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Journaling Methods & Techniques to Inspire You, With Tips to Get Started

Journaling methods and techniques, with tips to get started and stay driven, plus inspiration to help you commit to a regular journaling practice.

Journaling Methods to Spark Creativity and Motivate You

Journaling methods | journaling techniques | Image shows an open journal with a pen resting on it, on a marble desk, with a cup of black coffee and a posy of white tulips beside it.
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Journaling is a powerful tool, and I adore it for the many benefits it affords, especially in terms of general wellbeing. But, as with anything, the simple reality is that over time, it can lose its shine.

Approached in the right way, journaling for wellbeing should never feel like a chore; the goal is that it organically blossoms into a fulfilling new hobby. This is why it’s is such an incredible tool for better mental health1 – there’s always a different method you can turn to for your daily journaling practice.

NB. Daily practice is not a prerequisite of journaling, however it’s an advantage if you feel inclined – but this can work the opposite way if you’re not – so just do what you can and enjoy it!

Self-improvement and journaling techniques recommended on this site are researched, with sources and studies clearly cited or linked to where appropriate. Exercises taken from My Positivity Project are reviewed and endorsed by BACP and BPS member, registered Psychological Therapist, Emma Kenny.

Getting Started With Different Journaling Methods

One of the best things about journaling is its versatility, which means if you ever feel uninspired, there’s always something new to try.

If a blank page is no longer inviting, it’s not time to quit.

This is your 101, everything you need to know about journaling – practical tips for staying motivated, what to write about, the psychology behind the power of journaling, plus find lots of inspiration.

Showcasing a variety of different journaling methods, you’ll find some valuable journaling tips to get started with this incredible journey and way of life. 

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to journal, but there are many options! Enjoy the process of discovering your preferred journaling style.

A Variety of Journaling Techniques Cultivates Enthusiasm For the Hobby

Journal your way to improved wellbeing.

If a blank page is no longer inviting and instead you feel fatigued or disillusioned, it’s not time to quit – it just means it’s time to switch things up.

In this post I’m sharing a selection of my favourite journaling methods to inspire and encourage you to remain dedicated to a journaling routine.

Image shows an open journal on a desk, beside a cup of coffee.

Below you’ll find a selection of categories of journaling, including:

  • Bullet journaling
  • Positive journaling
  • Creative Journaling
  • Journaling for personal growth

Within each of these categories are many more methods which I’ll delve into in more detail.

18 Journaling Methods to Inspire You to Journal

These journaling methods and tips will help you to journal your way to improved wellbeing, in a variety of different ways, according to your preference and objectives. 

Following are some of the most powerful and effective journaling techniques, including:

  1. Bullet journaling
  2. Free writing / stream-of-consciousness
  3. Worst case scenario journaling
  4. Morning pages
  5. Journal prompts
  6. Gratitude journaling
  7. Reflective journaling
  8. Proprioceptive writing
  9. Unsent letter
  10. Affirmations for journaling
  11. Manifestation journaling
  12. Scrapbooking and art journaling
  13. Doodling and illustrations
  14. Travel journaling
  15. Dream journaling
  16. Creative writing
  17. Inner child journaling
  18. Shadow work journaling

Let’s take a closer look at each…

1. Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling is huge and for good reason! Developed by Ryder Carroll, the bullet journal method is super versatile. 

It’s a really fantastic way to help organise many aspects of life, condensed down into a single journal. It can be literally whatever you need or want it to be, whether that’s:

  • A way of categorising and tracking your professional life, projects, and meetings;
  • Recording family memories, trips, and funny quotes from your kids;
  • Organising school and homework;
  • Tracking and working on personal growth;
  • Or any combination of the above!

Whatever your personal need for a bullet journal, check out our master bullet journaling post for a beginner’s guide to bujo.

It covers everything you need to know about how to bullet journal, plus lots of different techniques to try out – no matter your goal, there’s something here for everyone.

Weekly bullet journal spread for March.

Positive Journaling Techniques For Improved Mental Health

My own journaling habit came about from a desire to live more positively. I learned that it’s a choice I have to make, every day:

To intentionally and consistently alter my perspective from glass half empty to glass half full until it became my new default.

And it works.

Daily journaling sessions that end with some form of gratitude are the best way to achieve this.

Here are some of the different journaling techniques you can use to enjoy the benefits:

2. Free Writing / Stream-of-Consciousness

Empty your mind through the act of writing.

Free writing, also known as stream of consciousness writing, is not about producing a perfect journal entry, but about purging your thoughts.

What is Stream of Consciousness / Free Writing?

Free writing is simply where you put pen to paper and allow your interior monologue to pour out onto your journal page. It’s an automatic and cathartic process in which you simply place the pen on the paper and empty your mind through the act of writing.

This writing practice should not be overthought – don’t stop to find the perfect word or go back to edit what you’ve written.

Write about anything that passes through your mind, in a fluid, continuous stream or writing.

