A brown leather journal lays on a colorful patterned blanket with burgundy and black and white patterns.
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47 Life-Changing Journaling Techniques (And How To Start)

Want to manage stress, get organised or boost your creativity? There’s a huge array of different journaling techniques to fit any purpose.

There isn’t just one way to journal.

And maybe your teenage diary was a great outlet for your emotions. But journaling techniques these days are a lot more versatile.

Journaling has been used for centuries by some of humanity’s greatest minds. And the journaling techniques used all depend on the purpose of the journal.

How do you find the journaling technique that’s right for you?

I’ve been journaling for decades and I’ve used a variety of different journaling techniques at different stages of my life (I’m currently doing Morning Pages and highly recommend it!).

Here’s my ultimate list of all the different journaling techniques to help you find what resonates most.

Use this list to get inspired – and discover some completely new ways of journaling!

14 life-changing journaling techniques (+33 prompts):

1. Free writing

A journal lays open with a cup of dark coffee resting on top. It's surrounded by a white blanket, scraps of brown paper and a bouquet of white roses.

Free writing is all about keeping your hand moving and not pausing to go back and edit or construct a perfect phrase.

If you run out of ideas, you just keep writing whatever comes to mind.

Whether you’re thinking about your grocery list or a colleague at work, free writing is all about writing whatever comes into your head – without letting your inner critic silence you.

The more you free write, the more accepting you’ll become of your own thoughts and let them spill out without judgement.

Free writing is all about getting things out – not about making yourself sound acceptable or polished.

Won’t it all just turn into a ramble? Some of it will. But the point is to release your thoughts, not to compose a brilliant essay.

A journal lays open next to a white blanket, a bouquet of white roses and a brown cup of coffee.

Benefits:

Unpacks confusion in your mind, makes sense of your mixed emotions, unlocks suppressed emotions, puts you in touch with your uncensored self, helps with self-acceptance.

How to start:

Set a timer for 15 minutes and write down your thoughts as they come into your mind without pausing. Or fill up two full notebook pages in 20 minutes until you’re able to write faster and with less hesitation.

2. Morning Pages

A spiral notebook lays on a bed with light linen sheets topped with a white mug of tea.

Morning Pages are three pages of stream of consciousness writing done first thing in the morning.

There are great reasons to write first thing in the morning. You’ve got a limited amount of willpower each day and writing first thing lets you harness that energy.

You’re also more creative and your ego is still laying low. You’re likely in a better mood because the world hasn’t yet had any opportunities to vex you.

Morning Pages is a free writing practice made popular by Julie Cameron in her 1992 book The Artist’s Way.

“Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand,” Cameron writes. “Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

A spiral notebook lays on a bed with pastel blue linen sheets topped by a mug of tea.

Benefits:

Proponents of Morning Pages have called the practice “life changing” with anything from coming up with ideas that have changed their businesses to beating procrastination.

How to start:

Do Morning Pages along with your first cup of coffee to anchor journaling to an already-existing routine. Don’t look back on what you’ve written or second-guess yourself. The recommended page size is 8.5″ x 11″ (or A4 paper) to get the full benefits.

3. Lists

A yellow ochre leather journal lays on a table amid a bouquet of white roses, a white blanket and scraps of brown paper, rocks and leaves.

Lists are quicker to write than long-form journal entries and they’re a great record of your life.

Lists help you get organised, track items related to your career, personal life, relationships, hobbies and more.

Whether you list quilting patterns or start-up funding ideas, lists challenge you to dive deeper into a topic and let you focus your attention.

List ideas:

  1. Favorite books and your current reads, reviews and lists of recommendations.
  2. Favorite films and Netflix series, what you’re watching now and your to-watch list.
  3. Favorite meals, recipes, must-try dishes, restaurant reviews.
  4. Positive affirmations.
  5. Clothes you love, daily outfits, what feels comfortable and what you’re thinking of donating.
  6. Ways to relax each day and a self-care log.
  7. News items or thought-provoking stories that spark your interest.
  8. Your children’s daily life: what they do each day, funny things they say, their first words, interests, friends, favorite subjects
  9. Fitness routine and tracker.
  10. Budget tracker, money spending log, ways to save more.
  11. Home improvement log, what needs to be done, supplies to buy.
  12. Travel journal of places to visit, restaurants to try, museums to visit, what to pack.

4. Art journal

A journal lays open with a drawing of flowers on one side and a sketch of a mosque with a blue dome on the other side. There are also scraps of paper, colored pencils and flower petals on the desk.

An art journal collects your thoughts in a visual format and collects your sketches, collages, doodles, inspirations and experiments.

Your art journal can be a mix of images and sketches along with writing – or it can be purely visual. There’s no single way to “do it right.”

