We all heard about the benefits of journaling and would love to jump on this train, but the concept of journaling seems so big and intimidating, we stop without starting. And it’s really too bad, because journaling doesn’t have to be complex or elaborate. In fact, making journaling a small, simple part of your every day in tiny, doable ways is easy and fun.
When you journal, it doesn’t have to be anything lengthy, or profound or needing to impress anyone. Journaling is here to improve your life and it’s for your eyes only. It has no standards or rules or numbers to adhere to.
You can get into journaling and get all the benefits that come with it by trying one (or few) things in the list below. Here are some ways you can add journaling into your life.
-1- Write down an affirmation on how you want your day to be
Journaling is a great way to start your day and you can do that by deciding in advance on how you want your day to be.
In the morning, write out a sentence setting the mood for your day.
Make it a positive statement, in present tense. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be meaningful to you and something that resonates with you when you read it.
“Today is a relaxing, productive day and I look forward to it” or “I have a clear plan for today and every step happens with ease”.
-2- Write down the highlights of the day
Often, we run through our days, rushing to get things done. When we turn around, we feel like our days were empty, meaningless.
Just like you set the mood for the morning with an affirmation, you can close out the day journaling about the highlights of your day.
Remind yourself of all the meaningful things that happened that day.
Write down things that stand out in your mind, while they are still fresh. Write extraordinary and write mundane if it’s important to you.
“Lasagna came out so good today, I should definitely use that self-cook pasta again” or “I signed the last of the business papers today, I can’t believe this is finally happening!”
-3- Write down the lessons of the day
The days of our lives are there to present us with challenges and teach us valuable lessons that help us grow as human beings. Reflecting on them and journaling them down helps them make the most impact on our today and play a difference in the future.
Throughout the day or in the evening, jot down the lessons the day taught you.
It can be one or three, it’s really up to you. You can jot down the lessons like “Taking a slow breath before I answer really helps me be a better communicator” or “Going to sleep at 10pm made my morning so productive, like I gained 2 extra hours!”
-4- Write down a fact that you learned that day
Love watching “Jeopardy”? Ever go: “No way, I didn’t know that!”
Have a page or two in your journal where you jot down something interesting or fun you learned that day.
It makes it a great page to refer back to for your own self-improvement or something fun to have in your back pocket for family game nights, or just to share with a friend.
Jot down something like “Today I learned that you can get rid of brain freeze by pressing tongue to the roof of your mouth” or “I used plain vinegar in the bathroom to get rid of water stains and it totally worked!”
-5- Write down 3 best things that happened to you that day
When we are too busy with everything that needs to be done and stress eats away at our feel-good bubble, it’s important to take a moment and acknowledge the good things that happen in our day.
Better yet, write down at least 3 good things that happened to you that day.
I know, you might say that some days feel like nothing went right, but, if you look hard enough, you will find them.
Remember, they don’t need to be big, they just need to be good. And if you start looking for them every day, you will start noticing them more and more.
Here is an example from one day “I woke up in the morning full of energy, my mind was never that clear!” and “Everyone behaved at work today and the morning meeting went by quickly.” and “I finished reorganizing the living room and it looks amazing!”
-6- Write down things to offload your mind
One of the best things about journaling, to me anyway, is the ability to offload the mind of all the thoughts that ruminate in there and stress us out.
Thoughts have tendency to go in circles and the worries seem to grow bigger the more time they spend in our heads. Same goes for upsets or untold arguments, all those things we wish we could tell to the other person but we can’t find it in ourselves to actually do it. And off we go, having fiery conversations in our minds the whole day, exhausting ourselves and upsetting ourselves more and more.
When you find yourself dealing with a thought, argument or fear that bothers your mind and drains your energy, journal about it.
Write out all your fears to the last-minute thing, including the worst-case scenarios. You will notice how your mind will get lighter and how the fears will look smaller or even ridiculous on paper.
