Your Guide To Starting A Wellness Journal

TikTokers are onto something.

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Wellness journals are all over TikTok — here's how to start one for yourself.

TikTok feeds are positively teeming with folks working on wellness journals. If you’ve seen it while scrolling through the app, you’ve got to admit the trend looks appealing: It seems nice to sit down and write about your mood, make gratitude lists, and maybe track your water intake and exercise. But how exactly do you get started?

When you check out the hashtags #wellnesstips or #wellnessjournals on TikTok — which boast 2 billion and over 200,000 views, respectively — you’ll learn that the most important thing to keep in mind when starting a wellness journal is that it’s all about you. Whether you want to use tracking tools, free-write, or do a combo of both, licensed clinical social worker Elena Welsh, Ph.D. says your journal should be personal to your goals as they relate to your overall well-being.

While you can look to others for inspo, think about what you’d like to work on right now in order to feel better mentally and physically. Don’t drink enough water? Want to go for more walks, improve your mood, or sleep better? Put it in your wellness journal. According to Welsh, taking the time to track the small changes you want to make is a great way to stay motivated.

Licensed clinical psychologist Jackie Darby, PsyD, CGP believes wellness journals are so popular right now because they really do help you see incremental changes as they happen. “They provide a visual layout for individuals to get a well-rounded view of their health,” she tells Bustle. “And they help you to stay accountable.” If you’re down to try it, read on below for ways to start a wellness journal and make it your own.

1. Choose A Journal You Like

You don’t have to buy a journal that’s specifically set up for “wellness journaling” unless you want to. Simply find a notebook that feels nice to use and that you’re excited to open every day, and you’ll be off to a good start.

It might come pre-organized with charts and to-do lists, have lots of blank space for script-y fonts and doodles, or be a plain spiral-bound notebook with crisp paper that works well with your favorite pen. Or it could even be digital if that’s more your thing.

“You should be looking for the one that will be easiest for you to pick up, continue on with, and that aligns with your goals,” says fitness trainer Erin Mahoney. If you want to chart your fitness progress, for instance, a journal with graph paper might be handy to keep track of your workouts.

2. Forget About Being Perfect

While there are lots of gorgeously organized bullet and wellness journals out there, shake off the idea that yours has to be pretty. This TikTok from user @insidethenout reminds others that wellness journaling doesn’t have to be Instagram-worthy, especially since the added pressure might put you off getting started. Instead of curating yours for a mystery viewer, go in knowing these are private notes for your eyes only.

Dr. Christopher Taylor, a therapist with Taylor Counseling Group, adds to this. “A wellness journal provides you with an outlet where you don’t have to worry about being judged or ridiculed for anything you have going on in your mind,” he tells Bustle. “Putting your thoughts onto paper and out of your head will help you to know the best version of yourself.”

This should give you the freedom to scribble, draw, and cross things out. It should also give you the ability to jot down thoughts and goals that are uniquely yours — even the ones that are embarrassing. No one has to see this journal, so have at it.

3. Decide What You Want To Track

Now that you have a journal handy, it’s time to decide what you’d like to put in it (read: figure out your wellness goals). Do you want to track your hydration levels, your mood, or how many steps you take per day? Is there a goal you want to work towards, or are you looking to set intentions?

It might not feel like much to track how many glasses of water you drink or how many hours you sleep, but it’s the small things you do every day that add up. “Research has shown that being consistent with daily goals yields greater success,” Mahoney says. So think about what you need in order to feel good mentally and physically, and take baby steps in that direction.

4. Set Up Charts & Graphs

If you appreciate visuals, try setting up a few charts or graphs so that it’s easier to see your progress. Welsh suggests tracking one new wellness behavior a month, like recording how you feel every day on a scale of one to 10. Rate how you feel on a regular basis, and you’ll end up with valuable info showing what affects your mood.

Once you’ve gathered enough data, you’ll be able to start making changes. “Thumb through your journal to discern any noticeable patterns,” says mindfulness teacher Barbi Schulick. You might notice that you have insomnia on the days you don’t go for a long walk, or that you’re in a particularly great mood on the days you wake up earlier. Whatever it may be, adjust your habits accordingly.

5. Jot Down What You’re Grateful For

If you still aren’t sure where to start, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Melanie McNally recommends writing down three to five things you’re grateful for every day. Research has shown that appreciating the good stuff, no matter how small, is directly connected to a greater sense of overall well-being. “You can spend five minutes a night adding things from your day to the pages,” McNally says. “It doesn't have to be overly complicated to be helpful.”

6. Adjust As You Go

If you start your wellness journal with one idea, like tracking your exercise routine, it’s totally OK to scrap it and pivot the focus to something else. As psychotherapist Nicoletta Heidegger, LMFT says, there is no one-size-fits-all model for health and wellness. “Everyone works differently, thinks differently, and learns differently,” she tells Bustle. “It is important to find, respect, and use what works for you while being curious about what doesn't work and why.”

7. Make It A Habit

One of the nice things about wellness journaling is that it can add structure to your day. Sit down with your journal in the morning as you sip coffee or crack it open before bed while you listen to a podcast, and enjoy how it feels to start or end your day on a good note.

According to Heidegger, it may help to look at journaling as an ongoing relationship with yourself — one where you show up and pay special attention to your own needs, desires, and goals. “We often have agendas and calendars for work,” she says. “So why not have an agreed-upon space just for you?” And that’s really what wellness journaling is all about.

Studies referenced:

Bailey R. R. (2017). Goal Setting and Action Planning for Health Behavior Change. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 13(6), 615–618. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827617729634.

Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 7(11), 18–22.


Elena Welsh, Ph.D., licensed social worker, clinical trauma professional

Jackie Darby, PsyD, CGP, licensed clinical psychologist, certified group psychotherapist

Dr. Christopher Taylor, therapist

Barbi Schulick, mindfulness teacher

Dr. Melanie McNally, licensed clinical psychologist

Nicoletta Heidegger, LMFT, psychotherapist, sexologist

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