3. Worst-Case Scenario Journaling

This method encourages you to write about your worst-case scenario fears, with the objective of rationalising those anxieties.

I don’t love the concept myself, for fear it may have the opposite effect if I wasn’t in the right head space! In fact, this idea is supported by research into coping and anger2.

However it could definitely be incorporated as an element of stream of consciousness writing, and perhaps finished off with a more positive practice such as a gratitude list (more on this later).

4. Morning Pages

Research suggests that morning pages are a great place to start if you want to start a new habit of journaling on a regular basis3. The is because we have a limited amount of willpower, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

With this in mind, if there’s anything you particularly want to achieve, getting it done first thing in the morning is a good way to get it ticked off your list! Just as people often go to the gym early to avoid the inevitable disinclination come home time, journaling when you wake up works the same way.

One red and one pick pencil lying on top of a pale pink and white marbled journals.

What Are Morning Pages?

So what are morning pages? Morning pages are exactly what you’d expect: journal entries you write on a daily basis each morning. 

Do what feels right.

Made popular by Julia Cameron in her 1992 book The Artist’s Way, morning pages are a form of free writing, where you simply write whatever comes into your mind. Use the exercise as a cleansing experience to empty your mind ahead of the day.

The ‘correct’ way to practice morning pages is to complete three A4 pages each day. But rules are made to be broken and if this seems like a lot of structure beyond what you’re comfortable with, just do whatever you can manage / feels right.

5. Journal Prompts

If you’re familiar with this website then you’ll know that journal prompts are a favourite of mine – I’ve created hundreds which you can access and download to use. They’re ideal for helping you to focus on a specific topic, such as gratitude, positivity, or self discovery.

When you’re keen to journal but have writer’s block, prompts can be super useful to get those creative juices flowing. 

They also have the added benefit of being very effective for specific types of journaling (more of which later). Try these beginner journal prompts to get started.

6. Gratitude Journaling

Even after you feel that you’ve flourished and successfully developed a positive mindset, continuing a gratitude practice regularly is a really valuable exercise.

Gratitude journaling is a great technique because it’s so incredibly powerful: it can literally change your outlook through reframing, so you default to being more positive and naturally look for the silver lining. 

One of the best ways to make this change is through journaling, and specifically by practicing gratitude.

Because even after you feel that you’ve flourished and successfully developed a positive mindset, continuing a gratitude practice regularly is a really valuable exercise to increase your sense of wellbeing and fulfilment.

A pink journal lays on top of a white notepad. There's a pen on top of it and some pink confetti on the white desk beside it.

What is Gratitude Journaling?

A great way to include gratitude in your journal is by writing gratitude lists.

At the end of every day simply note down a few things you’re grateful for. If you need a little inspiration why not try these gratitude journal prompts or these positive thinking journaling prompts?

7. Reflective Journaling

Reflective journaling is perfect for processing any challenges you may be experiencing in your life. 

It’s an excellent method for deep introspection, encouraging you to examine and evaluate situations or relationships so that your can better interpret and understand the behaviours of others – and yourself.

What is Reflective Journaling?

A reflective journal you is the ideal safe space for jotting down any big thoughts and feelings, impressions, hopes, doubts, experiences, and goals.

Keeping a record of these things for you to write about in the present and revisit later is a great way to gain insight into your inner world, what makes you tick – or triggers you. 

This form of expressive writing can be an enormously effective practice for reframing and gaining perspective.

8. Proprioceptive Journaling

The relatively new technique of proprioceptive journaling gets its name from the Latin word proprius, which means ‘one’s own’. According to Dr Metcalf and Dr Simon, authors of Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method For Finding Your Authentic Voice, proprioceptive writing ‘involves inner listening and exploration of what one hears’.

Proprioceptive writing provides a ritual to explore the rich inner psyche.

While stream of consciousness has similarities to proprioceptive writing, it’s not the same. 

While the former allows us to acknowledge and recognise current thoughts and different perspectives, the latter is like a portal to the soul. The practice of proprioceptive writing transcends the banal, providing a ritual to explore the rich inner psyche.

What is Proprioceptive Writing?

In Proprioceptive journaling, you set a 25 minute time limit, listening to your thoughts and committing them to (unlined) paper. Each session is referred to as a Write. As you pay attention to a thought and write it down, there’s a specific question you should keep coming back to:

‘What do I mean by…?’

This technique is designed to help you penetrate and make sense of your feelings on a profoundly deep level. 

The ‘correct’ way to practice this disciplined method involves listening to Baroque music, lighting a candle, and embracing the calm environment in order to gain authentic insight.

At the end of a 25 minute Write, you finish by writing down and then answering the following questions:

  1. What thoughts were heard but not written?
  2. How or what do I feel now?
  3. What larger story is the write part of?
  4. What ideas came up for future writes?

Once you’ve answered these questions, blow out the candle, date your papers, and place them somewhere safe, and reserved just for these journaling sessions.

A pink journal lays on top of a white notepad. There's a pen on top of it and some pink confetti on the white desk beside it.

