Last Updated on June 25, 2023
Journaling sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? When you think of journaling, you probably think of having a place to vent your feelings, record your thoughts, or take note of different things happening in your life.
And, yes, that is a great place to start! If that’s what you’ve been doing, then you have the gist of journaling down. But the thing is, making the most out of your journaling requires taking things a step further.
In comes intentional journaling. Intentional journaling is journaling in such a way that allows you to process how your mind and behavior work on a deeper level. Recognizing you’re sad is one thing (and is good emotional awareness!), but getting at the true root of why and what led up to feeling sad is important.
Intentional Journaling = Journaling Made Effective
For example, you might think you’re sad because you didn’t get the response you wanted from someone. But this sadness might extend even deeper than this event alone. Maybe the real reason you’re sad is because you’re processing this event as rejection and it’s reminding you of other times where you’ve been rejected.
Feeling our emotions and dumping them out onto paper is a fantastic first step. But intentional journaling, a.k.a processing and analyzing your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with intention, is the next step that makes your journaling practice a complete and truly beneficial process!
Benefits of Journaling with Intention
Journaling with intention can help you…
1. Make Sense of Tough Emotions
Intentional journaling is a powerful tool for emotion regulation. It can be challenging to understand our sometimes complex emotions! But talking through your emotions can help you better identify them and understand what’s brought them on. You might find that you’re experiencing a mix of emotions instead of something cut and dry.
2. Learn More About Yourself
What better way to learn about yourself than to deep-dive into your innermost thoughts? Intentional journaling helps you uncover things about yourself you might overlook in your busy life. Taking the time to sit with yourself and think deep about who you really are and how you operate is essential!
Journaling Has Made Me Discover…
- The negative thought patterns I get myself into (and how to get out of them by reframing them!)
- My negative core beliefs (and the steps I need to take to overcome them!)
- The way I handle difficult situations
- What I value most in life
Just to name a few!
3. Arrive at Solutions
Not only does intentional journaling give you a ton of emotional benefits, but it can help you with the practical side of things too! Writing down everything that’s bouncing around in your brain can help you organize and prioritize it all. If you’re struggling to make a decision on something in your life, journaling might just be the thing you need to help you figure it out.
How to Start Journaling Intentionally for Beginners
You might be a total newbie to journaling as a whole, or just a newbie to intentional journaling–looking to make your journaling sessions more effective. Look no further! Here are some of my best tips for introducing yourself to intentional journaling.
The Best Journaling Guidelines
1. Make it a Habit
First and foremost, journaling is only as effective as you make it. If you only do it once in a blue moon, you’re probably not reaping all the benefits you can out of it. Work it into your everyday morning or night routine for the best results! You can habit stack by pairing your journal with something you already do, like journaling as you drink your morning coffee.
Even if you can’t manage to journal every single day, journaling at least a few times a week is great too. The point is to make it a regular habit–however that fits into your life best!
2. Be Vulnerable
Don’t keep things surface-level when you write! Your journal should be a safe space for you to let it all out on the page. Tapping into difficult emotions and dark thoughts can be uncomfortable, no doubt. But doing the hard stuff really pays off because you’ll be better equipped to process every part of your thoughts and emotions.
3. Try Guided Journals
Sometimes, there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page staring back at you! I totally get it, which is why I made this printable mental health journal and this printable gratitude journal. These are absolutely perfect for guiding you through your writing without starting from scratch! I find that guided journals make it easier to get over the hurdle of “starting.” Starting can be the hardest part!
4. Make It Quick and Easy
The quicker and easier a task is, the more we’re motivated to complete it. So if 20 minute long journal sessions are just out of the question for you right now, try just 5 minutes! Ideas for quick 5-minute journal sessions include:
- Three things you’re grateful for
- Today’s top intention
- Today’s biggest stressor
- One negative thought you’ve been having, then reframe it into something positive or rational
5. Shift Your Mindset Around Journaling
Journaling shouldn’t feel like a chore. Instead, it should be viewed as something you get to do. Having 5-20 minutes of quiet time all to yourself to get everything off your chest? That’s something to look forward to! Getting started is the hardest part, like I said previously. But that feeling afterward makes you happy you did!
My Routine for Intentional Journaling
I’ve tried all sorts of different journaling routines to arrive at the best one for me, which I’ll share with you! Everyone has different preferences, but making my journaling routine as cozy as possible is my favorite part.
Step 1: Close my evening by journaling
Journaling in the morning feels good too, but getting out all the thoughts that build up over the course of the day feels best for me. I usually start my mornings off feeling just fine, but by the end of the day my mood can shift REAL quick. Just because of so much that happens in a day!
Step 2: Get cozy in bed under the blankets
Like I said, I’m keeping things as cozy as possible. I like to curl up in bed under the blankets with my favorite journal and pen. I find that making myself as comfortable as possible helps me feel more comfortable with getting my thoughts out, too!
Step 3: Set the mood with lighting and music
This can be optional, but it makes all the difference for me. I like to dim the lights and turn on my fairy string lights for some ambiance.
Then, for music, I search for playlists like “cozy instrumentals” or “cozy coffee shop instrumentals.” You can even find YouTube videos that have animations to match the vibe, like scenes of cute quaint coffee shops playing on a loop! I’ve been loving this one:
Step 4: Identify my goal
Do I just need to vent? Am I having a problem that’s out of my control and therefore I need to accept it? Or does my problem have a solution I want to find? These are all questions to ask yourself before cracking open your journal.