-7- Write down things you want your mind to think on while you sleep
Sometime you want to get things off your mind, as in the point above, but sometimes, you actually want to give your mind something to chew on. J
ournaling is a great way to actively think through something you are trying to figure out or better yet give it to your mind to noodle on while you are asleep.
To do that, before you go to sleep, write down in your journal the question you want your mind to work through.
Our mind, especially our subconscious mind, holds way more knowledge and information than we realize and when we are asleep the gates to that knowledge open up. Ask yourself a question in your journal and go to sleep.
Write down something like “How can I find money for the down payment on that condo I really like?”
-8- Write down your bucket list
They say that to get things out of your dreams and into your reality is to write them down. I agree! Plus, it’s fun to write down dreams and desires, imagining the fantastic places we could go, amazing things we could do and extraordinary people we could meet.
Have a page or two in your journal dedicated to your bucket list and write in there all the desires of your heart.
You can write a whole bunch at once, or add one a day as they come to you.
My bucket list has things like: “Publish a book series. Go to Maldives. Become a NYT bestseller. Meet Keanu Reeves.”
-9- Write down your goals for next 5 years
Right along with the bucket list that holds things we can dedicate the rest of our lives achieving, create a list of specific goals you want to achieve in the next 5 years.
To me a year is too short of a timeline to achieve something significant and 10 years are too long and take away the sense of urgency. Five years are right in the middle giving you time and breathing room to get some serious things done, but close enough to keep yourself accountable to your dreams.
Give a thought and write down what big dreamy goals you would love to achieve in the next 5 years.
You can write them down all at once or one at a time as you conjure them up.
Some of the goals could be: “Grow my side-business to replace my full-time job. Write and publish 3 books. Save enough money for a down payment.”
-10- Write down 3 things you love about yourself
Self-love is an important part of everyday self-care and unfortunately we spend more time telling ourselves how we are less-than instead of telling ourselves things that we do great.
Spend a few minutes every day telling yourselves the things you are great at, things you know and things you love about yourself.
Just like with the things that are great about today, in the beginning it might be hard to find something new or different every day, but try every day to grow that habit.
Appreciate the awesome person that you are a little every day and with time you will see more and more (and hopefully will criticize yourself less and less).
Write down anything at all you like: “I love my hair, it’s so smooth and flowy. I’m really good with spreadsheets, I’m like a Spreadsheet Queen! I make the best black leaf hot tea”.
-11- Journal during lunch, making a mid-day check-in with yourself
As much as the journaling in the morning as a part of a morning routine and at night as a part of an evening routine is more-less accepted part of our days, a mid-day check-in with ourselves is pretty important.
Yes, it’s often hard to find time in the middle of the day to stop and write something down, and that is the whole point.
Having a mid-day check in with ourselves forces us to:
- a) slow down
- b) find time to sit down, open the journal and pause to collect our thoughts
- c) write down something meaningful
It’s like catching ourselves shallow breathing the whole day, then stopping and taking a slow deliberate breath in and out. Ahhh, doesn’t it feel better?
Just the intent behind having mid-day check in will encourage you to take a mental and physical break midday and by writing your thoughts down you will also pause the mad rush of the day and find yourself in that whirl of life.
-12- Pull an Oracle card and write down the first thought that comes to mind
I don’t know how ‘woo’ you are but sometimes pulling an Oracle card and reflecting on the image or the message on it helps to start the flow of words.
The Oracle cards are designed to evoke a feeling, an association or a stream of thought with the colorful imagery or profound message written on them. Sometimes you will be surprised how the card you pulled matches the question you had on your mind or mood you’ve been in for the past few days.
Look at the card and begin to write what pops into your mind.
You can be as detailed or as surface when you write about what you see. It’s here to get you writing and your thoughts flowing.
If, in the end, your writing has nothing to do with what’s on the card, that’s fine. You have said what you needed to say and that’s what counts.
-13- Draw a face reflecting your emotion and describe why you feel that way
Sometimes, simple things are the best.
In the middle of the day or at night, draw a simple face (smiley or sad or deadpan) and write down how you feel and why you are feeling that way.
