How to start a journaling habit - Whether you need ideas and inspiration for journaling for anxiety, depression, or just because, here are thoughts on improving your mental health by writing in a journal daily. This awesome creative guided journal is great for older children and students.
Eight years ago, as 7-week-old Allie lie in a hospital bed, struggling to breathe and fighting off RSV, I sat in her darkened room, praying and designing journal pages in Photoshop. My intention at the time was to start an indie business, creating and printing journals for shipping all over the world.
I finished 68 journal pages that long week, each with a prompt and some kind of graphic, and bought fancy 32 lb premium paper in a specialty paper shop, and then – nothing.
I never got around to actually making the journal prototype. Some other shiny thing caught my eye, and I was off to pursue another brilliant idea.
Such is my way. I get a spark, immerse myself in the project for weeks or months, and then my attention is caught by something else, and I flit away, most likely never to return. It happens all the time and drives my husband bonkers.
Last week, those old journal pages came to mind. I can't explain why or how, but I started thinking about them and couldn't stop. It took forever, but I dug around on my hard drive for the files and eventually found them.
Because that week eight years ago was at least two computers past, I had to update some of the fonts, but otherwise, all 68 of the prompt pages were completely intact and ready to put into journal form.
I don't have the means or desire to print, package, and ship hard copy journals all over the world, but I believe these pretty pages have tremendous power to help girls and women discover essential truths about themselves, their desires, and their lives, so I want to share them.
Why You Should Start Journaling
Some people journal their prayers. Others journal what has happened in their day. Some write about their kids, their dreams, and their feelings. I journal sporadically about all different kinds of topics, most often writing what I'm grateful for.
No matter what you write about, the act of journaling is so good for you. Take a look at a few of the benefits that have been shown in research studies:
- Journaling helps you process and make sense of your thoughts and emotions.
- Journaling fosters a sense of peace and calm as you write out and discard all that bothers you.
- Journaling can help you discover solutions to problems.
- Journaling can help you become more creative and more mindful.
- Journaling can help you find ways to achieve your goals.
- Journaling provides an outlet to capture and record your great ideas.
- Journaling can make you more joyful as it reminds you of all that is right in your world.
- Journaling can improve your self-care and mental health.
How to Start Your Journaling Habit
People often let indecision get in the way of starting a journaling habit. Don't let it deter you.
I'll explain more below on how to print and bind your My Thoughts journal, but first, let's talk about some of the decisions that get people stuck when they decide to start journaling.
First, you need to actually get a journal. Below, I'll explain the multiple options for assembling My Thoughts into book form.
Second, you need to know what you'll write about.
Some people like a stream of consciousness approach, where you just freewrite, but this can be really difficult, especially for the novice journaler.
I do have a journal that I use in this way. I write 5 pages' worth in it every morning, always beginning with "Today is going to be a great day." I love my habit, and it helps me explore all kinds of things that would otherwise just rattle around in my brain (like all those amazing sparks I mentioned above!).
What I've found works a lot better for the novice journaler is guided freewriting, and that's why I've created My Thoughts in that approach. About half of the pages in the journal have a prompt at the top. They are things like:
- Write your eulogy.
- When I'm falling asleep at night, I think about...
- What will your children do differently than you do?
- If you found a $20 bill in an old wallet, what would you do with it?
- What are your favorite things?
- If you could wake up in the body of another person, would you? Whose body?
These prompts are all designed to get you thinking about yourself, your preferences, your desires, and your life. None of them is particularly deep or stressful (at least, they're not meant to be), but every one will give you something to think about and explore in your mind. That's where all those benefits of journaling come in.
Third, you need to carve out time to actually do it. If you rely on "finding time," you will never write in your journal.
You need a trigger, something that reminds you to get it out and write in it. My trigger is sitting down in at my desk in the early morning. I do it every single day, and when I do, I reach down into the desk and pull out the journal. And I write.
Maybe your trigger is eating breakfast or sitting down on the couch after supper. Whatever it is, tie the journal to something you do every day – and then write in the journal. It only takes 5-10 minutes a day to get a solid start.
You may find that you want to write more or longer. If you can manage the extra time, take it. If you can't, force yourself to close the book and move on to the next thing in your day. It's all about you, remember?
My Thoughts: A Printable Guided Freewriting Journal for Tweens, Teens, & Adults
The 148-page journal I created includes 68 prompt pages and 76 matching blank lined pages to expand your thoughts on the prompts or write about your own topics. I have explained below a few options for printing and assembling the journal, but you, of course, have complete control over how you use it.
Wouldn't it be fun to print the same page every year on the same date, to see how your answers change or don't?
Note: The entire journal is black and white to save on printing costs. There's no color at all which may be less visually interesting, but also costs a lot less to print, so there's that.
Printing & Binding the Journal
You have several options here. You can either print and bind the entire journal yourself at home, send it out to a printer, print just a subsection of it and paste those pages into a pre-bound journal, or print each page just as you want to use it.
All the pages print 2 to a sheet, and the prompt pages are separate from the blank pages. If you print out the entire journal (prompts & blank pages), it will take 74 sheets of paper or just the prompts will take 34.
If you want to paste the pages into a pre-bound journal, go for one in the vicinity of 5"x8" and print out only the prompt pages, leaving at least one blank journal page between each prompt to allow for spill-over.
Other Uses for My Thoughts
I think My Thoughts is awesome for any age girl from tweens like my 11-year-old Gracie to adult women my age and older.
These pages would be awesome for middle or high school students in traditional or homeschools because they encourage freewriting with a simple prompt. Girls (and boys, too, come to that) can write on the prompt or take another direction. The prompts will provoke rich thinking and juicy discussions.
Your New Journaling Habit
Journaling, like any habit, takes time to develop. You will need to spend a few minutes at it every day for a few weeks or even months before it becomes a solid habit that you consistently do without thinking.
The benefits of journaling are worth the effort it will take to make the habit strong.
I love journaling as a means of self-care. Journaling allows me to tap into a normally unexplored area of my brain, a place where I don't have to censor my thoughts and can just freely write about whatever pops up. It leaves me feeling free and light and unburdened. I wish the same for you.