Remember, think about what you want to gain from your journaling. Ultimately, it’s a tool to manage your emotional wellbeing and gain self awareness. See how you can use it to your advantage!
Step 5: Get to writing!
Lastly, when I’m all cozy, settled, and ready, I just start writing! Get lost in it. Focus on being fully present while you write and following your stream of consciousness wherever it takes you. If something random comes up, it’s probably coming up for a reason! Lean into it and see where you end up.
Types of Journaling Techniques to Make It More Effective
Let’s get into the specifics! There’s several different journaling techniques that have different benefits depending on your goal.
The technique that’s best for you one day might not be best for you the next. Give yourself the flexibility to choose what you need most no matter how many times that changes.
Sometimes, you simply need to feel out your feelings without over-analyzing them. In this case, a brain dump would be great for you. Or maybe you keep ruminating over something you can’t change. Using cognitive reframing to shift your negative thoughts into positive ones might be better!
If these terms are unfamiliar to you right now, I’ll explain below!
Brain dumping is exactly what it sounds like: dumping everything in your brain onto paper! This gives you the chance to write stream-of-consciousness style, where you release your thoughts just as they come to you. You might want to try my ultimate brain dump trigger list for more guidance!
Best for: when you feel overwhelmed, have a lot on your mind, or feel mentally disorganized.
Cognitive reframing is when you discover, challenge, modify, or replace your negative (often irrational) thoughts. After identifying a negative thought, you restructure it into a more positive or rational thought.
You can practice this journaling technique one at a time, by thinking of one negative thought at a time and reframing it as you go. Or, you can first do a brain dump, assess which negative thoughts came up in the brain dump, and reframe afterward!
Best for: when you’re feeling down, experiencing negative beliefs, or feeling anxious about something coming up.
Of course, we can’t mention journaling without journal prompts! Journal prompts are great because you can find them for basically any topic under the sun.
If you feel stuck and want to find your purpose, there’s journal prompts for that. If you want to set better boundaries with people in your life, there’s even journal prompts for that! They can get pretty specific to any goal.
Best for: when blank pages intimidate you, when you don’t know where to start, or for goal-oriented journaling
You can turn any positive affirmation into a journal prompt by reflecting and elaborating on it! For instance, you could take one of these self compassion affirmations and reflect on ways to show yourself more self compassion.
Or, you could pinpoint why you’re struggling to show yourself compassion. Maybe you feel you don’t deserve it or you were taught that it’s selfish. Using positive affirmations in your journaling practice can help you do the work to obtain a more positive mindset!
Best for: practicing more self love, shifting your perspective, and boosting your confidence
If you need a little more support with getting out of a negative mindset, or learning how exactly to process your emotions, guided journals can make a world of difference!
Guided journals will help you stay on track with your journaling because you don’t have to think of what to write about. It’s all conveniently bundled in front of you! This makes it more likely for you to be motivated and consistent in your journal routine.
I created a printable mental health journal and printable gratitude journal exactly for these reasons! If you want to start up a journal routine or get back into it, these journals are a great place to start.
- Printable Mental Health Journal – will help you make sense of your complex emotions, reframe your negative thoughts, and overcome unhelpful behaviors. Great for anyone struggling with anxiety and depression. And, the best part: it’s only $10!
- Printable Gratitude Journal – will help you create a consistent gratitude practice with check-ins each morning and night plus weekly and monthly! You can create gratitude goals for all areas of your life too. And, lucky for you, it’s only $8!
Best for: guiding you on the right track, helping you work toward a specific goal, providing the journal ideas for you
A big purpose of journaling, after all, is self-reflection. By journaling with the intention of self-reflection, you get to…
- Understand your deepest thoughts and emotions
- Process how you feel in response to certain challenges in your life
- Learn more about your worldview, the way you think, and how you interact with the world around you
- Become more self-aware of your needs
Best for: self-discovery, processing thoughts and emotions, identifying your needs, working through obstacles
Intentional Journaling Prompts
Need a little help getting started with intentional journaling? These prompts will get you thinking!
- What is the biggest stressor in your life right now?
- What do you need most right now?
- What values do you want to live in alignment with?
- Do you have any limiting beliefs that keep popping up and holding you back?
- What do you need to hear most right now?
- What do you keep brushing off or pushing down?
- How are you managing your day-to-day life?
- Which areas of your life could you use more support?
- Are you taking enough time for self care? If not, what stops you?
- What is getting in the way of what you’re trying to achieve?
Want more journaling prompts and guidance?
Grab my printable mental health journal to guide you through a more intentional journaling practice!
If your goal is to improve your mental health, work through tough emotions, understand your negative thought patterns, and overcome unhelpful behaviors…you’ve gotta grab this journal!
Intentional Journaling Is a Game Changer for Your Journaling Practice!
Taking a more intentional approach as you journal is where you’ll reap the most reward! While journaling can be a nice leisurely activity, you can also accomplish a lot of work when it comes to healing and understanding yourself by using intentional journaling.
I hope this post helped you get a better idea of ALL you can do with your journal! Take care!