Whether you’re a seasoned journaler or just getting started with journaling, you may be in need of a few new journaling ideas to spark inspiration and deepen your journaling practice. Journaling ideas can help you experiment with a new journaling technique that may help you gain greater insight into yourself and the world around you.
In this post, we share 50 journaling ideas to inspire and guide you on your journaling journey. Whether you’re looking to explore your emotions, document your life, or set and achieve goals, these ideas can help you get the most out of your journaling practice and give you a new way to approach self-reflection and self-expression in your journal.
Journaling Ideas to Spark Inspiration and Self-Discovery
From gratitude and mindfulness, to mind mapping and brainstorming, these journaling ideas are designed to help you tap into the full potential of journaling in its many forms.
1. Try digital journaling.
Instead of using a traditional pen and paper to journal, digital journaling opens up a whole new way to document your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The process of journaling remains the same, but the medium is different—your phone, computer, or tablet becomes the place to document your thoughts, rather than a physical notebook.
Digital journaling offers a ton of advantages, such as making your journal accessible anywhere, anytime (since, let’s face it: your phone is likely with you all the time), and as simple as sending a text or writing an email. A digital journal unlocks functionality that a paper journal simply doesn’t offer, like the ability to easily search entries (you can tag, filter, and sort the contents of your journal entries) and the ability to add multimedia to your journal entries (like photos, videos, links, and audio recordings). You may also appreciate the peace of mind that your journals are backed up and securely stored in the cloud.
Digital journaling ideas:
- Download a journal app like Day One to see how digital journaling expands your journaling practice. The Day One app is available for iOS, Android, and Mac computers and offers a host of features like end-to-end encryption, unlimited photos and videos, and even voice dictation.
- Try typing out your thoughts, feelings, or ideas throughout the day on your phone or computer.
- Experiment with digital journaling features that a paper journal doesn’t offer, like multimedia uploads, tags, search, location data, templates, and journaling reminders.
2. Practice gratitude journaling.
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. The main goal of a gratitude journal is to help you shift your focus from negative experiences to positive ones, and to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Studies like this one from Indian Journal of Positive Psychology have confirmed the science-backed benefits of gratitude journaling, including increased happiness, reduced anxiety, and even better sleep.
Gratitude journaling ideas:
- Write down three things you’re grateful for each day.
- Reflect on how the things you’re grateful for contribute to your life.
- Express gratitude to someone or something specific.
- Use gratitude journaling prompts to guide your writing such as “What am I grateful for today?”
2. Write in “stream of consciousness.”
“Stream of consciousness” is a journaling technique when you write your thoughts, ideas, and impressions as they come to mind, without any particular order or structure. You simply write your thoughts as they occur, in the same way you think them. Stream of consciousness writing can be used to explore what’s on your mind at any given moment, express emotion, reflect on past experiences, or generate new ideas. This form of writing is not meant to be polished or edited; it’s always a raw and unfiltered representation of one’s thoughts and feelings.
Stream of consciousness journaling ideas:
- Write whatever comes to mind without editing or censoring yourself, even if it doesn’t make sense or seems unimportant.
- Don’t censor your thoughts as you write. Release the need to edit, and don’t worry about grammar or punctuation.
- Try “stream of consciousness” writing first thing in the morning or before you go to bed as a way to clear your head.
4. Start a commonplace book.
A commonplace book is a type of journal that dates back to the Renaissance era as a personal collection of quotes, passages, observations, and other information gathered from various sources and organized into a single volume. The purpose of a commonplace book is to provide a personal resource for the writer, where they can refer back to the ideas, thoughts, and inspiration they’ve gathered over time.
Commonplace books were often used as a tool for self-education and were a way for people to keep track of the knowledge and ideas they came across in their reading. The format of the commonplace book is completely personal and can be digital or physical, and can be in any format, like a notebook or binder, notes stored in files, or a separate journal in your Day One app.
Commonplace book ideas:
- Start collecting information that you find interesting, inspiring, or useful in your journal.
