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Journaling Tips for People Who Can't Journal

BY Ali + Finn
Co-founders of The Positive Planner Ali + Finn smiling at the camera

If you're new to it, journaling can seem pretty daunting and we know from experience that creating a journaling habit isn't easy for everyone. So we've put together some journaling tips for people who can't journal. We hope these will help you see it doesn't have to be difficult.


Hands up if you can’t get into journaling, no matter how hard you try? You’re not alone. Even though journaling is touted as an easy self-care tool, you’d be surprised at how many people find it tricky to master. Using a journal is our favourite way to manage our mental health and wellbeing, but even we suffer from lack of time, fear of judgement, and not feeling like a ‘proper’ writer. As much as we advocate for positivity, you don’t need a positive mindset to get started with journaling. Hooray! So forgive yourself for feeling nervous and remember that journaling is a learning process. If you're struggling to find your journaling groove, our journaling tips for people who can't journal will give you a tonne of journaling tips to help you make it part of your routine. 


A Black woman wearing nude-coloured pyjamas lying on a large double bed holding a bright yellow Positive Planner Journal


Keep it simple 

There are plenty of elaborate journaling tips out there but if you’re struggling to get started, we suggest going back to basics. Try writing a few sentences about how you feel about the day ahead, what tasks you have to complete and how you’re going to approach them. Alternatively, you could write about the thing you’re most looking forward to (attacking that Cream Egg you’ve got stashed in your desk drawer) or the thing you’re dreading the most (the freezer needs defrosting again?) If you’re journaling in the evening you could write about what went well today, the three things you’re most grateful for, or what act of self-care you’re going to do tomorrow. Showing up to journal regularly will feel way more achievable if you keep things simple.


Give yourself ten minutes

The sight of a beautiful, blank notebook can be intimidating. So instead of feeling obliged to fill it all in one sitting (who has the time?) aim to write half a page. Still feel overwhelmed? Try two sentences. Setting realistic goals for journaling is key to getting started. If you’re using The Positive Planner, it takes less than five minutes to fill out your morning intentions and the same again to complete your evening reflections. By the end of the day, you’ll have two full pages of journaling under your belt and you’ll probably feel so smug that you’ll do the same the following day. If you haven’t got a specific notebook for journaling, that’s OK too. Sometimes writing on an old scrap of paper can remove the fear that comes with using a fancy journal, allowing you to throw caution to the wind!


An open Positive Planner showing the Daily Pages - an easy starting point as a tip for people who can't journal
The Daily Pages of The Positive Planner


Set the scene 

Trying to get into the headspace to journal can feel impossible when you’ve got kids screaming for a bum wipe or the washing machine rumbling in the background. So try tweaking your environment to help you relax. We suggest experimenting with noise-cancelling headphones (they may not drown out all family members but worth a try), nature sounds, music, scented candles and different levels of lighting to see what gets you in the zone. 


Collect journaling prompts

We’ve purposely created The Positive Planner to combat dreaded writer's block. That’s why it comes with guided journal prompts for daily intentions, gratitude, and reflections. There are even sections to work on meal plans and shopping lists (must buy more Cream Eggs), which can feel therapeutic when you’re not in the mood to write about your feelings. We recommend having an additional list of journaling prompts printed out for when you want to dig a little deeper into your psyche, so why not start with our Journey to Journaling course? It’s free, features extra journaling tips, and available to download in our Resource Library. Alternatively, create a Pinterest board with lots of journal prompts so that you can browse them when you’re ready to write. 


Track your journaling habit 

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys Monica from Friends style colour-coding, then you’ll love using a habit tracker for journaling. You can download a free monthly mood and habit tracker from our Resource Library or sketch your own on a blank piece of paper or in The Positive Bullet Diary. Start with a 30-day tracker and for every day that you journal you can either colour in, cross out or tick off a box. Having tasks written down is proven to make you more effective at achieving them and seeing them add up over time is unbelievably satisfying.


