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A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

Make journaling your ritual and reap its benefits with the help of writing prompts and practical tips on how to begin

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A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

Welcome to Next Gen Natural, a column where we share a Gen Z perspective on natural health and wellness. I’m Michelle—alive’s Digital Assistant and creator of the Healthy Num Num food blog. I love healthy living and want to inspire you to integrate wellness into all parts of your life, regardless of your age.

The beauty of journaling is that there is no right or wrong way to do it and you can make it your own. While journaling frequently will help you create a habit (more on this below), writing whenever you feel the need to is also beneficial.

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Why keep a journal?

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

Determining your purpose for keeping a journal will help you stay focused, create a routine, and most importantly, enjoy the process. Journaling can be used for organizing your thoughts, improving your mental health, or making your bedtime phone free. One of the main reasons I keep a journal is for my future self to look back on. I enjoy reading old entries from over the years to see how much I and my life have changed. While a picture is worth a thousand words, there’s no better way to preserve memories than journaling.

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Get started

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

Using my favorite notebook and high-quality pen (one that doesn’t leave smudge marks!) always excite me to pick up my journal and write. You can also maintain an e-diary if you want; it doesn’t have to be a physical journal! Removing distractions like your phone, so you’re not interrupted by notifications, and finding a quiet space when writing can help you stay mindful and focused. Set time aside each day to write and experiment with different journal entry styles to find the ones that suit you.

Ways to write

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

But, what to write? Staring at a blank page with no words coming to mind is a daunting situation that doesn’t bring motivation. A quick fix to find inspiration is to utilize writing prompts. Here are three of my go-to journaling prompts.

Document your day

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

At the end of the day, write an entry about how that day went. By not focusing on the past or future, this style of journaling helps you stay present. It’s an opportunity to note down that day’s activities and thoughts. This entry could also be in the form of a poem for those who want to be extra creative.

Focus on gratitude

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

Research has shown that expressing gratitude can increase people’s happiness and overall positive mood. Start by listing at least three things you are grateful for. This appreciation activity can be practiced any time during the day; however, writing this down before going to bed has been shown to improve quality of sleep.

Make an “ins and outs” list

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

While popular around the start of a new year, this list can be reviewed every few weeks. This journaling style helps you reflect on your day-to-day life and determine what you want more of (going on more walks) versus less of (scrolling on social media). You’re also 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals by simply writing them down. Your writing style is allowed to change day to day and your entries don’t need to be full-page long. For instance, an entry could be writing a list of things that make you happy—which is a favorite mood-boosting journal prompt of mine–and the next one could be a few sentences about a dream you had last night. As you get into the habit of journaling, you’ll discover the methods that work best for you.

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Build a habit

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

To turn journaling into a habit, set an intentional time to write each day—remember, this can also change. Sometimes, I prefer journaling before bed and other times I make it a goal to write down a few affirmations or a to-do list before I start my day. Try to be consistent in your habit, but don’t feel discouraged if you cannot journal every day.

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Reap the benefits

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling

Expressing your thoughts through writing can be a stress-relieving process. Keeping your innermost thoughts and feelings bottled up can cause physiological stress. Research has shown that expressive writing not only boosts immune function, but also lowers resting heart rate and promotes good quality sleep. I’ve learned that while putting my overwhelming thoughts down on paper may not necessarily solve my problem, it can help me feel more organized when my mind is anxious. So, take a few minutes for yourself and get journaling!

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