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4 Different Ways To Start Journaling

Journaling is like having a heart-to-heart with yourself. It’s a special chance to untangle your thoughts, reflect on your day, and take a deeper look within. It's a...

Journaling is like having a heart-to-heart with yourself. It’s a special chance to untangle your thoughts, reflect on your day, and take a deeper look within. It's a tool that can boost your mood, spark creativity, and help you understand your emotions better. If you've ever felt like you wanted to start journaling but didn't know where to begin, you're in the right place.

In this article, we’ll explore four different ways to get started. Whether you want to focus on gratitude, let your thoughts flow freely, work through emotions, or just follow some prompts, there’s a journaling style that will fit perfectly into your life.


The scientifically proven benefits of journaling

Scientific research consistently demonstrates that journaling offers significant mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower stress levels, enhance mood, and improve emotional regulation.

Journaling has also been shown to boost cognitive functions like memory and creativity, as well as strengthen the immune system. Overall, journaling provides a simple yet effective way to improve your overall well-being and quality of life by helping you process emotions, manage stress, and develop healthier thought patterns. (1) (2) (3) (4)

Now let’s take a look at how you can get started on your journaling journey:


1. Gratitude journaling

Gratitude journaling is a beautiful practice that can have profound effects on your mental health and overall outlook on life.

By simply reflecting on a few things you are grateful for each day, no matter how big or small, you’ll begin to notice a shift in how you view the world.


Here’s how to start gratitude journaling:

  • Designate a specific journal to use for this practice
  • At the end of the day, take a few minutes to reflect on what you’re grateful for
  • Start by recording at least 3 things and work your way up from there

Even if you’ve had an awful day, try to think of the little things that you feel thankful for - even if it’s just a warm shower or a butterfly you saw outside your window!


2. Free thought journaling

Free thought journaling is a great way to allow your mind’s creativity to flow.

By letting your thoughts flow freely with your hand and writing without expectation or any premeditated intention, you can tap into your subconscious mind and come to new ideas and conclusions you may never have previously been able to access.


How to start free thought journaling:

  • You can use any type of journal you wish, but sometimes a larger A4 journal is easier for this practice since you’ll be writing quickly without inhibition and you don’t need to keep turning the page as often.
  • Simply start with whatever thought pops into your head, whether it’s something from your own inner world or emotional state or something you’ve noticed about your environment or someone else.
  • Keep writing for at least 10 minutes without stopping!


3. Reflective CBT Journaling

Reflective CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) journaling is a practice that allows you to shift your mindset around circumstances and events that might be bringing you emotional discomfort.

This method involves identifying negative thought patterns and replacing them with more positive, constructive ones. By writing down your thoughts and examining them critically, you can gain a better understanding of your emotional responses and learn to manage them more effectively.


How to start Reflective CBT journaling:

  • Identify the trigger: Begin by noting down a situation or event that has caused you stress or discomfort. Describe it in detail, including how it made you feel.
  • Recognise negative thoughts: Write down the negative thoughts that came up in response to the situation. Be honest and specific about what went through your mind.
  • Challenge these thoughts: Question the validity of your negative thoughts. Are they based on facts, or are they distorted or exaggerated? Consider alternative perspectives and write them down.
  • Replace with positive thoughts: Think of more balanced, positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. Write these new thoughts down and reflect on how they change your perception of the situation.
  • Reflect on the process: Take a moment to reflect on how this process made you feel. Did it help you see the situation differently? How do you feel now compared to when you started?

By regularly practicing reflective CBT journaling, you can train your mind to respond to challenges in a healthier, more constructive way. Over time, this can lead to a more positive outlook and better emotional well-being.


4. Try a journal with prompts

Using a journal with writing prompts is a great way to get into journalling and find out more about yourself along the way.

These types of journals usually direct you to reflect on moments of your day, your inner state, past events, gratitude and so much more.

You can usually find these journals in a bookstore or online.


Start small

Journaling is a versatile and powerful tool that can fit seamlessly into your daily routine, offering a personal space for reflection, creativity, and emotional processing.

Whether you choose gratitude journaling to foster positivity, free thought journaling to unleash your creativity, reflective CBT journaling to reshape your mindset, or prompt-based journaling to explore new ideas, the key is consistency and openness.

Start with just a few minutes each day, and you'll soon discover the profound benefits that this simple practice can bring to your life.



Written by Zaheera Swing - Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist

(BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD)


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