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A Beginner's Guide to Journaling

BY Ali + Finn
Co-founders of The Positive Planner Ali + Finn sitting on a sofa together

The tips you need to start your journaling habit in 2021


If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you’re going to see something very special this month. We’re starting 2021 with a bang! The year 2020 taught us to go back to our roots and for us at The Positive Planner that can only mean one thing: journaling. We want to take you on a Journey into Journaling with all the help and support you need to create a new regular habit. We’ve got loads planned, but to start you off we’re here with this Beginner’s Guide to Journaling.

Journaling has been a buzz word for a long time. We’re both absolute believers in all that it can do for you, but it may surprise you to know that we came to it relatively late in life. Despite this, it’s become a mainstay for us. It makes our lives that little bit easier, lighter and more understandable. 



Many have the idea that journaling is all about sitting in a window seat, wistfully gazing into the mist with a beautiful notebook in one hand and a fountain pen in the other. Ha! Don’t you believe it. Journaling can be as messy and chaotic as life itself and that’s why we wanted to write this Beginner’s Guide to Journaling. We hope it will help ease you into a practice that you enjoy and find useful. A habit that above all, sticks!


Why Should You Keep a Journal?

So, first, things first. Why on earth do we both keep wittering on about journaling? Just what is so great about it? What benefit are you going to get from sitting down with a pen and paper? 

Well, the benefits are extensive. Here are just some of them:

  • Increased productivity
  • Greater self-awareness 
  • Gratitude and an appreciation for the little things 
  • Clarity and focus
  • Better mental health
  • Greater mindfulness
  • A boost in confidence
  • Improves your mood
  • Helps alleviate stress and overwhelm
  • More likely to set, chase and achieve goals


Getting started: Find Your Why

Before you dash online to look for books, pens and pencils, you need to have a sit-down and work out exactly why you think YOU should start journaling.

A Beginner’s Guide to Journaling wouldn’t be worth anything without taking you right back to the basics. We all know that starting something on a whim because we feel we ought to never sticks. So let’s take a moment to work out why you want to do it.


A white question mark leaning against a bright red wall. Finding out why you want to journal is the first step in our beginner's guide to journaling


Of course, the benefits we’ve listed above are all good reasons to start. But we think you should answer a few questions before you get cracking:

  • What do I hope to get from keeping a journal?
  • How much time can I realistically give to it? 
  • What things do I want to write about?
  • What type of journaling am I interested in?

Your answers to these questions will start to give your journaling practice a framework. If you’re looking to be creative, morning pages might become your jam where you work with stream-of-consciousness writing (more about that later). If you want to use journaling to let go of circling worries and thoughts then writing before bed might be a good option to help you sleep better by putting them down on paper before you turn the light off. 

It’s also a very good idea to think about what type of journaling floats your boat. We are all different and just because you love the idea of writing pages and pages by candlelight at a beautiful desk, this doesn’t necessarily mean this is the type of journaling that will work for you. If you know deep down you’re a list-maker, try a form that involves lists.


What Journaling Supplies Do I Need?

Hee hee! Being serious stationery lovers, we thought we should get this into our Beginner’s Guide to Journaling pretty quickly! 

Yes, it can be tempting to go down the journaling supplies rabbit hole! It’s all very pretty, but in reality, all you really need is a pen or pencil you enjoy writing with and some paper. Of course, you can look at all of the wonderful journals - The Positive Family included - but for us, it’s so much more important that you learn to create a journaling routine that sticks for you rather than buying our entire product range (but we should tell you we have some gorgeous and super cute washi tape in our shop). 


A selection of stationery supplies laid out on a white table cloth. Whilst stationery is fun, our beginner's guide to journaling tells you you only need a paper and pen to start journaling


In fact, we’re so buzzed about journaling that we’ve created something very special for you that is FREE! We’ve added a Journey into Journaling resource to our exclusive Resource Library! This downloadable PDF contains everything you need to start you on your journaling journey. From some easy-to-follow tips and hints to journal prompts for the first fourteen days with space next to each for your journaling. All you'll need is a pen and the password - sign up for our newsletter and it’ll be winging its way into your inbox.


