Start Journaling: A Beginner’s Tutorial and Useful Tips!

start journaling beginner

People who have been doing and studying journal writing have seen journaling benefits of the practice. For one, the University of Rochester Medical Center said that if you start journaling, you’ll strengthen your mental health. Specifically, it aids in managing anxiety and stress and coping with depression.

Besides weathering the mental storm, to start journal writing is, for others, a mean of getting insights and clarity over a situation. In other words, it is a step to empower yourself and fix your eyes on a goal.

People like Ira Progoff and Tim Ferriss have been practicing and preaching about journal writing for the purpose of grabbing hold of your life’s plans by the horns. Let’s explore their methods and get ideas to start journaling.

Start Journaling: Things to Write in Your ‘Goals’ Notebook

Dr. Ira Progoff and Tim Ferriss do not only recommend writing about anything under the sun. Their methods are systematic. Dr. Progoff, a psychologist and psychotherapist, developed and refined the Intensive Journal Method based on the principles of psychology. It seeks to help you be aware of the diverse areas of your life, connect with your real self, and develop a more meaningful life.

Meanwhile, respective author Tim Ferriss has a very instructive process of how to start journaling for success that anyone can emulate. Part of his process is writing in his journal first thing in the morning.

Drawing from other people’s experiences, here are some creative things help you start journaling:

  • Things you are grateful for

Do not underestimate the effects of gratitude not only on your mental health but also on bodily functions. A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough showed that people who expressed gratitude, whether in journaling or by other means, were more determined, full of energy, and less anxious. The National Institute of Health contends that gratitude impacts our hypothalamus, that part of the brain that controls metabolism and stress levels.

Because studies attest to this, many people recommend you start journaling on gratitude. This not only cultivates a sense of self-contentment, but it also preps your brain to achieve your goals.

  • Nutrition, exercise, and other activities

Chris Crowley, the author of Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy–Until You’re 80 and Beyond, suggest to write about three things daily. This book, which is meant for a male audience, has recommendations that are applicable to all of us— recommendations for us to have more command over our lives. He said that we should keep a log about these three things, “every stinking day”: (1) What I ate, (2) Which exercises I did (or didn’t)?, and (3) What I did with my life. The last item, he said, should encompass any moral, sexual, or social activity—” whatever lights your fire.”

Doing this very simple exercise, Crowley said, is a tremendous help in clearing the cobwebs in your head as you make decisions.

  • Your anxieties

Journaling can help manage anxiety by keeping track of your day-to-day symptoms as well as the triggers to anxious feelings. It provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and helps you prioritize your fears and concerns. By writing it down, you clarify your feeling and identify negative thoughts. In such a mental state, it is easier for you to take control of your feelings.

  • Your progress

It is very easy to lose your heart from your goals, especially when you don’t recognize the little achievements along the way. By logging your strengths and weaknesses, you reach progress, one step at a time. Going forward, you can also write your next steps towards your ultimate goal.

  • Questions

Before he came up with the idea of the Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss had written down a very specific set of questions in his journal. The questions were related to problems that he wanted to be solved. He kept writing questions until he composed his “golden question”. Such an example is, “What would this look like if it were easy?”

Putting such questions into writing clears up your mind and leads you to solutions, may it be through a series of questions. As the great thinkers had said, a properly defined problem is one that is almost solved.


Journaling benefits are not only limited to managing stress and anxiety; it can also be a means to help you provide mental clarity to achieve your goals. Several studies provide scientific backing to this idea.

There are no rules on how to make a goal setting journal. There are, however, a lot of online resources that provide guides on what you can write about for such purposes. Some of these resources are paid and could only be available in specific countries. Hence, we are giving you this short but comprehensive guide and let your own creativity direct your own process. After all, keeping a journal is about ownership and seeing the world in your own eyes.

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