An open Positive Planner showing the monthly mood tracker. A tip for people who can't journal
The Daily Mood Tracker in The Positive Planner can help you follow your journaling journey


Find some accountability 

Do you exercise more frequently when you do it with a friend? More likely to finish that report when your boss sets a strict deadline? Having accountability is a powerful motivator, so try getting other people involved in journaling to increase your chances of doing it more often. Book in some time with a friend or, you could get your kids to join you. We’ve got free journaling exercises and mindfulness colouring printables for kids available in our Resource Library and of course there's The Positive Doodle Diary which is filled with pages to inspire creativity and self-expression.


Permit yourself to skip a day 

Even if your goal is to journal every single day, we think it’s an act of self-care to allow yourself to be inconsistent. Sometimes an early night is more beneficial than forcing yourself to fill in your evening reflections. Maybe you’d rather catch up on that new Netflix show or make a dent in your ironing (imagine) instead of journaling. And sometimes, you’ll just forget. Forgive yourself and try to maintain a positive mindset through the ups and downs. 


Try other things besides writing 

Play is essential for your overall happiness so when you’re stuck for words, experiment with scrapbooking, doodling, colouring, or practising bullet journal grids. In our free Resource Library we’ve got mindful colouring pages and mood-boosting exercises to get your creative juices going. Why not print them out and have them tucked away in your journal for a rainy day? Adding choice within your journaling routine can give you a sense of autonomy, something which is linked to your ability to self-motivate


An open page of The Positive Bullet Diary showing brightly coloured pink and orange doodles and drawings - journaling in a different way is a great tip for people who can't journal
Journaling doesn't have to be about a page of words, doing something different can give your journaling habit a boost


Stop worrying about making it pretty

Don’t let all those Pinterest-worthy journals adorned with intricate illustrations and sparkly washi tape make you think that yours has to be a work of art. Life is never picture perfect and your journal needn’t be either. When you journal you give yourself a chance to check in with your mental health and that’s what will improve your wellbeing, not the visual appeal. Whether you’re writing in beautiful calligraphy or a ballpoint pen, you’ll still feel the benefit of making time for self-care.


Note how you feel after you journal 

Learn to savour the positive energy that journaling gives you. The next time you journal, take a few moments afterwards to reflect on how it makes you feel. Close your eyes and acknowledge how it’s changed the way you see certain things, how it's helped you process parts of your day or encouraged a more positive mindset. Doing this will remind you that journaling isn’t a chore but a pleasure, and one that has a tangible impact on your mental health and wellbeing. 


Focus on the positive 

Journaling can feel scary because it invites you to come face to face with your thoughts and feelings. While many studies show writing down your negative emotions can improve your mental health, you can choose to write about happy things if that sounds more appealing. Try listing three things you’re grateful for every day, or use our Positive Affirmation Cards as a jumping-off point for writing about positivity.


A graphic of The Thankful Jar - a jar filled with text bubbles of things to be grateful for
The Thankful Jar from The Positive Doodle Diary is a great example of how you can create a different kind of journaling habit to suit you


Learn to let go of self judgement

Think about the specific reasons why you feel resistant towards journaling. Often it can be related to the idea that you’re not good enough, not smart enough, or don’t deserve to show yourself any love or attention. Before you sit down to write, try saying an affirmation to counteract this resistance and cultivate positivity. Something like “I accept myself unconditionally” can give you the permission you need to write in a way that feels honest and authentic. Remember to write truthfully, not in the way that you think you ‘should’ write.


Accept that you don’t need to be a professional writer

Using a journal isn’t about writing prize-winning prose. What you write in your journal is for your eyes only, so forget about using perfect grammar and instead, just jot down the words as they come to you. Thoughts might appear in fragments so there’s no need to write in full sentences or worry about legible handwriting when you’re in the zone. Embrace less than perfect language as you journal and focus instead on capturing your thoughts on the page. 


So what do you think of our journaling tips for people who can't journal? We'd love to hear what you think. There'll be some discussions this month in our Positive Planner Facebook Group and also on our Instagram page. Why don't you drop by and let us know?


All the love and positive vibes,

Ali + Finn xxx





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