If you’ve had a journaling practice for a while, then you know that sometimes it can feel challenging to come up with new journal ideas.
Coming up with new observations or revelations about your life might even start to feel like a chore. Or maybe there are times when you’re trying to solve a problem or relieve your stress through journaling, but you seem to have trouble reaching any breakthroughs, circling around the same idea again and again.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even though journaling is good for your health, and has been known to improve everything from creativity to stress management, you can often wonder if you’ll ever experience these benefits, especially if you’re feeling uninspired or bored.
Luckily, we’ve put together some journal ideas to help you re-energize your journaling practice. Whether you’re looking to boost your creativity or discover your hidden interests, you’ll find that these journal ideas will get your inspiration flowing again.
Journal idea: Self discovery
If you’re feeling uninspired in your personal or professional life, journaling can help you uncover your true interests and desires. Or at the other end of the spectrum, journaling can also provide relief in times of overwhelming stress.
So what journal exercises can we do to navigate these periods in our lives?
Artist/illustrator Mari Andrew is the first person that comes to mind when I think of journaling and self discovery. Her Instagram account explores the themes of heartbreak, career, finding your calling – basically all the things that we’re “supposed” to have figured out by now! – and helps us feel less alone in these experiences.
Luckily, for those of us still exploring these themes, we can turn to Mari’s journal/workbook Getting There: A Workbook for Growing Up. Using her prompts and questions, you can also examine and gain insight into your life in a deep and imaginative way.
Here are some journaling ideas based off of Mari Andrew’s Instagram posts and workbook excerpts:
- Jot down what summer feels like to you. Add illustrations if you like. Maybe it’s a popsicle. Ocean waves. Beach towel.
- Make a list of your superpowers. Maybe it’s listening, dancing, navigating Trader Joe’s at peak hours. It doesn’t matter how big or mundane it is. It’s your superpower!
- Make a list of places you’ve visited and record the magical things you’ve seen there.
And here’s what Mari Andrew has to say about her own journaling practice:
“Recording my observations – of my surroundings and the inner workings of my mind – is the best way for me to learn more about who I am and what I want. I use it to reflect on past events and to push forward.”
Journal idea: Problem solving
Writer and productivity expert Cal Newport shared the below “Notebook Method” as a way to help students transform from being just good to exceptional students. But you don’t have to be an academic to benefit from this exercise. His Notebook Method is relevant for all fields and especially for people who are looking to problem solve a work dilemma or a creative project.
In the Notebook Method, Newport advises that you get a notebook and a pen. Then go to a quiet area that has limited noise and distractions and spend at least 1-3 hours “working out your thinking on the task at hand in the notebook. Spend the last 20 minutes carefully summarizing your results on a clean page that you mark with the date and a title.”
Similar to what Mari Andrew says about the benefits of journaling, Cal Newport also affirms that journaling helps you clarify your thoughts by putting words to paper. You learn more about who you are and what the issues are, by allowing yourself to really think through and articulate them. Newport says this exercise will also help awaken thoughts and ideas that would’ve otherwise not emerged had you been distracted by your phone or computer.
Maybe you have an idea for an online business or a book proposal – see if you can take an hour to really dive into your idea and transcribe all the thoughts that are coming up for you. You might start to make creative connections to other ideas. You might even come up with solutions for any challenges you were experiencing. These are just some of the benefits you could experience with this one journal idea – no computer needed!
Journal idea: field notes
When you were a child, you were easily mesmerized by everything in nature – you would behold every bug, flower, or rock with the utmost fascination. But as we get older, we seem to be less curious about the magical things in nature and more dependent on technology and the material things we can buy and hold.
And when we were kids, we wanted to know the names of every little object we saw. But as adults, how often do we look at a beautiful flower or colorful bird and are actually able to identify what kind of flower or bird it is?
There’s a whole chapter on the importance of learning about nature in this book: A Book That Takes Its Time: an Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness. This particular quote stands out:
“Knowing more about something makes the world a richer place. For example, to someone with a bit of botanical knowledge, those pretty flowers by the road are a lovely mix of cow parsley, yarrow, and yellow rattle. They actually see more, and that enriches their lives.”
So if you’d like to channel your inner Darwin or Audobon, carry a journal with you on your next outing to the park or your next walk around the neighborhood. You can focus your attention on birds, flowers, or trees. Or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, all three!
For tips on how to write field notes, you can look here. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Write down the date, time, and location.
- Describe the weather. Is it hot, cold, windy?
- Jot down the descriptions of what you see. For birds, you can try to describe the colors of their wings, breasts, or tail. Or try to illustrate your findings.
- Describe any interactions you see. Any interactions between insects and plants? Or interactions between birds? Is it friendly? Hostile?
In doing these exercises, you might start to see that having a field journal is making you more mindful and appreciative of the things that are all around you. In turn, your surroundings might even awaken some parts of your inner life that you had not noticed before. And you might even learn the names of the birds and flowers you’ve been admiring!
You can practice any of these journal ideas or work on one idea each month.
Let us know if your journal practice helps you gain clarity in an area of your life or if you’ve discovered a new interest or hobby. And if you ever start to feel discouraged or disappointed that you’re not writing these grand, insightful pieces, just remember that the simple act of noticing is a big achievement in and of itself.