What to Write in a Journal by Lynda Monk

Before looking at what to write in a journal, it is helpful to pause and think about: What is journaling?

Journaling is simply the act of writing for yourself informally and regularly. It is writing without worry about spelling, grammar or getting it right.  Whatever you write is right!  In this way journaling is a very empowering act.  You write. You express your inner thoughts and feelings on the page.  You learn, you grow, you are transformed from this simple and profound act of self-expression.

Journaling is a story telling practice.

Why to journal?

People journal for many reasons.  For example, I journal for to nurture my health and wellness, to reduce stress, to solve problems, to think more clearly, to tap into feelings of calm, to connect with gratitude, and to know myself more fully. I also journal for the pure joy of it!

Pause & Reflect: Why do you journal? Or why are you interested in journaling?  What benefits do you hope to get out of it?

There are different types of journals

There are many forms of journals you can keep. Journals are used by writers to keep track of their thoughts, practice their art, and document ideas as they come to them. Many non-writers keep journals to keep track of their daily activities or keep to-do lists. Some people keep very creative and multi-media journals, like art journals, others are more practical like planning journals,  and some are personal, which is the focus of this article – the simple act of going to the page to write about your life including your thoughts and feelings.

Journal writing helps you gain self-awareness and new insights. Many journal writers engage in a daily practice of self-reflection and self-discovery.  By developing a journaling habit, it can help you deal with negative thoughts, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being.

What to Journal About 

One of the most common questions people ask about journaling is, “what do you write in a journal?”

The short answer to this question is WHATEVER YOU WANT TO WRITE.

I realize that response might not be that helpful although hopefully it frees you up to trust your own impulses and wisdom when you write in your journal!

What should I first write in my journal?

Here are 8 Ideas for What to Write in a Journal 

1. Write about your daily activities 

Just jot down what you’ve been up to. You can do it either in the morning or in the evening, or anytime in between. It doesn’t matter when you do it; all that matters is that you write about your day, what you want to remember, what has been special, or ordinary, or hard, or inspiring.

You can write about your daily activities like what did you at work today, what book did you read, what things you enjoyed and noticed, and reflect on how your day is spent.

All of these are simple questions that we can all ask ourselves. We all woke this morning, likely ate something, and so on. You might begin by writing about these activities. Capturing the ordinary moments of our lives through journaling is a way to learn more about the life you are living, the choices you are making, how you are spending your time and what makes you feel certain ways.

2. Write about the things you love and what brings you joy

Everyone has lots of things they love, like books you’ve read and fallen in love with, TV shows and movies you enjoy, places you have visited or want to visit, etc. So, write it down in your journal.  The more we use our journals to write about the things we love, moments that make us happy, experiences of joy, wonder, and inspiration, the more we can use our journals to cultivate positive emotions and thoughts which can be uplifting and helpful.

Remember, what you focus on grows!

You might like to use our Finding Joy Within Journaling Tool >>

3. Write your goals and break them down into actionable to-do lists

Most people have goals they want to achieve.  In order to achieve your goals, you need to break them down into smaller steps and translate those goals into a practical to-do list, which serves as your action plan for reaching your goals. Start by writing down your goals, selecting how you’ll achieve them, and setting a deadline for yourself. This helps you create what are commonly referred to as SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time specific.

I commonly write about my goals and dreams in my journal. A powerful journaling technique is called affirmative writing*.  It is the process of writing down your future goals as if they have already happened. You can write about your future in the present tense.  This is often used as a tool for manifesting and helping to energize your goals and hopes and bring them into the energy of what is possible, as if it is already so.

deep things to write about in a journal

Try this Affirmative Writing Exercise to Manifest Your Goals

Think about your life a year from now.  What do you want to be, do and have one year from now?  The key to affirmative writing is to write about the future as if it is in the present.

Here is another example of one of my affirmative writing journal entries:

I am so happy and grateful now that my adoptee memoir is written and published.  I get notes from readers every single day telling me how this book has inspired them to think about their own identity, family love, nature and nurture, belonging and worthiness in new and inspiring ways!  I am excited to be an award winning memoir author. 

