions, explore thoughts and feelings. It’s interesting where it can take you. It can also get uncomfortable, especially if you are processing or working through something. Let it all out and write about it. Why is it getting uncomfortable? Why is this coming up for you? Why is this triggering you? How can you show yourself more love in this area? 

#6 Let go of expectations 

It’s not about writing a certain amount or making it look a certain way, it’s about what you uncover and learn along the way.  

#7 Write without judgement  

I know I have said it many times throughout this post but journaling really is meant to be a safe space. Part of this means writing and reflecting without bias or judgement. Don’t allow any feelings of shame or guilt, or the voice of your inner critic stop you from enquiring. Allow whatever you need to come out and onto the pages. Of course, those feelings will inevitably come about, so rather than resist or avoid them, write down the feelings you are feeling, what your inner critic is saying or why you are judging yourself. This is the purpose – to identify what is happening and bring more awareness to it. Why is this happening? What can you learn from this? Where can you show yourself more love in this area?  

Journaling has been a powerful tool for me, and I hope it can be for you too.

Do you journal? And if so, has it help you in any way? And if not, what’s stopping you?

If you feel you need some extra support, please feel free to message me, alternatively I offer some 1:1 mentoring, to help you dive deeper into your self enquiry and growth journey more.

free download
how to journal, Pinterest image
  • Molly @ Transatlantic Notes
    February 9, 2021

    I think your point about letting go of expectations is very useful. It can be hard to journal if we think it should look or be a certain way or compare it to how other people write, etc. Great tips!

  • Chloë
    February 9, 2021

    These are such useful tips! I always procrastinate on journalling cause it takes me so much time and I always feel like I don’t have the time to do it. Now i’ve seen how it worked for you, I might give it another try!

  • Kelly Diane
    February 10, 2021

    This is such a great post. You’ve included some really helpful tips. I enjoy journaling so much. I found it difficult to know what to write to start with but now it just seems to flow.

  • Saph
    February 10, 2021

    I love journaling! Sometimes just writing a sentence or two can be do helpful, although recently I ended up writing a full four pages in one session!
    Looking forward to getting the free journal prompts.
    Saph x


  • Justine
    February 10, 2021

    Some great ideas here, I especially liked the be vulnerable and write without judgement. It’s my journal so I should feel able to write freely…yes!

  • Jenny in Neverland
    February 10, 2021

    I think your point about don’t stress about it is really important because I definitely stress about journaling hahaha! I always see people say how beneficial it is but I really struggle to journal unless I have a genuine reason to. But I’d love to get into the habit of it more! x

  • Joep
    February 10, 2021

    Great post, some really valuable things you share here! Especially like the last rip as I tend to judge myself pretty harshly

  • Tiffany McCullough - Metaphysical Mama
    February 10, 2021

    Journalling is such an amazing tool for self-development. I have to admit it’s one I don’t use nearly enough. Although after reading this, I may start journalling more. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  • Rosie (@greenrosielife)
    February 10, 2021

    I’ve journalled on and off through my life and find it a great way to get things clear in my mind.

  • Gemma Jayne
    February 11, 2021

    These are some great tips! I used to journal ALL the time and I really enjoyed it and for some reason I just have brushed it aside, but it is definitely something I want to get myself back into and I shall apply these tips too! X

  • Penny
    February 13, 2021

    I love this Ellie! Been trying to start journalling again and these were very helpful, thank you! Amazing post as always xx Penny /whatdidshetype.blogspot.com

  • Sophia patel
    February 14, 2021

    What a lovely post! You are so right, getting out the negative thoughts really does help to create a positive mind. Thanks for this x

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