- As you read books or articles online, document your favorite quotes, key takeaways, and reflections.
- Capture meaningful or thought-provoking quotes from literature, social media, or interviews.
- Use the “Scan Text” feature inside the Day One app to quickly capture text instead of manually typing it out.
3. Explore your emotions.
An emotions journal is a type of journal that specifically focuses on exploring and understanding your emotions. Emotional journaling can be used to gain insight and understanding into how emotions impact your life, and to find ways to manage and cope with them. Exploring your emotions can be challenging and it’s normal to feel uncomfortable or vulnerable while doing so. There’s really no right or wrong way to explore your emotions in your journal, but the key is to find a format and a method that works for you and that you will be able to stick to.
Emotional journaling ideas:
- Write about your emotions as they arise, including details about what triggers them, how they make you feel in your body, and how you react to them.
- Give your emotion a specific name. (Did you know there are over 271 names for emotions?)
- Use prompts to guide your writing, such as “What am I feeling right now?” or “How did this situation make me feel?”
- Incorporate emotional journaling into a wider mindfulness practice, by noting your thoughts and emotions as they arise, with curiosity and without judgment.
4. Reflect on the day.
A daily reflection journal is a type of journal where you regularly reflect on your day, thoughts, emotions, and experiences. By reflecting on each day, you can capture details about a day that you might otherwise forget. Daily reflection can also be used to gain insight and understanding into yourself, as well as to track progress and identify patterns in your thoughts and behaviors.
Daily reflection journal ideas:
- At the end of each day, write about the events of the day, including what happened, how you felt, and what you learned.
- Reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and how they have impacted your day.
- Write about the highlights and lowlights of your day and what you learned from them. Include any details that stood out.
- Ask yourself questions like “What went well today?” or “What did I learn today?”
5. Make a plan for the future.
Your journal can be a great place to let your mind ponder your hopes, goals, and plans for the future. Making a plan for the future can help you take a proactive approach to life, rather than just reacting to what happens. Having a plan for the future can also help you stay focused on what you want to achieve, feel a greater sense of purpose, and even prepare for unexpected events.
Ideas for journaling about your future:
- Think about your wishes for the future. Write them out.
- Ask yourself: “Where do I want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years?” Include as many details as you can imagine.
- Answer the question: “How can I turn my hopes, goals, and wishes for the future into an actionable plan?”
6. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged with the current moment without judgment. While mindfulness is often associated with meditation, it can also be cultivated through other practices such as journaling. A mindfulness journal is a type of journal that is used to practice mindfulness through paying close attention to your thoughts and surroundings. Mindfulness journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, leading to greater self-awareness and improved mental well-being.
Mindfulness journal ideas:
- Set aside time each day to orient yourself to the present moment. Simply observe what’s going on around you and record what you see in your journal.
- Close your eyes and observe your thoughts or emotions for a few moments. Write about your thoughts and feelings without trying to change them.
- Use your mindfulness journal as a companion to your mindfulness meditation practice. After meditation, set aside time to record your observations and reflections.
7. Write a letter to your future self. Or write a letter from your future self.
As another journaling idea to try, write a letter to your future self or from your future self. Both of these exercises may seem uncomfortable at first, but you may be surprised what you discover as you tap into your inner wisdom. Both letters can be read and reflected upon at a later date, often as a way to catalog life lessons or to reflect on how you’ve grown and changed over time.
Ideas for writing a letter to or from your future self:
- Right now, what would you like to tell your future self about what’s going on in your life right now? What things are important to you, what seems uncertain, and what are your hopes for the future? What questions do you have?
- Imagine yourself in 10 or 20 years. What things would you like to tell your past self? What lessons have you learned over time? What really matters? What wisdom do you have to share?
8. Jumpstart your creative writing.
Your journal can be a great place to explore creative writing projects like short stories, poetry, song lyrics, memoirs, or novels. Some people find it helpful to use their journal to record thoughts and ideas, which can then be used as inspiration for future writing projects. Others writers use their journal as a place to practice writing exercises or to experiment with different writing styles. By giving yourself a private place to explore ideas, create first drafts, and catalog your progress, your imagination can roam free.