To take this journaling even further, you can combine the power of visualization, imagination, vision boards and journaling in our Write & Vision Your Dreams Into Reality virtual retreat.  Learn more here >>

creative things to write in a journal

4. Write about your five-year plan 

Consider a period of time in your life that you would like to dream forward into.  Make a general five-year (or any number of year) plan that covers the things you really want to achieve and be, as well as the things you’ve always wanted to do and experience. You can use your journal to brainstorm and think about all you want to experience, or things you might like to change or improve in your life, and then map out a plan to help make these things a reality in the future.  Your journal can be a place that you work towards being the best version of yourself now and into the future too!

5. Write about your worries and fears

There’s no better method to deal with your fears and worries than to write them down. When you are worried about anything, it appears to be much worse in your mind. The purpose of journaling about your fears is to get your thoughts down on paper. We frequently worry about matters over which we have little control. We don’t understand we’re wasting time when we just think about it. When you write about your concerns, though, it can help you see things more clearly and also orient towards finding solutions to your problems or access reassurance about your worries.

Man journaling at computer

6. Write to find solutions to your problems

While writing down your worries and fears can be cathartic, it is also helpful to journal possible solutions and plans for dealing with your concerns. For example, a common worry or fear or stressor that people have is around their finances and specifically stress about not having enough money.  You could use your journal to explore your financial worries, to help get it out, and then also journal to consider or brainstorm all the ways you might earn extra money, or save money, or attract more wealth into your life. Write down all of your ideas and then get to work on them.

7. Write affirmations

I love using my journal to help me cultivate a positive mindset.  One of the mindset tools that I find especially inspiring are affirmations.  For example, building on the example of dealing with financial worries in your journal, you could write some money affirmations to help develop your abundance mindset, things like “I trust the abundant nature of the universe.”

You can write affirmations for any aspect of your life including your health, wealth, confidence, success, creativity and more!

Here are examples of some affirmations:

  • Today is an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • I give myself permission to do what is right for me.
  • I prioritize my own well-being.
  • I accept myself for who I am.

Write your own affirmations in your journal.

8. Write about what you are grateful for every day

Gratitude journaling is a very popular! Many people keep a gratitude journal or weave gratitude into their regular journal.  Gratitude is proven to help strengthen our resilience and mental health.  This can be as simple as journaling three things you’re grateful for every day.

Oprah Winfrey revolutionized the gratitude journal when she would often mention the benefits of such on her show and in her “O Magazine.”

Taking time to write about the people, things and experiences you are grateful for is a life enriching practice.

I love to use this gratitude journaling prompt at the end of my day:  What’s the best thing that happened today?

Check out our Gratitude & Grit: A Journal for Growing Resilience written by therapist, Vicki Enns >>

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Get Our Free Gratitude Journaling GIFT

20 Journal Prompts & Affirmations to Express Greater Gratitude, Abundance & Appreciation in Your Life!

Click here to get this gift >>


What to Journal About

Recap of what to journal

  1. Write about your daily activities
  2. Write about the things you love and what brings you joy
  3. Write your goals and break them down into actionable to-do lists
  4. Write about your five-year plan
  5. Write your worries and fears
  6. Write to find solutions to your problems
  7. Write affirmations
  8. Write about what you are grateful for

You might also be wondering how to journal consistently, there are 6 tips and ideas for creating the journaling habit in this article on our blog >> 

Join our Journaling Community!

For more ideas about what to write in a journal and to connect with fellow journal writers worldwide, join our Journaling Community on Facebook.  You can join us here, everyone is welcome >>

Journaling Invitation

May you experience much joy and self-discovery as you fill the pages of your journal and make the most of your personal journaling practice.

I hope this article offers you both inspiration and permission to journal in your own way.

Go to the page.

Write what wants to be written.

Trust yourself.

Trust your voice.

The blank page awaits you!

Journal writing makes a difference.

Author: Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. She regularly writes, speaks and teaches about the transformational power of journaling. She is co-author and co-editor of numerous books on journaling.