Types of Journaling

Most people think of ‘Dear Diary’ when they hear the word journaling. But in fact, this is only one of many different types. Finding what works best for you is crucial as that’s where your interest and motivation lies. You can read in detail about the different types you can do in our blog 7 Types of Journaling for Anxiety and Mental Wellbeing but here’s a short breakdown of some of the types you can try:

  • What Is Going Well Journaling
    Look at what’s gone well during your day.
  • Unsent Letter Journaling
    Is there something you’d like to say to someone that you just can’t say to their face? Good or bad, you can be completely honest about everything because you’re not going to send this letter.
  • Collage Journaling
    A bit like vision boarding but on a smaller scale. Follow #collagejournal on Instagram to see what others are up to.



  • One Word Journaling
    Great if you’re short on time. Pick one word that sums up the spirit of your day.
  • Stream of Consciousness Journaling
    This is just about writing. No plans, no expectations; you just write until all your feelings are out.
  • Gratitude Journaling
    Simply make a list of what you feel grateful for.
  • A Photo A Day Journaling
    If you’re more of a visual person or looking for something new, then this might be the one for you!
  • Video Journaling
    Last year showed us how technology really keeps us connected. Why not use it to connect with yourself? A video journal might be an idea for you if writing isn’t your jam. We love this article for how to get started.


A young woman holding a mobile phone in front of her face as she talks into the camera. Video blogging is a great way to begin journaling


Easy Tips for Keeping a Journal Regularly

So you’ve worked out your why, your what and how, but now the most important one of all: how on earth do you keep doing it regularly when the initial motivation and fun wears off?

We know it’s hard to make a new habit. Science tells us that it can take an average of 66 days for a new one to become fixed. Scary stuff, isn’t it? But this same science also said that missing a day here and there doesn’t make much of a difference to it eventually sticking. So let’s keep positive about all this. This part of our Beginner’s Guide to Journaling is really important for us. The how to keep it going:

Keep it consistent

Decide when you want to journal and try to make it a part of your day. You could connect it to something else you do on a daily basis - your morning coffee or evening cuppa. Doing this will help it become as normal as brushing your teeth.

Keep it short

We recommend setting a timer (5 minutes is plenty) and keep to that time. It also shouldn’t be pages and pages (unless you’re really on a roll). That’s why the journaling entry spaces in The Positive Planner and The Positive Wellness Journal are small. Less is very much more!

Set a reminder

Whether this is a post-it on your bathroom mirror or a peaceful alarm on your phone, a little nudge can work wonders. 



Take away distractions

This is a no-brainer. If the TV’s on or your phone’s next to you, you’re not going to be concentrating on your thoughts.

Remember mistakes are normal

Your writing does not have to be beautiful. Perfect grammar and spelling? Pah! Just let your pen flow and don’t go back and correct. You want to keep the flow going.

Keep your journal close

If you can see it, you’ll do it. It’s as simple as that. On your nightstand if you want to be a last-thing-at-night journaler. Or next to your coffee and tea in the kitchen for a first-thing-in-the-morning one. 

Have FUN

We do this with children. Getting the kids to help us clear up is WAY easier if we put their favourite music on and boogie while we’re doing it. Are we as adults really any different? Make it yours and make it fun. Add some colour or fill it with funky doodles and stickers.


What to Expect When You Start Journaling

Yes, we talk about having fun with journaling, but it should come with a little side of caution. It can release some intense emotions. Both of us came to journaling at times when we were feeling very low and very raw. Our mental health wasn’t good and in some ways, journaling was us grasping for a last resort. 

At times like these, journaling isn’t going to be easy. We always say, if there are particularly challenging situations in your life, talk to your therapist or doctor about journaling first as they might not think this is something you should be doing alone. 



Journaling might feel a bit strange at the beginning. It gets easier with practice but keep an open mind about what’s right for you. If you’re not sure, try different things. You could take a week of writing in the morning and then switch to the evening or even a mid-afternoon coffee break. Oh, and you are allowed to chop and change between journaling type too depending on your mood.


Our final thoughts on starting a journal

Journaling has been a lifeline for both of us. It’s something that we don’t religiously do every day, but we always, always come back to it at times when things are starting to feel difficult. 

We really hope that this Beginner’s Guide to Journaling and our Journey into Journaling PDF will inspire you to give it a go. 



Much love, and positive vibes to you all

Ali + Finn xx



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