Creative writing journaling ideas:
- Create a separate journal for your creative writing projects.
- When you’re struggling to come up with new ideas, use your journal to free-write, jotting down any ideas that come to mind, no matter how wild or impractical the idea may seem.
- Use writing prompts. Creative writing prompts can offer a specific goal or objective for a piece of writing, helping you practice and focus on specific elements of writing such as characterization, plot, dialogue, or setting.
- Document the writing process by keeping track of changes made to a piece of writing. This way, you can better understand the decisions you made and how you arrived at the final version of a work.
9. Set a timer.
This journaling idea may seem rather simple, but just set a timer for a specific amount of time—and write. Keep writing without stopping until the timer goes off. The timed-writing approach to journaling encourages you to focus on the task at hand and to write quickly, without getting bogged down in editing or self-criticism. Timing your writing can also help you overcome the fear of not writing well enough or the fear of not being able to come up with new ideas.
Ideas for timed journaling:
- Set a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes. Write continuously until the timer goes off.
- Try not to stop to edit or revise anything you’ve written during this time. Focus on getting your thoughts down in writing.
- Try this technique at the same time every day for a few weeks to build a more regular journaling habit.
10. Make a mind map.
Use your journal to create a visual representation of your thoughts and ideas. Mind map journaling is a method of journaling that combines the traditional practice of journaling with the concept of mind mapping. A mind map is a visual representation of ideas and information, often arranged in a non-linear, branching format. The process of creating a mind map can help you brainstorm new ideas, make connections between seemingly unrelated thoughts, and see the bigger picture of your thoughts and emotions. Mind map journaling also encourages a non-linear way of thinking, which can be beneficial for problem-solving and creativity. If you struggle with traditional linear journaling and find visual representation more helpful, mind map journaling may be a useful journaling technique to try.
Mind map journaling ideas:
- Make a mind map to explore emotions, plan a project, or organize information in your journal.
- Create a central idea or theme in the center of the page and then branch out from that idea to create a visual representation of your thoughts, emotions, and ideas.
- Use words, images, symbols, and colors to create a visual representation of the topic you are exploring in your journal.
11. Brainstorm and ideate.
Use your journal to generate ideas for projects, work, or personal growth. Brainstorming should be a fun and open-ended process, where the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible, without judging or dismissing any of them. This can be helpful if you’re working on a sensitive or personal project, or are working on flushing out a concept before sharing it with others. By keeping a record of your brainstorming sessions in a journal, you can refer back to your ideas later on, rather than relying on your memory.
- Define the problem, goal, or topic. This will help to focus your brainstorming sessions and ensure that you’re generating ideas that are relevant to the task at hand.
- Ask “What if?” questions and explore different possibilities. This can help to generate new and different ideas.
- Generate as many ideas as possible. Write every idea that comes to mind.
- Use visual aids such as photos, colors, mind maps, or anything else that represents your ideas.
12. Track your habits.
Journaling can be a powerful tool for tracking habits because it allows you to keep a record of your progress, reflect on your experiences, and make adjustments as needed. By using a combination of different journaling techniques, you can create a habit tracking system that works best for you and your lifestyle.
- Identify the habits you want to build. Make a list in your journal, along with why you’d like to build the habit.
- Keep a daily log of your habits, including when you performed the habit, how long it took, and how you felt afterwards. This can help you identify patterns in your behavior and make any necessary adjustments.
- Create a habit tracking chart where you can mark off when you’ve completed a habit. This can help to visualize your progress and provide a sense of accomplishment when you see a habit becoming a regular part of your routine.
- Create a custom journal template in the Day One journal app plus a reminder to track your habits.
13. Document your travels.
A travel journal is a type of journal devoted to your experiences and observations while traveling. Since traveling has links to creativity and even short vacations can improve stress levels, you may want to use your time exploring a new place to get more creative in your journal. Traveling often lends itself to a feeling of needing to capture what happened as time can seem more special and fleeting.
