Journaling Basics

What is a Journal Entry? How to Capture Your Life and Memories

How to use a journal entry to capture and preserve your thoughts, feelings, and experiences at a particular moment in your life.

When it comes to keeping a personal journal, journal entries are like the building block of your self-expression and self-discovery. Each journal entry adds to the foundation of your story, painting a picture of your experiences, thoughts, and emotions. As you continue to journal, the entries accumulate, forming a rich tapestry of your life that provides insights into your growth and personal journey. Whether you’re exploring your feelings, recording important events, or simply reflecting on your day, journal entries are the key to unlocking the power of personal journaling.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the definition of what is a journal entry. We’ll also cover how journal entries can be used to capture the essence of life, from your memories to your thoughts and reflections. From the elements of a personal journal entry to examples of journal entries, we’ll explore all you need to know about how to use a journal entry as a tool for self-expression and reflection. Whether you’re a seasoned journaler or just starting out, we hope this post will give you the information and inspiration you need to start capturing your life and memories in a meaningful and authentic way through your journal entries.

What is a Journal Entry?

A journal entry is a record of personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences kept in a personal journal or diary. A journal entry is a single entry within a larger collection of entries, which is known as a personal journal. A personal journal is essentially a collection of journal entries, usually organized chronologically, that document your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and personal growth over time.

The length of a personal journal entry can vary greatly, depending on your writing style and the purpose of your journal. Some people prefer to write just a few sentences or bullet points, while others may write several pages. There is no set rule for how long a journal entry should be.

A journal entry is a record of personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences kept in a personal journal or diary. A journal entry is a single entry within a larger collection of entries, which is known as a personal journal.

What’s important is that you feel comfortable enough to express yourself in a way that feels meaningful to you. Some people may find it helpful to set aside a specific amount of time each day or week for writing new journal entries, while others may choose to write a new entry whenever the mood strikes.

In general, the goal of a journal entry is to provide a safe and private space for self-expression and reflection. Depending on what works best for you, a journal entry’s length and format can vary widely. Whether it’s just a few sentences or several hundred words, the most important thing is that a journal entry is an honest and authentic reflection of your thoughts and experience.

a scene of a desk with an open journal notebook and journey entry on a computer

Telling Your Story One Entry at a Time: How Journal Entries Build Your Journal

Think of a journal entry as a snapshot. Just as a snapshot captures a moment in time and freezes it for later recollection, a journal entry captures and preserves your thoughts, feelings, and experiences at a particular moment in your life.

Your journal serves as a collection of these snapshots, offering a glimpse into your personal history and the evolution of your thoughts and emotions over time. Each entry provides a window into your soul and a record of the journey of your life as you tell your story one journal entry at a time.

As a result, journaling can help you reflect on your past experiences and understand your current emotions, thoughts, and experiences in a new way. The journal serves as a record of this process of self-reflection and growth.

“A good journal entry—like a good song, or sketch, or photograph—ought to break up the habitual and lift away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.”
— Anthony Doerr

Personal Journal Entry vs Journal Entry in Accounting

It’s also worth noting that there are two types of journal entries:

  1. A personal journal entry
  2. A journal entry in accounting

In accounting, a journal entry is a record of a financial transaction in a company’s books of accounts. These types of journal entries are used to track the movement of money in and out of a business, as well as to document changes in the value of assets and liabilities. Journal entries typically include the date of the transaction, a description of the transaction, the amounts involved in the transaction, and the account or accounts affected by

Unlike a financial journal entry, which focuses on monetary transactions, a personal journal entry is a form of self-expression and reflection. Personal journaling can serve as a therapeutic tool to process emotions and experiences, track personal growth, and reflect on life experiences. Personal journaling can also be used as a creative outlet to express thoughts and ideas in a private and safe space. The frequency and format of personal journaling is completely up to the individual, as some people choose to write in their journals daily, while others write less frequently.

How Journal Entries Help Capture Your Life and Memories

Capturing life and memories is an important aspect of journaling. A journal can serve as a time capsule of your experiences and memories, providing a record of your life that you can look back on in the future.

Writing down your experiences and memories in a journal can help you reflect on your life and cherish the moments that have shaped you. A journal entry provides a way to preserve memories and moments that may otherwise be forgotten, especially as memories start to fade.

Keeping a journal can help you preserve your life story and the memories that make up your personal history. If you choose to share your journals some day, family members and future generations can read about your life and gain insights into your personality, values, and experiences, providing a unique and personal connection to the past. In this way, capturing life and memories is not just an important aspect of journaling, but it’s also a gift to future generations.

