How to Build a Journaling Habit

person journaling with coffee

By: Margaux Paul

It may be nearing the end of January, but there’s still time to commit to one more resolution for 2023. Why not make that a resolution to journal consistently? But remember, it doesn’t have to be the New Year to start bettering yourself through the power of daily journaling. Journaling has many proven life-changing benefits. It is an incredible tool for self-reflection, self-awareness, and processing intense emotions. But in order to experience all its effects, you must make journaling a part of your daily routine. 

What Is a Habit?

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, defines habits as “decisions you make and actions you perform every day… What you repeatedly do (i.e., what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.”

According to Clear, habits make up 40% of our daily behaviors! So, it’s essential to be cognizant of the habits that make you, you. You may have experienced the benefits of keeping a journal first-hand but now have trouble finding time to sit down every day and bring pen to paper. But you can make regular journaling just as much of a daily habit as your morning coffee, and here’s how you do it!

Getting Started: Understanding the Habit Loop

We know what habits are, but how are habits formed? You may have heard that it takes 31 days to form a habit, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, describes what he calls the habit loop and how you can use it to your advantage. The habit loop goes like this: 

  1. You receive a cue that triggers your habit. 
  2. A routine follows the cue.
  3. You are rewarded based on the routine that was triggered by the cue. 

For example: 

  1. You see the coffee maker as you enter the kitchen for the first time this morning.
  2. You begin to make your coffee,  pour it into your mug, and then fix it the way you like it.
  3. You enjoy the taste and are rewarded with energy from the caffeine. 

Making a Habit Loop for Journaling

So now that you know how to form a habit, how can we use it to start journaling? What’s most important is being specific about your cue. Some examples of cues for your journaling session are: When I first sit down at my desk, I will journal. I will write three pages before answering emails. While I wait for my tea to boil, I will start journaling. 

The key is making the cue the same every day. Even a designated writing time is an effective cue, so long as it is the same every day. Your cue will trigger the journaling routine, but what is the reward? As much as we would like the journaling itself to be the reward, the benefits of journaling are more long-term. And habits have the best chance of forming with immediate rewards. 

A few examples of rewards are: I can only have my morning coffee after I have journaled for 15 minutes. Every day I journal, I add one dollar to a jar on my desk, and at the end of the month, I can buy that book I really want (or a beautiful notebook), I can only watch Netflix once I journal for the day, etc. 

If you’re ever experiencing writer’s block, remember there’s no right or wrong way to journal. You can write lists in your bullet journal, write in your notes app, use daily prompts, or write what you’re grateful for. What’s important is getting words on the page and developing the habit. Remember to not be self-critical. Journaling is supposed to relieve stress, not cause it. 

And when is the best time to form a habit? Well, as the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is right now. Through our expressive writing program, you can begin your journaling habit today. Click on the link below to make 2023 the year you invest in your personal growth and self-discovery. 

Begin Journaling Here


CLEAR, J. (n.d.). Atomic habits

Clear, J. (n.d.). The Habits Guide: How to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones.

Nair, S. (2022, October 19). “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. Blog.Journey.Cloud.

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