How to Journal

Guest post
from Michaela Renee Johnson:
I have always
loved writing, especially as a way to process the depth of my emotions through
difficult times. I still have my first journal, which I got in the third grade.
It was included in a gift bag at a birthday party I attended. The notebook was
tiny, maybe only three inches wide by four inches long, with multicolored paper
and hearts on the cover. But I quickly understood that it could make a big
impact on my life. It was a safe place to share my struggles with making
friends at my new school and dealing with the woes of being an 8-year-old. My
first journal became a friend in whom I could confide.
My journals,
over the years, haven’t been just a place to share frustrations and worry, but
also a place where I could share dreams, especially the ones I didn’t think
others would understand. During challenging times, reading a great quote and
writing in my journal became one of the most important ways to safely explore
the change I needed, without the influence of others. My journals have always
been a place where I could speak my truth freely, just having written it down
allowed space for me to let it go and process things in a new way.
I started to
realize that by journaling my goals and dreams, I could even change the
direction of my life. Journaling became a tool to launch ideas and manifest my
hopes. I eventually started an online journal, which became my memoir,
Teetering on Disaster.
Needless to
say, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to write Empowered, A Motivational
Journal for Women when the publisher reached out to me I didn’t hesitate to say
So many people
say they want to journal, but have many reasons why it hasn’t made its way into
their life.
“I don’t
have the time.”
“I don’t
know how.”
“I’m kind
of afraid to sit and write.”
“I don’t
write well.”
“I don’t
know what to say.”
“I’m not
sure where to start.”
1. Find a
journal with prompts to start, Empowered is a great example of that, but you
can find some others here. If you are new to journaling it can be helpful to
have guidance. Also the prompts can be exciting, for example, in Empowered,
many of the prompts are creative and outside of the box. Law of Attraction
Daily Journal, Gratitude Journal
2. If you want
to start with a plain lined paper journal, that’s okay too. I recommend
beginning by filling the pages with quotes that you absolutely love across the
top. This puts “you” in your journal, and my experience is that when
I finally go to fill a certain page, the quote that I’d already written was
just the message I needed. Kind of like a blast from the past (or future).
Then, start by
writing the weather…what was the weather like today? How do your emotions
feel similar, or different? You’d be surprised how words can start to flow from
3. Get a great
pen! There is nothing worse than a pen that cramps your hand instantly, or
writes terribly, or leaks through the pages. I absolutely love LePen and Micron
-Sakura of America.
4. Don’t hold
yourself to a schedule. It can be lovely to do a daily gratitude journal in the
morning, with an evening reflection. And while I highly recommend connecting
with your journal daily, it’s more important that your journal be available for
you when you need it, and less important that you judge yourself for whether or
not you use it.
5. Don’t worry
about the grammar, or the spelling, or even the way it looks. It can be helpful
and fun to do a few journal entries with the lights down, simply for the
experience of letting go of “how” it looks. We are taught all through
school that we need to stay in the lines, and have proper grammar, those rules
don’t apply in journaling. Think of it as an extension of your mind. Your mind
allows thoughts to roll without censorship, allow your pen to do the same.
6. It can be
helpful to start by writing a story. If you were to run into an old friend at a
coffee shop 5 years from now what would the ideal story of your life be, what
would it look like? Share that with your journal.
7. Ask
yourself, if nothing changed today, would I be happy – share why or why not.
8. Lastly, go
easy. Sometimes painful realizations come up when we have a safe space to
process and discover our inner thoughts.
Sometimes the
process to achieve our dreams may not feel comfortable. But I believe our greatest
growth comes during times when we are uncomfortable—especially because humans
are biologically programmed to notice when something doesn’t feel right and fix
perceived problems. As you go through this journal, be aware that your mind is
detecting these shifts, and will help you gather insight into what needs to
change. Sometimes we can find ourselves being more aware of people and
situations or processing things days after an activity. Give yourself grace to
process, and practice good self-care, like getting enough sleep, drinking
plenty of water, and taking care of yourself. And remember you are exactly
where you are supposed to be in this moment.
Lastly, if
after reading this, you’re inspired to begin journaling, consider Empowered,
a Motivational Journal for Women.
Renee Johnson
is an award-winning author, licensed psychotherapist and
host of the top iTunes podcast, Be You Find Happy, which encourages people to
speak their truth with grace and live a courageous life of authenticity.
Her initiative, Be You Find Happy, holds workshops and conversations on finding
happiness in spite of life’s setbacks and has landed her speaking opportunities
across the nation. She is an avid adventurer, having traveled to more than 20
countries, and self-proclaimed “Boho Mom” who loves all things
metaphysical as well as poetic quotes. She is a Sagittarius and an ocean-lover
who lives in Northern California with her husband and young son, and a
homestead full of animals. In her spare time, she’s often hiking, doing yoga,
gardening, golfing or reading.
Connect with her at or on Instagram @MichaelaReneeJ.