Travel journal ideas:
- Document the details of each day of your trip. Set aside time each day to write about what happened, what you experienced, and any reflections you want to remember.
- Add photos and momentos (like ticket stubs or brochures) to your travel journal.
- Record stops, train rides, or hikes on a map.
- Pay attention to new experiences you encounter like food, cultural norms, or anything different from where you live.
- Use an app like Day One to automatically capture location data, altitude, weather info, and more in your travel journal.
14. Answer journal prompts.
If you’ve never used journal prompts to jumpstart your writing, perhaps this journaling idea will help you explore a more guided approach to journaling. Journal prompts can guide your writing and stimulate your creativity by giving you a question to answer or a topic to explore.
Journal prompt ideas:
- Experiment with different types of journal prompts, like daily journal prompts or seasonal ones such as these end of year reflection journaling prompts or New Year journal prompts.
- Try answering one journal prompt a day.
- Enable reminders with the daily writing prompt in the Day One app.
15. Track your moods.
Your journal can be a private place to keep track of your emotions and feelings throughout the day. Mood tracking is the practice of regularly monitoring and recording your emotional state. This type of tracking can be useful for identifying patterns in your emotions so you can understand what triggers your mood changes and how to cope with them.
- Use your journal to record your mood throughout the day. Reflect on your feelings and identify patterns or triggers.
- Include other information such as events of the day, the weather, and other factors that may have influenced your mood. You may also want to track other factors such as sleep, exercise, and medication.
- Create a visual representation of your moods by using a mood chart. Use different emojis, colors, or symbols to represent different moods and track your moods over time.
16. Collect quotes.
Your journal can be a great place to start a collection of quotes or other inspirations that resonate with you. Similar to a commonplace book, your journal can become a place to catalog wise sayings or thought-provoking ideas. Quotes may also serve as a starting-off point for your daily journal entries as you explore what the quote means to you and how it applies to your life. Collecting quotes can be a valuable tool for personal growth, inspiration, education, and reflection.
Quote journal ideas:
- Write down a quote or phrase that resonated with you each day.
- Research quotes on a particular topic or theme and record them in your journal.
- Create a separate journal devoted to your quote collection.
- Turn quotes into calligraphy, design, or drawings in your journal.
17. Review books, movies, or albums.
Use your journal to review books you’ve read, albums you’ve listened to, and movies you’ve watched throughout the year. Even if you never plan to share the review with anyone else, make notes of your observations and document your impressions. Writing reviews can also deepen your understanding and appreciation of an artisitic work.
Ideas for writing reviews in your journal:
- Keep a record of the books, albums, and movies you consume. Include the name, date, and any other details about the work.
- Make notes about your overall impressions or takeaways.
- Use Day One’s Calendar view to jog your memory about when you watched a movie, listened to new music, or read a book.
18. Start a manifestation journal.
A manifestation journal is a type of journal that is used to focus on and manifest desired goals, outcomes, and experiences. A manifestation journal can help you focus your thoughts and energy on what you want to manifest in your life, and to track your progress in achieving those goals.
Manifestation journal ideas:
- Focus your thoughts and energy on what you want to manifest in your life. Write those things out in your journal.
- Create a vision board of your hopes and aspirations (more in the next section!)
- Collect affirmations that represent ideas or hopes you wish to embrace in your life.
19. Make a vision board.
A vision board, also known as a dream board, is a collage of images, words, and phrases that represent one’s goals, aspirations, and desires. The idea behind a vision board is to create a visual representation of what you want to manifest in your life. It’s a powerful tool that can help to focus your thoughts and energy on your goals and to keep you motivated towards achieving them. Your journal can be a safe place to freely explore the creation of your personal vision board.
Vision board ideas:
- Identify your goals and aspirations.
- Collect images, words, and phrases that represent those goals and aspirations. Create a collage or a board of those collected items, either a physical board or a digital one.
- Take a photo of your vision board to add it to your digital journal.