If it helps, do this throughout the day to see how your mood shifts and what triggers you. You don’t have to write a lot, just doodle the face and write down your feeling.
For example: “😊 I’m feeling good this morning. I had a cup of fresh coffee, the air was crisp and clear when I took my walk and it was so quiet in the neighborhood, I smiled the whole way.”
-14- Write down the list for the day
Your journal isn’t just reserved for self-reflection. It can also help you organize your day.
Bullet Journal, for example is an amazing tool for getting your day clear and organized.
If your days feel chaotic and you constantly find yourself forgetting to do something, to pay something or to buy something, write down a list of tasks every day so then you know what to do and you don’t have to hold it all in your head.
Write down a bulleted or numbered list of things to do and cross out things as you complete them.
You can also apply this to a project you are working on that has many steps or tasks to it. Write out all the tasks that need to be done for success and then go about doing them and crossing them out.
-15- Write down about a book you have read and your thoughts about it
If you are an avid reader, you know how sometimes you want to tell someone about a book and you can’t remember what the name of the book was? Or you get mixed up in which book you read that awesome idea.
Get into habit of writing down the name of the book you are reading or just read (along with the author’s name) and note down your favorite ideas or quotes from it.
It will help you create a resource for yourself and also cement the knowledge of the book in your mind.
Plus, if you every want to write a review for the book or recommend a book (or a list of books) to a friend or co-worker, you can refer to your journal and have all the info handy.
-16- Write down about a show you are watching and the favorite moment in that episode
Binging on shows is all the rage these days and often we forget which episode was about what! You want to tell your bestie (or FB group) about your favorite moment in the show, but you can’t recall what episode that was. The solution?
Have a few journal pages dedicated to your favorite show where you can note the Season number, the Episode number and name, followed by a favorite moment of the episode.
You can also write a quick synopsis about that episode, noting the main things that happened, characters introduced or departed and so on.
Later on, it will be fun to read over these entries and reminisce on your favorite moments without having to re-watch the hours and hours of the show.
-17- Write down dreams when you wake up to reflect later
Unlike my husband who never dreams or remembers what he dreams about, I often have very detailed and vivid dreams. Often those dreams follow me around the whole day, making me wonder what they meant.
If you are in the same boat, dedicate some pages in your journal to write down your dreams as soon as you wake up.
It will allow you preserve them as they tend to fade away, get them off your mind and be able to reflect on them later.
You can search on the meaning of different things you dreamt up like running in place, tsunami waves following you or being unable to find an exit. This might help you figure out what your mind is working through or trying to tell you.
If anything, you can use some of those dream ideas as starters for stories and books!
-18- Write ’20 under 20′, ’30 under 30′, ’40 under 40′, etc. list of things you achieved at the age you are
We have all seen the 20 under 20, 30 under 30 and so on lists in magazines or on TV, or blog posts on the same topics.
Create a list like that for yourself, listing 20 things you have achieved by the time you turned 20, or 30 things you tackled by the time you were 30, etc.
Listing these many things makes you really think and appreciate all that you have achieved.
No thing is too big or too small. You can list a house you bought at the age of 26 or half-marathon you completed at the age of 39.
You can list your diplomas and your travels, your skills and books read or written, it’s all up to you. Write down what’s important in your world, then sit back and marvel.
-19- Write a morning page
Morning Pages, introduced by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist Way are three pages of stream of consciousness you do first thing in the morning to empty your mind from all the buzzing that accumulated while you were asleep. If three pages seems like a lot, write just one.
I believe that something is better than nothing and even though Julia recommends three pages because with that length of writing you are meant to dig really deep for what matters, doing even one page to get the mental clutter our is still beneficial.
Morning pages aren’t meant to be profound, they can literally be about anything, they are meant to clean your mind.
So, you can find yourself writing something like: “This morning is freezing, do I need to get out of bed? My hair is a mess, I wonder how I would look like shaved? My neighbors are so noisy with their peppy music, don’t these people sleep? Their pumpkin pie is amazing though, I guess I’ll forgive them for the noise”.
