If Your New Year's Resolution Is To Journal More, Read This

Journaling is one of the most creative, introspective activities you can do whenever you have free time. That being said, as anyone who has tried keeping a journal in the past knows, sometimes the practice can be tricky. Journaling can be intimidating: what are you supposed to write in the first place? Will it be any "good"? Will it look like all those cute, doodled-in journals you've pinned on Pinterest? Even if you're not "intimidated" by the blank page per se, keeping a journal can still be difficult to be consistent with, especially if you have extremely busy days filled with school drop-offs, tons of work meetings, studying, daily Zoom calls, or just trying to keep it all together with your family and friends. However, if you do find time to keep one, you will find yourself reaping the practice's thoughtful, meditative benefits.

Keeping a journal is all about freeing your mind enough to write whatever you want, without necessarily thinking about the words on the page. Plus, when it comes to being steady and disciplined with it, you simply need to set aside scheduled time every day to journal, according to Bustle. Easier said than done, right? Thankfully, tons of writing experts and journal lovers have talked about their best tips to start journaling, and what works for them. If your New Year's resolution is to keep a journal, not to fret: whatever your hang-ups with journaling, we've compiled some of the best tips to get you started — and keep you going.

Buying a journal

Your first step is buying a notebook, and there are several ways to go about it. Buzzfeed asked their journal-loving readers about their best tips for starting out, and one wrote in: "if you are nervous about committing to a journal, use a cheap composition notebook as a practice journal." While many of us know the feeling of buying an adorable, expensive notebook, only to immediately stress if we'll do those gorgeous pages justice, this tip solves that problem. The reader continued, "with the cheap composition notebook, you'll get to try and you'll find your flow, your style ... you don't have to worry about being perfect." So a trip to the drugstore for a pack of composition notebooks will do just fine!

Another journal lover echoed this sentiment to Oprah Daily, explaining that "leatherbound journals feel too official and dignified for writing my thoughts down. I psych myself out from using them." That being said, you might pair better with a beautiful, intricate notebook, it's all about making thoughtful decisions about what will work for you. A regular journal-jotter told Buzzfeed that you should "buy a journal you think is absolutely beautiful. Something you love looking at and want to pick up, even if it means you have to splurge." And pens are just as important: writer Anika Fajardo told Oprah Daily that "the nicer the pen, the more fun it is to write," so go for that fancy fountain pen if you feel like it!

Finding a journaling routine

One of the most important aspects to keeping your journaling New Year's resolution all through 2022 is to find a consistent practice. We've all been there: jotting down all your thoughts every day for two weeks, missing a couple of days, and never going back to it again. That's why being disciplined with your journal routine is important — without being too hard on yourself, either. Don't stress about writing every single day if that's not for you: as one Buzzfeed community member explained, "relieve yourself of the expectation that you will write every day ... sometimes I write every day ... sometimes, when life is insane, I'll write just once in an entire month." Keeping a journal is a meditative practice that should feel good — it should never add anxiety to your life — so find a routine but be flexible, too.

Still, making a daily habit out of writing in a journal is the best way to make sure you stick to it (even if you miss a few days). Psychology researcher Dr. Elizabeth Gilbert told Oprah Daily that you should start with a "realistic" writing goal, whether it's five minutes a day or 30 minutes once a week. Just like a workout routine, allot a time frame for your journal writing: this can be right before going to sleep to unwind at the end of the day, or in the morning when you wake up so you can jot down your dreams and daily goals.

The best practices to start writing

Once you have your journal and writing schedule, it's time for the fun part: the actual jotting down of ideas. This in itself could seem intimidating, but it's all about leaving the idea of "perfection" at the door and reminding yourself that this journal is just for you. As Dr. Gilbert explained to Oprah Daily, journaling is a therapeutic practice that can slowly heal past trauma, and help you "stop, react, and make sense of it all." So treating your journal like a place you can write anything in with zero fear of what others think is paramount.

So how exactly should you get started? While one Buzzfeed community member advises starting on the second page because the first page can be a bit daunting, Simply Fiercely recommends starting with a scribble or doodle. As per the outlet, if you can't find a way to just start writing, "cover the first page with a big scribble" to "break the ice." Other options? Jotting down your favorite quote of all time and continuing with the way the quote makes you feel, or what exactly it inspires you to do in your own life. Tiny Buddha has some other suggestions for getting started: on the first page, describe your life. Talk about your personal relationships with family, friends, or romantic partners, write about your work life, and say exactly what you want to change in your life, and what your biggest goals and dreams are.

We adore these writing prompts

So you have your first page down, but what's next? For some of us, writing whatever comes to mind everyday is second nature, especially if treating your journal as a log that describes what happened each day. However, playing around with writing prompts is a fun, creative way to make sure the task of journaling never becomes boring or mundane. Writing just a paragraph each night about what occurred in your life is fine, but prompts ensure you have something to jot down even when nothing happened that day, or you when have dreaded writer's block.

Simply Fiercely recommends several super-helpful writing prompts that you can use on a daily basis when journaling. For one, you can write to "someone else," such as a fictional character, your future or past self, a loved one who has passed away, or someone who's actually in your life but will never read it. This can start a "conversation" in a way simply writing to yourself cannot, and will help you get creative with your entries. If you like art, you can alternate between writing and drawing, or you can also play around with lists. Storyteller Micaela Blei told Oprah Daily that "lists can be non-threatening. They don't feel like you're writing an essay," while wedding planner Jordan Maney told the outlet that she starts every morning by listing what she wants and needs, how she feels, and how she can take a risk and be brave that day.