Use your art journal to explore your creativity, keep track of your ideas and work through challenges. It’s a place to explore new ideas, whether that’s settings for your next dinner party or visual branding for your company.

Benefits:

An art journal helps you get in touch with your creativity especially if you’ve always loved art but never considered yourself an artist.

It boosts your creativity and gives you a judgement-free space to express yourself.

How to start:

You don’t need to start with a fancy sketchbook or create perfect art. Start with some doodles in an old notebook while you’re watching TV.

5. Unsent letter

A journal lays open with two crumpled up pieces of paper on top.

An unsent letter is written for catharsis and never meant to be mailed.

It helps you get closure and foster forgiveness and peace of mind.

Whether it’s an ex-boyfriend that you’re still fuming over or a loved one who’s passed away, writing an unsent letter gives voice to everything you’ve left unsaid.

Benefits:

Unsent letters help you manage anger and clarify your emotions. They make it easier to express yourself to that person in real life.

How to start:

For a boost of confidence, write a letter from your future and wiser self to your current self. This lets you tap into stores of wisdom that you didn’t know you had. And it gets you in touch with your intuition when you’re facing tough decisions.

6. Dream journaling

A spiral notebook lays on top of a bed along with a cup of tea and a brown pen.

A dream journal helps you understand your emotions and puts you in touch with your subconscious. 

And when you become aware of your dreams, you understand how a good dream or a nightmare subconsciously impacts your day.

A dream journal helps you with new ideas and solutions. Einstein used his dreams to develop some of his formulas and theories.

Once you pick out patterns or recurring dreams, you can reflect on their interpretation and meaning.

Benefits:

Recording your dreams improves your overall memory and exercises your brain. It helps you explore your subconscious and boosts your creativity.

How to start:

Write about your dream as soon as you wake up because dreams become more difficult to remember as the day goes on.

Write in detail and make illustrations if needed for those strange, indescribable images that often occur in dreams.

7. Bullet journaling

A spiral notebook lays open with a cup of tea on top. It lays on a bed with a beige striped sheet in the foreground.

A bullet journal includes brainstorming, to-do lists, reminders and schedules all in one convenient place.

Bullet journaling is brilliant for students to keep notes and stay organized. For work, it keeps track of multiple streams of tasks – whether that’s upcoming meetings and daily tasks to quarterly goals.

Any blank notebook will do to start, though there’s a slew of bullet journals available with templates and supplies like washi tape and markers made for BuJos.

It’s used to plan and reflect, and has its own set of shorthand symbols to indicate notes, events and tasks, and symbols for tasks that have either been completed, scheduled, moved or marked irrelevant.

Complete sentences are traded in for short phrases, keywords and notations that are easily understood by the owner.

Benefits:

Whether you use it as a fertility tracker or a gratitude log, a bullet journal keeps track of whatever’s important in your life.

How to start:

A bullet journal traditionally includes a log of future and long-term goals, along with a monthly log and a more detailed daily log that’s basically a to-do list.

Tasks get a bullet point, while priorities get an asterisk and completed tasks get an x.

8. Plan your day

A black journal lays on a wooden desk next to a mug of tea and a printer. There is bright light streaming in from the window.

A journal helps you plan your day, whether that’s a detailed to-do list or reflections on upcoming challenges.

Writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them and helps you identify your priorities.

This journaling technique can help you divide lofty goals into smaller tasks. You can also reflect back on the previous day and identify what went well and what can be improved

How to start (a daily exercise):

  1. Write down 3 goals that you’re working toward.
  2. List 3 things you’re letting go of.
  3. Name 3 things you’re grateful for.

9. Reflection journal

A journal filled with cursive handwriting lays open on a desk next to a bouquet of white roses, a mug of dark tea and a white blanket.

A reflection journal is a safe place to look back on your day.

It helps you process complex events and analyse why things happened a certain way.

Look back on previous entries and see how you’ve grown. Or write about your relationships and how communication can be improved.

A reflection journal tracks your goals and any healthy habits you’re trying to establish.

Write honestly and you’ll get powerful insights that move you towards change.

How to start:

To reflect back on events, describe the event in detail then reflect and interpret what happened. Conclude with any learning experiences that can be applied in the future.

Or list the best and worst things that happened and what you’ll improve tomorrow.

Writing out a to-do list before bed is a great way to declutter your mind and is proven to help you sleep better.

Reflection prompts:

  1. Write a list of things you’re grateful for.
  2. Things that make you smile.
  3. The happiest moments in your life.
  4. People who’ve had a positive impact on your life.
  5. Regrets and what you’d do differently.

10. Reading journal

An open journal lays on a bed next to the novel "Howard's End" and another thick novel laying underneath a mug of tea.