- Regularly review and update your vision board as your goals and aspirations may change over time.
20. Focus on the positive.
Positivity journaling is a form of journaling that focuses on intentionally cultivating positive emotions, thoughts, and attitudes. This journaling technique asks you to record and reflect on things that are positive in your life, and to actively seek out and focus on the good things in your life. Positivity journaling can help shift your perspective and focus on the positive aspects of your life, which can help to improve your overall well-being and happiness.
Positivity journaling ideas:
- At the end of each day, review the day to identify something positive that happened, large or small. Record one positive thing you want to remember in your journal.
- Use journaling prompts like “What made me happy today?” or “What good things happened today?” to jumpstart your writing.
- Take photos or record videos to capture moments of positivity throughout the day. Add these to your journal.
21. Track your productivity.
Productivity journaling is a form of journaling that focuses on tracking and improving productivity. The main goal of productivity journaling is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your daily tasks, activities, and, ultimately, your life. Productivity journaling can also help you identify and overcome any obstacles that are preventing you from being more productive.
Productivity journaling ideas:
- Set daily goals and track your progress each day in your journal.
- Track your time. Recording how much time you spend on different activities throughout the day.
- Use prompts like “What did I complete today?” or “What will I do tomorrow?”
- Set up daily reminders for check-ins in your journal, such as first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Track your progress and make adjustments as needed.
22. Keep a daily log.
A daily log journal is a type of journal that records daily activities, events, and observations. Daily logs typically include a chronological record of tasks completed, appointments, meetings, and other events that took place throughout the day. This type of journaling can help you keep track of your schedule and remember important events. A daily log journal can be a useful tool for managing your time, staying organized, and keeping track of your progress. It’s also a great way to reflect on your day and gain insight into your habits and routines.
Daily log ideas:
- Find a format and a time that works best for you.
- Create a custom journal template in the Day One journal for your daily log.
- Log what happened each day, including how you spent your time or any details you want to record.
- Include notes, thoughts, and reflections on the events of the day. This can help you to identify patterns, to reflect on your actions and decisions, and to learn from your experiences.
23. Set goals and track your progress.
A journal can be a great place to define your goals, commit to them, and make a plan for achieving them. In fact, research shows that simply writing down your goals makes you 42% more likely to achieve them. By regularly recording your thoughts, feelings, and progress, you can gain insight into your motivations, track your progress, and stay accountable. Journaling goals can provide the clarity, accountability, and motivation you need to achieve your goals.
Ideas for journaling goals:
- Set aside time for a “goal-setting” journaling session. Devote this time to picture and vividly describe your goals with as much detail as possible.
- Break your goals down into smaller, actionable steps.
- Track your progress each day, week, or month in your journal. Make sure the frequency of your check-ins happen often enough so you feel accountable and motivated.
24. Keep an affirmations journal.
An affirmation journal is a type of journal that focuses on positive self-talk and the use of affirmations to improve one’s mindset and overall well-being. Affirmations are positive statements that are meant to counteract negative thoughts or beliefs, and to help individuals to reprogram their minds to think more positively.
Affirmations journal ideas:
- Create a separate journal in your Day One app for affirmations. Record positive affirmations that align with your goals and desires.
- Reflect on your affirmations and how they relate to your life.
- Visualize yourself living the positive affirmation.
- Write about the progress you made towards your affirmation.
25. Journal with a group.
Group journaling is a form of journaling where a group of people come together to write and share their thoughts and experiences. This form of journaling is a way for individuals to explore their inner selves and to connect with others through the written word. Group journaling can be done in person or online, and is often led by a facilitator. Keep in mind that group journaling can be a sensitive activity, so it’s important to establish clear guidelines and to create a safe space for participants to share their thoughts and feelings.
Group journaling ideas:
- Group journaling often works best when the group has an aligned purpose or a common pursuit, such as processing life events, creative writing, or improving health or well-being.
- Use writing prompts to guide the group’s writing.
- Invite participants can share their writing with the group and receive feedback.
- Facilitate group discussion to explore the themes and ideas that emerge from their writing.
