How To Journal: The One Tactic That Changed My Journaling – Unstationary

How To Journal: The One Tactic That Changed My Journaling

We’ve covered what is journaling, and why journaling is so important. Now, we tackle how to journal. Okay, I feel your silent judgments from here - I get that the idea of journaling is simple. I mean, this is journaling for beginners after-all. You write. On Paper.  Not too complicated. While the external action seems quite simple, I assure you the underpinning of it is quite complex.

Journaling starts and is sustained via questions.

Have you ever been in the scenario where you’re trying to persuade someone but they aren’t having it. Then they think for a second, answer a couple of questions to themselves then say out loud - “OH! We can do it that way.” Which was the point you were straining to share all along. Essentially what they did was arrive to their own conclusion versus taking yours.

Ideas we arrive at on our own often have much more impact and longer shelf life than the ones handed to us.

I have one story that illustrates this quite well. 

At the gym, when doing snatches, my coach is like a broken record sharing tips.

“When you’re pushing weight overhead,” he never tired of saying, “always engage your core.” 

Naturally I didn’t (hey, I’m a rebel) and I lost control of my weight. 

He came over to me and said, “When you’re….” then stopped eruptedly and proceeded to ask, “Why did you lose control of your weight?” 

I sighed knowing the answer was one I heard a million times, “I didn’t engage my core.” 

Guess what? I haven’t done that again. I finally arrived at the idea myself (granted, with much guidance). Believe it or not, that is both why journaling is so powerful, but it’s also HOW to journal…. Through questions.

Questions that start with Why? What? How? Who? Where? help us get out of our perspective and try to see things from a different angle. Each of those questions are like a sturdy branch that supports many offshoot inquiries which hopefully lead to new insights. These types of questions could also be called journaling prompts. There are journaling prompts for healing, depression, stress, and anxiety - to just name a few. 

If you’ve been to therapy you’ve experienced how the counselor leads you via questions. Journaling for therapy is very similar - but you’re leading the questions.

The goal with your questions are to dig deeper:

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • How am I feeling?
  • When did it start?
  • Where was I when it started?
  • What happened around me when it started?
  • How would I describe that scenario to someone else?
  • Have I felt like this before?
  • Are there similarities or differences?
  • What are they?

As you can see there’s a progression. It’s like using questions as sticks to poke, flip, prod your subject to learn something new. Hopefully this approach will help you feel you’re journaling with a purpose.


I was about to continue on how to create a conducive journaling atmosphere. How to approach journaling. How to make it a habit. BUT we’d be here for another day, so I’ll just leave those as teasers for what’s to come. Oh, and we’ll get to journaling prompts too.

If you have any journaling questions, send them this way!