-20- Write the conversation with a person who upset you
If you ever had an argument with someone, you know how exhausting the aftermath can be. Our mind goes on and on, coming up with perfect rebukes that you, somehow, totally forgot in the heat of the moment.
You go back and forth with yourself on how you could’ve had an upper hand and put that person in place with just the right word.
Give your mind a break and journal on that argument you would love to have with the person who upset you, and all the things you wish you could tell them.
Doing this will relieve you of the pressure cooker feeling in your chest and maybe even help you clarify points of argument to come up with better, calmer, cleaner points to bring up to the other party for a productive conversation.
-21- Pick a sticker for the day
Journaling doesn’t always have to be a piece of writing. Sometimes you don’t have time or words to say what’s on your mind.
Sometimes you need a little push or inspiration. On days like that, pick a sticker for the day.
You can pick a sticker in the morning to set the mood for the day or at night to reflect how you felt about the day that just passed or to switch up your mood and reset your mind for something better.
Your stickers can be inspiring and beautiful or cute and silly, use whatever works for you.
Sometimes, there is nothing better to soothe a crappy day than a sticker of doodled kitty snoring on its back or a colorful lama that is not a “Drama Llama”.
-22- Write down your ideas and What-If inventions
When a strike of genius visits you, don’t ignore it.
If a cool idea lands in your mind, write it down.
It could be a What-If kind of thing too.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if Postmates offered a subscription service where they would deliver your shopping to you every month without you having to go and order it every time?” or “What if there was a service that would collect your empty Amazon boxes and give you some cash for them?”
-23- Have a running Books to Be Read (TBR) list
So many books, so little time! Same goes for audio-books as well.
I don’t know about you, but there was a time when my Audible credit was ready for use and I had no idea what good book to spend it on.
Now, I keep a list of all the books I heard being recommended or books I’ve seen quoted and want to read in the future.
Dedicate a page or few in your journal and write down the name of the book and the author you want to read.
You can even write down what was the point in the book that interested you like “A great book about forming habits” or “Give you a step by step plan to pay off your debts”.
As you get around to read those books, cross them out or, even better, write down the date when you finished them and give them a star rating for your own future reference.
-24- Write down restaurants you want to visit
In the same vein as the list of the books you want to read, keep a running list of the restaurants you want to visit.
There has been more than one occasion when watching YouTube shows like “Worth It” I exclaimed: “We totally need to go there and try that [food]!” and then promptly forgot the name of that restaurant and the food I wanted to try there. Frustrating!
If you catch yourself going to same restaurants over and over again and you want to spruce up your eateries, create a running list in your journal of the restaurants you would love to visit.
Note down the Name of the restaurant, what City it’s in and what is the Food that was recommended to you at that place. Similar to the list of books, once you visit the place, write down when, what offerings you had and how your score the place for yourself.
-25- Write down things you want to do around your house
And for the last idea, write down projects you want to do around the house.
I know, this might not sound exciting, but it can be, especially if you write down the upgrades or improvements you had your eye on for a while.
Again, let me remind you: if you write it down, it will happen.
This list can be part bucket list, part idea list, part to-do list. Write down things big and small that would make your home great.
It can be anything from “Buy a Roomba vacuum” to “Paint the walls in the bathroom with a different color” to “Rip out and redo the kitchen in white and grey color scheme with marble counters” to “Build an addition in the back to house my new home office”.
As you can see, journaling can be practical, inspirational and motivational. It can be therapeutic, self-discovering and down-right fun. And it can be done daily in many simple ways.
Choose one of the ways from the list about and give it a try, or pick a different one to try every day. You can mix and match or do certain ones only once a month. Do whatever helps you and makes your life easier, fun and meaningful.
The goal of a habit tracker is to help your stick with a habit, see your progress (or lack thereof), spot the trends that can help you get better at what you are tracking, become more mindful about...
The journals that you need to keep will be defined by what you are focusing your attention on right now, what you want to be mindful of and what you want to improve in your life.