10 Everyday Journaling Practices

As a little girl, I remember my relentless desire for one of those high-tech diaries with a lock and key. When I finally got one, I wrote in it daily—filling it with my thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams. That diary knew me well, and it knew me honestly.

••• The Struggle •••

With age, my journaling practice dwindled, until eventually I journaled only in tiny stints, with seas of months and years in between. This was in part due to fear. What if someone got ahold of it and read my deepest everything? What if I discovered how I truly felt? Or worse yet, was my life really so interesting?

It was also due to my tendency to lean toward the all-or-nothing. If I missed a day or two of journaling, I would feel defeated and slowly give up the practice entirely. I became good at discarding any remnants of my failed attempts. While the all-or-nothing mindset can be a crippling one to harbor, it can also provide unwavering commitment and endurance, two things a creative life needs.

So I’ve chosen to work with my flaws, rather than blame them.

••• The Change •••

The key, I’ve found, is starting small—even ridiculously small—and allowing myself to grow slowly and steadily. It is letting go of expectation and not tying the success of my practice to my validity as a creative being. It is making journaling a priority simply because it is good for me, regardless of how beautifully my words fall onto the page.

At the moment, I’ve adopted Morning Pages (see below) as my journaling practice. By rising early and journaling in the morning, it ensures I find the time. It also provides me with a sense of clarity and optimism, whereas journaling in the evening provides me more with a sense of reflection and hope.

I’ve been journaling daily for a couple months now, something I haven’t done since my lock-and-key diary days. It feels good. And, ultimately, this practice is what kept me grounded and inspired as I launched this blog, and it’s where I continue to be fueled with ideas.

••• 10 Practices •••

Without a doubt, journaling is invaluable to one’s reflection, growth, creativity, and productivity. So whether you have a few minutes or an hour, I hope you’ll consider one of the everyday journaling practices below. You could even rotate through a number of them depending on what feels right for the day.

Remember, start small and be gentle with yourself. Before you know it, journaling will become a rooted part of your day.

  1. Morning Pages. A journaling style crafted by writer Julia Cameron, Morning Pages are three pages of longhand free writing done first thing every morning.
  2. Prompt Journal. For a little direction to get your pen moving, consider responding to journaling prompts. Or simply ask yourself questions you’d pose to a new friend or a date. Be as curious about yourself as you are others.
  3. Gratitude Journal. There are numerous benefits to keeping a gratitude journal, with lower stress and higher perspective among them. In the evening before bed, make yourself a cup of herbal tea, light a candle, and reflect on all that makes you grateful.
  4. Intention Journal. According to Deepak Chopra, “Intentions compressed into words enfold magical powers.” By writing down your intentions, you further the process of manifesting them beyond your mind and into reality.
  5. Single Sentence Journal. A journaling style for word minimalists, it’s exactly as it sounds: a single sentence each day. It could be of a significant happening, something you’re pondering, or a realization. The essentialism of this journaling style also allows for an easy annual review of your life.
  6. 10-Year Index Card Journal. This style is similar to the single sentence journal. But instead, the index card journal encompasses a decade of a given day on each card. For example, the card for December 31st would include a line for each year from 2017 to 2026. This is a fun way to see, in one place, how you spent New Year’s Eve, your birthday, or any other day for a decade.
  7. List Journal. The list journal is a simple way to get to know yourself better. Create a new list topic however often, ideally every week or so, and spend time each day compiling it. They could be lists of anything, from your favorite artists to places you’ve traveled to maxims you aspire to live by.
  8. Bullet Journal. For all those ambitious ladies out there, bullet journaling is a great way to keep your goals, tasks, and inspirations in one place and to encourage a constant flow of progress. For some beautiful bullet journal ideas, check out Boho Berry.
  9. Photo Journal. For photographers, consider challenging yourself to take one photo a day, possibly within a theme for a set period of time. If you choose to use your smartphone camera, there are a variety of photo-journaling apps for iOS and Android.
  10. Zentangle Meditation Journal. For doodlers, consider creating an artsy meditation practice with a zentangle journal. Quickly doodle a squiggle of whimsical loops on a page; then draw patterns within each block created by the squiggled perimeter. In the end, you might even be inspired to write a few words next to your zentangle doodle.

What is your favorite journaling style? Do you have any other creative journaling ideas? Share with us in the comments!

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8 comments

  1. What wonderful practices! You’ve given me so much to think (and journal) about.

    I also love your note about working with yourself and taking the (seemingly) small steps forward.

  2. I have struggled with this too! Since January of this year I have made an effort to journal everyday with varying degrees of “success”. I have come to the conclusion that it’s a success to be journaling in general and it may not be everyday, but I KNOW it has helped me! I write mostly off of a prompt from the bible or from this counselor/pastor’s book. I have found these journal entries have applied to my daily life on multiple occasions and I have gone back to reference them. This whole process has helped me examine myself and the world around me. I plan to continue this practice for sure!
    I mostly do a prompt journal; just thinking of doing a free write journal is almost intimidating, but I should give it a try! I also really like the idea of a gratitude journal. I will try both of those journal practices soon!

    1. Yes! It’s most definitely a success to be journaling at all. If only I’d had that mindset many years ago….

      I love journaling to prompts, and I think doing so encourages me to think outside the box. For example, the Morning Pages I’m currently practicing have been wonderfully instrumental, but I find that I sometimes write about the same thing in a variety of ways over a given period of time. Because that’s how our minds work, we resolve and revisit.

      That said, I think it’s awesome that you’re journaling, even if not daily, and that you’re applying it to your life.

      As for free writing, I was intimidated by it at first, too. I would suggest maybe committing to a page, so it doesn’t feel so inundating. And soon you’ll find that you want to write two or three pages, maybe more! There is also something poetic about free writing, as it very much thrives on our emotions and our uninhibited psyche. One of the important things about free writing that I have yet to master, is to let your hand flow and to not ponder too much or revise as you go. Another fun way to do free writing is to set a time limit, say 10 or 20 minutes, rather than a page limit.

      I’d love to hear an update on your journaling practice as you try new things!

      1. I can usually just let the words flow in free writing, my problem is I want the paragraphs organized by thought but my hand keeps going and I end up writing one long paragraph, haha!

        1. Ah, yes. I know that exact feeling! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to just let go, and my perfectionistic self almost always resists. But in the times I’ve let my sentences run on and my paragraphs be disorganized, I’ve found treasures that I wouldn’t have discovered anywhere but amidst the inherent chaos of the heart and mind. And really, writing freely, without organization or perfection, allows us to find creative solutions that our constructed selves might not.

  3. This is such a wonderful post. I had never considered that there were so many journaling styles. I can’t wait to incorporate as many as I can 🙂
    I particularly like the idea of 10 Year Index Card journaling. There seems something so romantic about looking back on your life, summarized in a single statement, over such a long period of time. What a simple and beautiful way to track your personal growth ❤️

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! And, yes, there really are so many journaling styles. Like you, I love the nostalgia of the 10-Year Index Card Journal, and I plan to start one someday soon. Maybe the beginning of 2018 would be a good time.

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