20 Common Elements of a Journal Entry

The elements of a personal journal entry should reflect your preferences, writing style, and what you hope to gain from the journaling experience. Here are a few common elements of a journal entry:

1. Today’s Date

Recording the date of each journal entry can help you track you progress and reflect on your growth over time.

2. Thoughts

The core of a journal entry are your thoughts at any given moment or on any given topic. Thoughts can take many forms, including ideas, opinions, beliefs, images, feelings, and memories.

3. Reflections

Reflections refer to the act of considering or contemplating your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Reflection can take many forms, including introspection, self-analysis, and self-assessment. Reflections are often a central component of journal entries, as they allow you to process and make sense of their experiences

4. Gratitude

Many people choose to focus on gratitude in their journal entries, as a way to cultivate a positive outlook and focus on the good things in their lives.

5. Mood or Emotion

The writer may choose to document their emotional state at the time of writing, which can help them reflect on the connection between their emotions and experiences.

6. Positive experiences

Many people use journal entries as a place to document positive experiences, rather than dwelling on negative experiences or stressors. Regularly focusing on positive experiences can cultivate a more positive mindset and increase overall well-being.

7. Goals

Personal journaling can also be a space for setting and reflecting on personal goals, as well as documenting progress or setbacks as you work toward a goal. Here’s a bit more on journaling goals.

8. Plans

A journal entry can be used as a space for making plans for self-improvement.

9. Creative Writing

Some people use their personal journal as a space for creative writing, such as writing poetry, fiction, or personal essays.

10. Drawings or sketches

Some people incorporate drawings or sketches into their journal entries as a way to visually represent their thoughts and feelings.

11. Photos

Including photos in a personal journal can add a visual component to the written words, helping your remember and reflect on specific moments and experiences.

12. Videos

Videos can be a powerful tool for personal journaling, allowing the writer to capture the sights and sounds of their experiences, as well as their thoughts and feelings in the moment.

13. Audio recordings

Audio recordings can also be included in personal journal entries, providing a new way to capture thoughts and emotions. This format can be especially useful for individuals who struggle with written expression, or for those who prefer to express themselves verbally.

14. Weather info

Some people may choose to include information about the weather on the day of the journal entry, which can provide context and serve as a reminder of the conditions on that day.

15. Location info

The location info of a journal entry can be helpful for documenting your travels and your location as you write a new journal entry, reminding you of your environment or surroundings.

16. To-do List

While some people like to keep their to-do lists out of their journal, others embrace their journal as a place to keep track of their daily or weekly tasks.


Including quotes or lyrics that resonate with you can add depth and meaning to your journal entries, and serve as a source of inspiration or motivation. (Just check out these 101 quotes about journaling if you need inspiration.)

18. Dreams

If you enjoy keeping track of your dreams, you may choose to include dream journaling as a component of your personal journal. Recording and reflecting on your dreams can provide insight into your unconscious mind and serve as a tool for self-discovery.

19. Mindfulness and meditation

If you practice mindfulness or meditation, you may choose to include reflections on your practice in your journal entries, documenting any insights or breakthroughs as you progress in your journey.

20. Physical sensations

Some people choose to include notes about physical sensations, such as hunger, fatigue, or pain, in their journal entries. This can provide a more holistic picture of their well-being, and help them identify patterns or connections between physical sensations and other aspects of their lives.

Journal Entry Examples

Having a few journal entry examples on hand can be a helpful resource if you’re needing more guidance on how to write a journal entry of your own. Perhaps these example journal entries can provide inspiration and guidance on what to include in your own entries, as well as how to structure and format your writing as you explore more journaling ideas.

Here are a few journal entry examples:

Traditional Journal Entry Example

This example journal entry shows a more traditional approach to journaling, recapping the day, how the writer felt, things they enjoyed, and other details from their day.

February 15, 2023

Today was a pretty good day. I woke up feeling well-rested and energized, which was a nice change from the past few days. I started the day with a cup of coffee and some time for reflection and meditation, which helped set the tone for a productive day.

At work, I had a meeting with my team to discuss our new project and things are really starting to come together. I feel confident in our abilities to succeed and make a difference with this project.

After work, I met up with some friends for dinner and we had a great time catching up and laughing. It was a much-needed break from the daily grind and it felt good to connect with them.

Before bed, I took some time to reflect on the day and write down my thoughts and feelings. Overall, I feel grateful for the opportunities I have and the people in my life. I am looking forward to tomorrow and all that it brings.