26. Sketch something new every day.
Use your journal as a sketchbook to draw something different every day as a form of self-discovery, reflection, and therapeutic release. Explore art journaling, a journaling technique that combines writing and art as a form of self-expression and creativity. Sketching is all about practice and experimentation, so use this journaling idea as a way to embrace mistakes and opportunities to learn.
Art journaling ideas:
- Keep your journal with you throughout the day to sketch whenever inspiration strikes.
- Try to sketch from real-life subjects as often as you can. This can help you improve your observation and perception skills.
- Experiment with a variety of mediums such as paint, collage, drawing, digital art, and writing.
27. Keep a dream journal.
A dream journal is a notebook or diary where you record your dreams. Dream journals can include the thoughts, emotions, and images that were present in the dream, as well as any reflections on the dream’s meaning or significance. Recording dreams in a journal can be a helpful tool for understanding the subconscious mind and exploring your inner self. Dream journals can also help you remember your dreams better, as well as analyze and interpret them. Some people also use a dream journal to track patterns or themes in their dreams over time.
Dream journal tips:
- Create a separate journal for your dreams in the Day One journal app.
- Write down your dreams immediately when you wake up. Include any details you remember.
- Make notes of important symbols and add your reflections on the meaning of the dream.
28. Journal through photos.
Photo journaling is a form of journaling that combines photography and writing. This journaling idea involves taking photographs and then using them as prompts for written reflection or storytelling. The photographs can be of anything, from everyday moments to special events, and the accompanying writing can take many forms, such as simple captions, long-form journal entries, or even poetry. Photo journaling can be a way to document one’s life and personal growth, to explore the relationship between words and images, and to create a visual record of a specific place or time.
Photo journaling ideas:
- Experiment with different forms of photo journaling, either with digital photos or physical prints.
- Include a daily photo in your journal to capture memories and moments.
- Write about the moment the photo captured and any other details you want to remember, like how you felt, what you were thinking, or the meaning of the moment.
- Use a journal app like Day One to easily transfer photos from your phone to your journal.
29. Journal in video or audio form.
If you find writing in a journal too tedious or time-consuming, you may want to try video journaling or audio journaling. Audio journaling and video journaling are two forms of journaling that use either audio recordings or video (or both!) as a means of capturing personal thoughts, reflections, and observations. Both journaling techniques allow you to capture your thoughts as they happen, without the need for writing, and may also provide a more natural or spontaneous way of expressing yourself.
Audio and video journaling ideas:
- Use a digital voice recorder, smartphone, or other recording device to make journal entries.
- Experiment with either voice or video journaling to see which one works best for you.
- Use your commute to record an audio journal entry.
- A journal app like Day One can transcribe audio recordings to text, so try using this feature if you’d like to turn your recordings to text.
- Try recording journal entries on the go, like from the Day One WatchOS on your Apple Watch.
30. Turn your journals into a printed book.
Journaling may be a way for you to document your memories so that other people will know about your life. Journal-keeping can serve as a record of a person’s life, thoughts, and experiences, providing a glimpse into the past and preserving memories for future generations. A journal can be passed down to future generations, serving as a way to connect with one’s ancestors and understand their perspectives and experiences. Seeing your memories come to life in a book, especially if you keep a digital journal, can be a rewarding and profound experience.
Ideas for printing your journals:
- Consider what aspects of your journal you would be comfortable sharing with others.
- Use the Day One journal app’s book printing feature to design and print your journals in a paperback or hardcover book.
- Select the journals to be printed, customize the contents of your book, and preview your book before you order.
- Printed journals can be gifted to others or put into a time capsule to be opened years in the future.
Wrapping Up: Which Journaling Idea Will You Try?
From daily reflections and sketches to creative writing and audio recordings, there’s a new journaling idea for everyone. Trying a new journaling idea might expand and deepen your journaling practice or help you discover something new about yourself. Your journal is always a personal space to explore new ideas, techniques, and approaches for capturing your life. Happy journaling!