How to Start a Journal

September 24, 2021  - by 
A woman starts writing in a journal.

Knowing how to start a journal might seem a bit overwhelming. Maybe your mind conjures up the idea of long handwritten pages, daily written in a leather-bound book. Though that is certainly a way to do it, it is not the only way. There are literally dozens of ways to start and keep a journal. In fact, you can start today!

Why Should I Start a Journal?

Journaling, writing a diary, calendaring, scrapbooking…these are all words and phrases that mean similar things. They are ways to record your daily events, declutter your mind, or keep and share a personal history of your life. Some are created by your written words, some may be a list of activities you have done for the day, and some may be a book of pictures or memorabilia that represent your life’s happenings. But journaling specifically has a special relationship with the mind and body. Starting the habit of journaling can be life changing.

a woman starts her journal.

The benefits of journaling have been studied and written about for decades. Writing in a journal, also referred to as journaling or expressive writing, has been shown to reduce stress, improve memory, and create a greater sense of confidence. Writing your deepest thoughts and feelings has also been proven to make your body heal faster and helps the mind to overcome trauma and adversity.

The link between writing our thoughts and feelings and the healing of the mind is just one benefit of journaling. Writing in a journal allows you the opportunity to play around with language, create new ways of expression and communication, and invent. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers, like Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Marie Curie were also avid journal writers.

diary entry from a little girl.

How to Start a Journal

Whether you are 5 or 95, anyone can start a journal. Keeping a journal can be done in many forms. It might be something as simple as a lined notebook and a pen with a few paragraphs of what you did today. Or perhaps you might like journaling online or using an app on your smart device. Even parents can help their young children to journal by helping them write a few sentences on a picture they drew.

Steps for How to Start a Journal

  1. Start with a goal. The first step in forming a habit of journal writing is setting a goal. Are you going to write each day? Each week? How long would you like to write? Many beginners find it helpful to start with 3 to 5 minutes of writing each day.
  2. Pick your type of journal. Will you be keeping a journal of your daily happenings, what you ate that day, or a gratitude journal? There are lots of different types of journals and you don’t have to pick just one.
  3. Be consistent. Any habit requires consistency. If you want to keep a journal, be consistent. You might even pick a certain time each day or week and set it aside just for journal writing. Place your journal somewhere you will see it often to help you remember to write.
  4. Preserve your journal. You might not think so now, but your journal is going to be very important to someone someday. You might consider digitizing your journal (if you are keeping a handwritten one) and backing it up to a thumb drive or the cloud. If you are using an online journaling site, remember to read over the fine print to make sure you can download, print, or save your writing if the website becomes obsolete. One of the best ways to preserve your precious memories and journal writings is to upload them to FamilySearch Family Tree Memories.
A man starts writing in a journal.

What to Write in Your Journal

There is no limit to what can be written in a journal. It can be a bullet list of what you did that day or several paragraphs about what you felt or experienced. You can write from your own perspective or the perspective of others.

A friend of FamilySearch shared her experience with creating a family journal. Each Sunday, her extended family met for dinner. Individual families would share something funny their kids had done or challenges that had creeped up. She thought it would be a great idea to start recording these conversations in written form. Every Sunday, she would go home and record in the journal what everyone had shared.

A woman writes in her journal.

Here are a few ideas of what you might write about in your journal:

  • The day’s events
  • How you felt about the day’s events
  • Who you saw today
  • What chores did you do today
  • Who did you serve today
  • What did you eat today
  • What are you grateful for

Journaling is a wonderful way to learn more about yourself and to preserve and share the important events in your life. Whether you use a simple or modern way to write, decide to write daily or weekly, it doesn’t matter. Journals are a piece of your personal history your family will treasure.

Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser Tennant is a genealogy researcher, writer and presenter.She writes blog articles and other content for many top companies and societies in the genealogy field. Her most treasured experience is working as a consultant for family history. Amie lives with her husband and three children in Ohio, surrounded by many of her extended family.

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