Four Experts Share Their Best Advice On How To Journal

Four Experts Share Their Best Advice On How To Journal

Do you want to start a journaling practice, but feel unsure about how to begin? When it comes to journaling, a few questions come to mind: Many people often wonder what to write about, how to start a journal entry, and how to bullet journal.

Journaling is a powerful tool for personal growth with a long list of proven benefits. Aside from helping you take control of your thoughts, it reduces stress, brings you back to the present and allows you to dive deeper into your motivations.

To put it simply, writing in a journal helps you get to know yourself better. And once you raise your self-awareness, you’re better able to make decisions, solve problems and feel happy in your daily life. Long story short: Journaling comes with a tremendous slew of benefits. Want to get started? Here's everything you need to know. 


How to Journal

The first step is deciding where to write. Notebook or laptop? Some people prefer going old school with pen and paper — any Silk + Sonder subscribers can certainly relate to this — while others enjoy a more modern approach. Both are equally effective, so go with your personal preference on this one. 

“The line from Hamilton says it best: ‘Pick up a pen, start writing’ says Lanta Carroll, LPC, psychotherapist and calligrapher based out of Atlanta, Georgia. “You really don't have to have a specific agenda to journal! The mental health benefits like emotional release, mental clarity, self-reflection, reduced stress and improved self-awareness make journaling a tangible, simple way to put pen to paper and express your thoughts and feelings.”

There's something powerful about the combination of your handwriting and reflective journaling that helps your brain focus more on the stuff that matters (and less on the things that don't), Carroll adds.  

Looking for something more structured? Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of The 10 Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make Before 40 recommends this 3-step process for how to journal:

1. Find the right template for you

Whether hand-written in a beautiful blank book or typed on your computer, a journal is one of the best ways to examine and sort out your feelings. 

Make sure the pages are big enough for you to write freely and that there’s room to draw or paste in pictures if you want to. Use your journal and the following chapters to create a record of your thoughts and decisions.

2. Create a title page

Think of your title page as your intention for what you hope to get out of your journaling practice.

Feel free to use your sense of humor. Here’s an example: “What I want to be when I grow up.” Take a phrase from a favorite poem or book: “What I might have been.” Or, just name it after yourself: "Rose’s Journal.” Use fancy lettering, by hand or on your computer, draw (or cut and paste) pictures or use your own designs on your title page. Make it as beautiful, joyous, funny, or formal as you wish.

3. Start writing

Your journal is a dialogue with yourself. You can write yourself letters, record memories, add photos, and draw pictures. Express your mood and feelings with your words, quotations, poetry, or song lyrics. Think of it as the workbook for creating the life you want.

If you like to draw or doodle, include your art.  If you see a picture that inspires you, include it in the journal.  Profound events, such as the death of someone close to you, an illness, or a family drug problem or other crisis, can make it very difficult to understand your own feelings about decisions that you need to make. No matter how difficult the problem, taking the time to write it out will help you to know what you think and feel, and in turn will help to guide you to a smart decision.

How to bullet journal

This type of journaling is excellent for creating mindful intentions to help improve your daily life. Carroll recommends bullet journaling whether you’re trying to drink more water, track your mood, or pay more attention to your health habits.

“Bullet journaling can be the perfect way to customize your unique path to wellness,” Carroll explains. “Start by creating your own table of contents that fit your unique style and goals.”

She suggests building out templates for any habit trackers, goal development, affirmations or weekly calendars. It’s important to keep in mind that freedom is the goal so be creative and have fun! It’s also helpful to set aside a time each day or week to update your bullet journal to feel the grounding effects of this practice.

If you’re unsure what to write but need to put thoughts on paper, bullet journaling is excellent.

“It’s part journal, part planner, and part inspiration page,” says Danielle Massi, licensed family therapist. “When you use bullets to log your thoughts you get to see them in a clear, concise, organized way, which is excellent for anyone who wants to use journaling to alleviate feelings of anxiety and overwhelm."

How to start a journal entry

 Massi suggests stream of consciousness writing. “One of my favorite ways to journal is to free write,” says Massi. “What I do is just close my eyes, allow my mind to clear, and when I open them I just let my pen move. I don't overthink or over complicate it. The end product beautiful, eclectic mix of thoughts, inspirations, and musings, and you'll feel light and free when you're done.”


Another useful tip is writing in a conversational tone, as if you’re speaking to someone you know.

“When you write in your journal imagine talking to a friend,” says Valentina Dragomir, Psychotherapist and founder of PsihoSensus. “You can talk about anything ranging from what caused you pain to what you love. If you are stressed about something you can benefit from writing about it in your journal.”

In terms of time, 30 minutes each day is more than enough, but you can write more if you feel the need to, she explains.

The beauty of journaling is that everyone can benefit, whether you’re trying to self-reflect, manage your emotions, heal from a traumatic life experience or boost your creativity. The sky's the limit. 

What's your experience with journaling been like so far? Let us know in the comments. And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today. 

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Bree—I don’t really have a daily schedule, but I do try to write every day. I do it “as soon as I have free time” which is usually in the morning, but could also be after work. I’ve been sick, so I haven’t pushed myself or beat myself up for not doing things like I think they “should” be done. With some of the issues in my life right now, I really feel I need the clarity writing (about what’s going on) brings to me. That said, I don’t often re-read. I haven’t read a lot about the benefits of journaling, I just do it. It doesn’t look pretty. Usually my writing, while clear, is utilitarian, not beautiful. The purpose is to examine my feelings, which often helps me figure out exactly what I DO feel.
Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” (about “Morning Pages”) says NOT to re-read, just get it down on paper, and maybe that would help you. Focus on what will help you most—whatever that is. If it’s just getting things on the paper, maybe you can forgive yourself for it not looking “perfect.”
Earlier this week, I went to Barnes & Noble and found a few lovely blank books to write in, but I have also just used a lined composition book, which is cheap, because I prefer to write/print by hand instead of on the computer. Also a pen that writes smoothly is important for me. Last week I threw out three that were still writing, but obnoxiously starting to fade out in between spurts of smooth writing. Too frustrating. They went in the bin.
Things I’ve read about habit forming say to reward yourself for doing your habit. If ticking a box is not enough, make it something you look forward to and want to do it. That could be: the most beautiful blank book you can find, your favorite pen, your favorite music in the background, a nice candle, or a nice little treat after you’re done. Or maybe a different thing every day. What’s your best motivator or treat? Figure out a way to use it. One thing I read said to make your own private nook in your house for yourself. I haven’t had the option for that until recently, so for years I would just sit on my bed & write. Another book I read said if you want to add habits (like exercise, but it could be journaling) stack them on habits you already have. For example, right after you brush your teeth before bed, & as a reminder, put your journal on your pillow in the morning, and afterward, leave it on the floor at night where you’ll see it in the morning to put it on your pillow for next time. Good luck!


I always struggle with finding the perfect book to write in. I cant seem to stay consistent either with a daily schedule to set aside time to write. I love writing when I have the time to. But I dont like to do it on the co outer. Eventually I find myself writing and tearing out pages because I dont like how I wrote things etc. I cause myself more anxiety then I do with actually relieving it from writing! Any tips are welcomed!


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