A journal is like a blank canvas. It’s a place to express your thoughts, paint your life’s story, and find peace and clarity—and the only audience is you.
My journaling story began 10 years ago with a Dollar Store notebook. Moving from analog to digital journaling, my chicken scratch has evolved into a space to clear my mind, document my story, and deepen my personal growth.
My journal is like a companion that holds my hand through the rougher times. It’s a practice of mindfulness where I reflect on my life and address my emotions, allowing my thoughts to be free.
The comforting thing about journaling is that we all start somewhere, and we don’t have to get anywhere. If you’re not sure where to begin, or if it’s right for you—read on.
Step into the shoes of a journaler
Let’s imagine it’s the end of the day, and your mind is stuffed with questions, memories, and ideas, like a pinata about to burst.
Grasping a pen or tapping a keyboard, you spill your thoughts through freestyle writing.
You can write a narrative of how your day went or a reflection of a recent trip. You can vent some of your strongest personal emotions that can’t be bottled up. You can discover clarity by sorting your mind’s jumble into words.
As you wrap up your writing, you feel a lot lighter, as if you just had a conversation with your future self. In a few years, you can read back and reflect on how much you’ve grown. You might even chuckle at a funny memory that you wouldn’t have remembered, had it not been captured in the pages.
It’s such a simple practice to have, yet its impact can be priceless. Want to start your journaling journey? (I hope so!) Here’s how.
Find your style
Journaling can mean something different to everyone, whether in terms of the style, platform, or purpose. The blank canvas is yours to fill as you like—and there is no such thing as perfect.
You may choose to go analog-style and fill a physical notebook with your handwriting. Notebook-shopping at Indigo is one of my favourite hobbies—choosing a colour and style that represent your personality is part of the fun!
In this form, your expression comes in not just your words, but also the stroke of your pen. Messy writing can signify stress. Neat writing can signify that you’re feeling orderly. You can add doodles to express emotions that can’t be put into words.
You may also choose to go digital!
Journey is a popular app I use which sorts your entries by date while allowing you to track your mood, your location, and even the weather! My favourite part is how Journey gives me throwbacks to entries from exactly 1, 2, or 3 years ago. You can even attach media to your journal entries to add a visual element to your memories.
Other apps or methods of digital journaling you can explore include:
- Day One App
- Diaro App
- Storing your entries in Word documents, Google Drive, or Evernote
- Online blogging
Which one to choose?
The trade-off between analog and digital comes down to what you value more: do you prefer the ability to express yourself through handwriting and doodling, or releasing your pent-up thoughts faster through typing? Would you rather store your memories in a physical book, or have a journal that’s accessible from your phone or laptop, anywhere on the go?
But wait...what if you don't even like writing? Don't fret. Here are some creative and unconventional ways to journal.
Keep it up
The biggest barriers for aspiring journal writers are the expectations they set for themselves. Instead of telling yourself to write for 30 minutes every day, remember that journaling should bring you peace, not stress. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation!
Scrap the expectations and do what makes you comfortable. It’s perfectly fine to go weeks or even months without writing; sometimes, the most thoughtful and cathartic entries are created after a long period of built-up emotions and self-reflection.
Think of your journal as your favourite stuffed animal. You don’t need to feed it to give it love, but when you need it, it’s there for you!
It’s yours and yours only
The most important thing to remember is that you’re journaling for yourself, not anybody else.
It shouldn’t feel like a chore, nor should you feel pressured to write a certain way. The only person who’ll read your entries is future you! (Unless you want your own Peter Kavinsky... then leak those letters like Lara-Jean Covey.)
My friend Jo uses analog style and writes periodically to reflect on her past experiences. It’s her way of realizing her growth over time.
“I like to read my journal entries more than I write them. I always write with future me in mind.” This shows that journaling is not only great for present you, but also future you!
Here’s Jo’s advice for someone hoping to start journaling:
“Approach journaling in different ways—how you reflect is unique to you. Don’t feel limited by the confines of a certain page or a medium. It doesn’t need to take the form of writing either. It can be digital, or you can take photos and videos. They’re like pieces of the past to look back on.”
“Even if something is mundane," she adds, "or you don’t feel that it holds importance, writing it down doesn’t hurt. You never know the impact that something small can have on future you.”