Templated Journal Entry Example

Using the common elements of a journey entry from above, here’s a more templated approach to a journal entry:

Date: May 5, 2022

Mood: Inspired

Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and there was a light breeze. I went for a walk in the park and felt so grateful for the warm weather and all the beautiful sights and sounds around me.

Thoughts: I’ve been feeling really inspired lately, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my future and what I want to achieve. I’ve been feeling restless and like I want to make a change, but I’m not sure exactly what that change should be.

Reflections: Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my values, my passions, and what brings me happiness. I’ve been considering different career paths, and what kind of work would align with my values and give me a sense of purpose.

Gratitude: Today, I’m grateful for the beautiful weather, for my health, and for my family and friends. I’m also grateful for the opportunities that are available to me and the support I receive from those around me.

Positive experiences: Today was a great day. I got to spend some time outside, and I had a wonderful conversation with my friend over lunch. We talked about our dreams and aspirations, and it was so inspiring.

Goals: My goal for the next few weeks is to continue exploring different career paths and learning more about the opportunities available to me. I also want to focus on cultivating gratitude and finding joy in the little things in life.

Plans: My plan for the rest of the day is to read a book, do some yoga, and meditate. I also want to spend some time brainstorming and writing down my thoughts and ideas about my future.

Weather info: Today was a beautiful day, sunny and warm with a light breeze. I only saw a few clouds in the sky.

Location info: Today I went for a walk in the park near my home.

Today’s To-do list:

  • Call Grandpa
  • Fold the laundry
  • Mail Chrissy’s Thank You note
  • Work on essay for writing class
  • Finish meal plan for the week

Gratitude Journal Entry Example

A gratitude journal is a type of journal that focuses on the practice of gratitude. Gratitude journaling simply involves regularly writing down the things you are thankful for, expressing appreciation for the good things in your life, and reflecting on how they contribute to your overall well-being. Here’s a simple example of a gratitude journal entry:

June 14, 2022

Five things I am grateful for today:

  • The warm sun on my face as I walked to work this morning.
  • The delicious breakfast I had with my family.
  • The kindness of a stranger who complimented my new shoes.
  • The laughter I shared with my coworkers during our break.
  • The fact that I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in tonight.

It’s always easy to focus on what’s not going well. But taking time each day to reflect on the things I am grateful for helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that even on a difficult day, there are still many things to be thankful for.

Photo Journal Entry Example

Photo journaling is a journaling technique that utilizes photos as a way of documenting experiences. Many photo journals also include descriptions or captions of the photos, like in this example:

April 9, 2019

Today was a beautiful day and I wanted to capture some of my memories from it. I started the day by taking a walk in the park and it was so peaceful. The sun was shining and there were so many flowers in bloom. I took a few photos of the flowers and of the lake. The water was so still and it was the perfect place to sit and reflect.

After my walk, I went to have lunch with a friend. We had a great time catching up and I took a few photos of our food. We both love sushi, so we ordered a variety of rolls and they all looked so delicious.

In the afternoon, I went to a museum and it was so interesting. I took a few photos of some of my favorite exhibits, including one of the newer installations of digital artwork.

Before heading home, I took a walk through the city and I took a few more photos of some of the buildings and the people. It was such a busy and vibrant place, and I felt so lucky to be a part of it.

I’m so grateful for all of the experiences I had today, and I’m happy that I was able to capture some of them in photos. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Travel Journal Entry Example

A travel journal is a type of journal that documents your travels, experiences, and observations as you explore new places. Here’s an example travel journal entry:

Date: August 10, 2022
Location: Paris, France
Weather: Sunny and warm, with a high of 25°C

Today was my first full day in Paris and it was truly magical. I started the day with croissants and coffee at a quaint café near my hotel. The flaky, buttery pastries were unlike anything I’ve ever had before. As I sipped my coffee, I took in the bustling city and people-watched for a while.

Next, I headed to the Eiffel Tower. The iconic landmark was even more beautiful in person. I took the stairs to the top and was rewarded with breathtaking views of the city. I felt so small and humbled by the sheer size of the tower and all of Paris spread out below me.

After some more exploring, I stopped for lunch at a small bistro recommended by my hotel concierge. I enjoyed a delicious meal of steak frites and a glass of red wine. It was the perfect way to fuel up for the rest of my adventures in Paris.

Later in the afternoon, I visited the Louvre Museum. I was completely in awe of the masterpieces housed within its walls. From the Winged Victory of Samothrace to the Mona Lisa, I was constantly amazed by the talent and creativity on display.