A reading journal helps you get more from the books, articles and stories you read.

Writing something down makes you more likely to remember it.

A reading journal is a collection of inspiring quotes, insights and favorite passages you come across in your reading.

If you’re studying a subject, like art history, a reading journal is a great place to record your observations. Interact with the information, respond, reflect and analyse to enrich your learning.

How to start:

Track your reading if you hope to read more books, and record quotes, tips, or beautiful passages from literary novels. Or use  your journal to track books you’d like to read, books to re-read and books to buy as gifts.

11. One line a day journaling

An open journal lays on a white desk next to a dried branch, colored pencils and a wooden bowl filled with rocks.

Writing a single line a day helps preserve your memory, makes you a wittier writer and lets you notice patterns.

The little snipets of your life that seem ordinary now will soon be a memory that you’ll be glad you captured.

One line a day journaling helps you get into the habit of writing everyday. It’s not too overwhelming so you’ll be more likely to keep at it.

“It makes journaling fun,” writes James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. “It’s easy to feel successful. And if you feel good each time you finish journaling, then you’ll keep coming back to it.”

How to start:

  1. Write about the best thing that happened to you today.
  2. Write about what you’re thankful for today.
  3. Write about what you learned today.
  4. Name your biggest task/greatest challenge for tomorrow.

12. Gratitude journal

A blank journal lays on a desk next to a vase of green branches.

A gratitude journal reminds you to appreciate the present moment and be thankful for everything you have.

Gratitude journaling has incredible benefits: it helps combat depression, improves your relationships and boosts self-confidence.

It’s scientifically proven to make you a happier and more productive person. It also lowers your stress and calms you at night.

How to start:

Don’t rush through it. Write in detail about what you’re thankful for and let yourself feel those emotions and experience the sensation.

Studies suggest that writing a gratitude journal once or twice a week makes a bigger impact than hurried everyday journaling.

Gratitude prompts:

  1. Write about an old relationship that helped a lot.
  2. Describe an opportunity you have today.
  3. Write about something good that happened.
  4. Write about something you’re grateful for right now.

13. Worst case scenario journaling

A closed yellow ochre notebook lays on a table surrounded by green leaves and a wooden bowl full of rocks and shells.

Journaling about the worst case scenario helps you come to grips with your fears and realise that many anxieties are irrational.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles,” wrote Mark Twain. “But most of them never happened.”

We all have anxieties that seldom transpire in real life. Although that doesn’t always stop us from anxiously replaying the worst-case scenarios in our heads.

Benefits:

Worst case scenario journaling also helps you identify sabotaging thought patterns like catastrophic thinking (ruminating about irrational worst-case outcomes) or overgeneralization (“things never work out for me”).

How to start:

Write about the worst that could happen, how likely that scenario actually is, and how you’d react and handle that worst case scenario. This practice will reassure you that things aren’t as bad as you imagine.

Worst case scenario prompts:

  1. Define your fear.
  2. List how you can prevent the worst-case scenario.
  3. List ways you can repair any damage.
  4. Name the benefits of an attempt or partial success.
  5. Describe the cost of your inaction.

14. Nature journaling

nature journaling

A nature journal raises your awareness of the nature around you – and the seasonal changes that are often easy to overlook.

A nature journal teaches you to be more observant, to slow down and notice all of nature’s breathtaking details.

Even if you live in a big city, you’ll be surprised how much natural phenomena – from birds to changing colors on the leaves – you can observe when you take notice.

How to start:

Use your nature journal for some simple sketches of the leaves, animals and trees around you. Make some notes about what you observe, and how the seasons change over time.

Include personal reflections on how the surrounding landscape makes you feel – and how you interact with it.

If you’re in the city, explore your local parks and nature reserves. Take along your journal to make quick sketches and study the flora and fauna native to your area.

Journaling tips for beginners

A woman's hand holding a pen and writing in a journal with a cup of coffee in the background.

If you want to start a daily journaling habit, use my ultimate guide 17 Powerful Journaling Tips For Beginners (And How To Start) to anchor writing into your daily routine.

This guide also teaches you to use journal prompts, get over writer’s block and create a deeper writing practice.

Journaling prompts for mental health

journaling examples

If you’re dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, read Journaling for Mental Health (And 30 Powerful Prompts to find peace of mind and contentment through writing.

This guide also gives you powerful prompts to tackle your insecurities and worries – and build a calmer, more focused life.

More resources:

51 Inspiring Quotes About Journaling (To Get You Writing!)

100 Incredible Journaling Ideas (For Anxiety, Clarity And More)

18 Journaling Benefits (And How To Start)

72 Powerful Journal Prompts for Self Discovery (To Get You Inspired)

10 Simple And Powerful Journal Prompts For Daily Use