9. Unsent Letter

I love this journaling technique for when you are holding onto hurt or anger and struggling to let it go.

We all know that holding a grudge is a terrible waste of energy – but the it’s not always easy to let those negative thoughts and feelings go.

Writing a letter to the person responsible involved, is a valuable technique for exorcising that negativity in a healthy way. It allows you to purge everything that is causing you distress, in a completely safe, non-confrontational way.

Often, just the act of getting everything off your chest can be enough to enable you to move on. But, otherwise, this activity can bring much-needed clarity, allowing you to sort through and organise your thoughts and feelings sufficiently so you can better communicate with the person in question.

10. Using Affirmations For Journaling

Affirmations may not be an obvious journaling technique.

But writing them out rather than chanting them as a mantra is a legitimate method for practicing positive affirmations, and an excellent journaling method to help increase your self-esteem and confidence.

11. Manifestation Journaling

Journaling for manifestation can come in many forms, but the common thread is in their purpose, which is to help you to successfully manifest.

If you’re not familiar with manifesting, it’s a term which tends to be divisive!

Manifesting that focuses on affirmations and sets an intention based around goals and actionable steps is a legitimate and valuable philosophy.

Manifesting is based on the Law of Attraction and the idea behind it is that we can influence our lives through our actions and beliefs. Some people are strong believers, others are highly sceptical.

Having carried out a lot research into the concept of manifesting, I can tell you that it is a thing – but only with caveats applied.

Manifesting centred around the theory that a strong belief is enough to bring something to fruition is futile and potentially harmful. There’s no scientific evidence to support this idea.

On the other hand, manifesting that focuses on affirmations and sets an intention based around goals and actionable steps is a legitimate and valuable philosophy.

Creative Journaling

Often visual journaling as opposed to written, there are many different kinds of creative journaling…

A vision board of your hopes, dreams, and achievements!

12. Scrapbooking and Art Journaling

The scrapbooking aesthetic is really impactful and highly creative, without necessarily requiring a lot of skill. A lot of these journals tend to be filled with cut outs, ticket stubs, and the like with minimal writing or drawing. 

There are also lots of advantages to this kind of journaling; check out this list of benefits of crafting.

Plus of course they look amazing, like a vision board of your hopes, dreams, and achievements!

13. Doodling and Illustrations

Often a huge element of bullet journaling, using illustrations can be a brilliant way to flex your artistic muscle in a fun and relaxed way.

Sometimes you don’t feel like writing, and would prefer to be artistic and focus on your creativity.

These drawing techniques and cute doodle tutorials will help you learn how to make your journal beautiful!

Image shows a notebook, cup of tea, small plant, and office accessories on a white background.

14. Travel Journaling

If you enjoy travelling, writing a travel journal is perfect for so many reasons! It’s a great way to:

  • Stay organised
  • Record memories
  • Store important information / documents
  • Catalogue mementoes
  • Remember favourite places

Travel journaling is also a fun way to get creative and maximise the joy of trips – before and after they’ve happened as well as during your actual travels.

15. Dream Journaling

Dream journaling, often referred to as dream logging, involves keeping a record of your dreams.

And while dreams can be fascinating and some people swear by them for finding guidance or as a window to their soul – the reality is that dreams are often meaningless. 

That said, if you experience recurrent dreams or nightmares, it may be that your subconscious mind is trying to communicate something important to you.

If you do want to try dream journaling, it’s recommended to do so soon after you wake up, since we tend to easily forget our dreams once we’re awake.

16. Creative Writing

If you are a lover of writing short stories or poetry, why not weave these into your daily journals alongside some other methods?

Image shows a woman writing in a notebook. She wears pale blue nail varnish and a creamy jumper.

Journaling Techniques For Personal Growth

If you’re specifically looking to use journaling to deal with historic wounds, or for deep self-analysis and self-improvement, the following techniques are ideal.

17. Inner Child Journaling and Reparenting Exercises

If you’re using journaling to overcome trauma, this selection of inner child journaling exercises to reparent and heal yourself is perfect for you.

What is Inner Child Journaling?

Inner child journaling focuses on connecting with your inner child in order to soothe away the pain experienced in formative years. Inner child journaling prompts are a great way to so this, but there are a variety of other reparenting exercises you can also use.

18. Shadow Work Journaling

Shadow work is quite a complex and involved type of journaling based around Jung’s theory of the shadow self.

What is Shadow Work Journaling?

Similar to but distinct from inner child work, shadow work journaling is designed to help you make peace with the parts of yourself you’re unaware of or do not wish to be associated with.

To get started with the practice, check out these shadow work exercises.

If you’re new to the community I hope these tips will help you begin a love affair with journaling!

Looking for even more inspiration? Check out these journaling ideas.

Sources

  1. Good Therapy; Journaling as Therapy.
  2. Coping and Anger: Edward J. Murray; Stress and Coping, pp.251-269; Psychology Press;1985; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203781722-19
  3. Buffer; The Best Time to Write and Get Ideas, According to Science.