As the day came to a close, I headed back to my hotel, exhausted but also exhilarated by all that I had seen and experienced. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings in this beautiful city.

Example Journal Entry: Using a Journal Prompt

Many people utilize journal prompts as a way to write in their journal. Here’s an example of a journal entry that uses an example journal prompt.

What is a memorable moment from my childhood?

As I sit here with my journal, I can’t help but think back to a memorable moment from my childhood. I remember it was a sunny summer day and my family was on vacation at the beach. We were playing in the water, building sandcastles, and having a great time. Suddenly, a big wave came and knocked me over. I was scared and started to cry, but my older brother was there to pick me up and carry me back to the shore. He hugged me and told me everything was going to be okay.

This moment has stayed with me for all these years because it was a defining moment in my relationship with my brother. He showed me that he cared for me and would always be there for me, even when I was scared. As I think back on this moment now, I am filled with gratitude for having such a supportive and loving family. I am also grateful for the memories that I have from this day, which I will treasure forever.

Example Freewriting Journal Entry

Many people find that freewriting in their journal is the easiest way to complete a new journal entry. Freewriting is simply the a writing technique in which you write continuously without stopping, without concern for grammar, spelling or punctuation.

October 17, 2018 – Wednesday

Today I woke up feeling refreshed after a long night’s sleep. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch, ready to start my day. As I took my first sip, I couldn’t help but think about all of the things I wanted to accomplish today. I have a meeting with my boss, a doctor’s appointment, and I want to get some work done on a project I’ve been putting off. But before I dive into all of that, I just want to take a moment to write and let my thoughts flow.

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately with all of the responsibilities I have on my plate. It seems like there’s always something that needs my attention and I find myself constantly rushing from one thing to the next. But in the moments when I slow down and take a deep breath, I feel like I can handle it all. I just need to remember to make time for myself and focus on what’s important.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what success really means to me. I used to think it was all about money and status, but now I’m not so sure. I think success is more about finding happiness and fulfillment in what you do, and making a positive impact on the world. That’s what I want for myself, and that’s what I want to focus on moving forward.

Well, time to get going. I feel a little more focused and at peace now that I’ve taken the time to write in my journal.

Digital Journal Entry Example

Some people find that keeping a digital journal is easier than writing in a notebook. A digital journal has several advantages, such as the ability to add video, audio recordings, photos. Digital journals can also be searched more easily as many journal apps like Day One have search and sort functionality. Your journal can also be accessed on multiple devices, such as your desktop computer and your mobile phone.

Here’s an example of a digital journal entry made in the Day One journal app:

Journal Entry Prompts

For your next journal entry, here’s a list of some common journal prompts to jumpstart your journal writing on a daily basis:

  1. What’s on my mind today?
  2. How am I feeling today? What emotions can I identify?
  3. How is my body feeling today?
  4. What am I grateful for today, and why?
  5. What happened today?
  6. What made me happy today, and why?
  7. What made me feel proud today, and why?
  8. What did I learn today? How can I apply that knowledge to my life?
  9. What challenges did I face today?
  10. What is one way to make today better?
  11. Who has made my life better recently?
  12. What is a memorable event from my childhood?
  13. What are my hopes and goals for the future?
  14. What am I looking forward to in the near future?
  15. What is one way I’d like to grow or change?
  16. What is something I’m curious about, and how can I explore it further?
  17. What are some of my favorite quotes, and how do they inspire me?
  18. What is something that I’ve been putting off, and what steps can I take to get it done?
  19. What is something I can do to show kindness to someone else today?
  20. What are three things I can do to take care of myself today?

Wrapping Up: Journal Entries and the Essence of Life

Keeping a journal is a meaningful way to reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Whether you prefer to write about your gratitude, your goals, your travels, or just your day-to-day life, journaling can help you process and make sense of your journey.

With its many elements, techniques, and forms, there is no one “right” way to journal. The key is to find what works for you and to make journaling a regular part of your life. So go ahead, start capturing your life and memories today in your next journal entry!

Start Your Journal Entry Today in the Day One Journal App

The Day One journaling app makes it easy to build and maintain a daily journaling habit. Daily journaling reminders, writing prompts, and journaling streaks are designed to help keep you motivated and consistently journaling.

About the Author

Kristen Wright is the author of three books on journaling. With a passion for writing and self-reflection, Kristen uses her experience with journaling to help others discover the benefits of documenting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. In her role at Day One, she helps to promote the power of journaling so people from all walks of life can experience the transformative power of journaling.

Journal from here, there, everywhere.

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