Journaling for Beginners: Start a Writing Habit for Daily Reflection | Hayden Aube | Skillshare

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Journaling for Beginners: Start a Writing Habit for Daily Reflection

teacher avatar Hayden Aube, Illustrator & Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (39m)
    • 1. A Simple Approach

    • 2. Getting Ready

    • 3. Day 1: Motivate

    • 4. Day 2: Unload

    • 5. Day 3: Energize

    • 6. Day 4: Examine

    • 7. Day 5: Iterate

    • 8. Day 6: Appreciate

    • 9. Day 7: Flow

    • 10. Day 8: Reframe

    • 11. Day 9: Create

    • 12. Day 10: Reflect

    • 13. Going Forward

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About This Class

Journaling has been scientifically proven to provide significant mental and physical health benefits and to improve your overall quality of life. Unfortunately it's not always clear where or how to begin. After 10 years of writing almost every day, I'm ready to share what I believe to be the easiest and most effective method.

In this class, you will be given everything you need to begin and maintain a journaling habit. All you need is 15 minutes a day for 10 days. In this class we will cover:

  • How to¬†benefit from journaling without it feeling like work
  • Letting go of getting things perfect
  • Tips for creating and maintaining a habit
  • 10 different questions to get you thinking about your life
  • How to create your own journaling prompts to spark introspection any time you need it
  • Much more!

Whether you've dabbled with journaling before, or this is your very first time, I promise there is something for you to get in this class. Enjoy!


Hundreds of additional writing prompts can be found on Prompt Monster.

Meet Your Teacher

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Hayden Aube

Illustrator & Designer


Hayden here and I am an illustrator, designer and most importantly to you, teacher!

I am constantly hunting for the actions that will have me producing my best work possible--I assure you it's no easy feat. That's why my primary goal in all of these classes isn't to give you just any information, but only the information that's going to make the biggest difference in your work. Think of it as optimizing your artistic development ;)

So if you're looking to level up your skills in design and illustration, consider checking out my classes. I've gone to great lengths to keep them short and to the point so you can get the information quickly and jump to creating.

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1. A Simple Approach: Hello, my name is Hayden Aube and I am a Graphic Designer and Illustrator. I've also been journaling almost every day for the past 10 years. As an artist, there's this special feeling when you finish a sketchbook. It's proof of your artistic growth. I've come to find that filling a journal provides something even more important, it's a feeling of watching yourself grow as a person. In fact, even though art is my career, there's many days where I don't draw but I always journal. It helps me navigate relationships, make important decisions be it in my career, or even just the managing of a difficult emotions like anxiety and depression. In fact, I can promise you that without journaling, I probably wouldn't be here today publishing my 14th class on Skillshare, I doubt I would have got my first one out. When I first started journaling, I was overwhelmed. What do I write about? How long do I write for? How do I know that I am going to the results, that I'm doing it correctly? I so wanted to get it perfect, that was hard to stick to it. It just felt like another task to do in the day and that's why I'm here today making this class. I don't want you to struggle like I did. In this class, we'll be focusing on a simple process of asking ourselves questions and then answering them. While there are many different techniques out there for journaling, and they all have merit, I believe the best place to start is learning to have a conversation with yourself. All you need to kick-start your journaling habit is 15 minutes a day for 10 days. Five minutes to watch a short video, and then 10 minutes to write about it. To keep that habit alive after you've completed this class, I've created a website with hundreds of writing prompts to spark future introspection day after day after day. While I would recommend journaling to everyone, clearly I'm bias. I would specifically recommend it to those who are looking to understand themselves better, to find more clarity or purpose in life, and to navigate any difficult changes. Whether you're new to journaling or you have a few pages on your belt, I look forward to embarking on this journey together and I will see you in the first video. 2. Getting Ready: Congratulations on taking your first step towards the journaling habit. I don't want to keep you too long from the first exercise, but there are a few things we should go over first. First, the materials. In this class, I am going to strongly urge you to physically write, whether that's in a notebook, a sketchbook, or on the back of a napkin, it does not matter. There just seems to be a certain magic with putting pen to paper that doesn't translate to the computer. If by the end of the class you decide that typing on your phone or typing on a computer would serve you the best, go right ahead, at least you tried it my way. Next, I want you to try to write at the same time and location every day. I understand that this isn't always possible, but aiming for this consistency is really important in building a habit. My advice is to anchor it to something that you already do every day. For example, instead of saying I am going to write at 11: 00 AM every day, choose to write after you eat breakfast or before you turn out the lights at night. This way you're piggybacking on existing habits instead of trying to disrupt a routine that already exists. For example, I write with my morning coffee. I've been doing this for quite a long time, so I just naturally drift to my desk each morning without thinking about it and start writing. It requires no effort at this point. Next, give yourself permission to do everything wrong. When I first started writing, I wanted to get everything right, and so if I rather that meant writing three pages exactly every day, I was going to write those three pages, even if I was bored by the end of the first. I would make sure that my writing was neat and tidy, my grammar was perfect, my spelling was on point. If anybody was going to find my journal long after I was gone, they needed to be impressed. All this did was create unnecessary pressure and turn something potentially fun into work. It's no surprise that I quit. Today I understand that the secret to a long-lasting and fruitful journaling practice is messiness. It's letting go of the tidy notebook and accepting that many days, most in fact, you probably won't get a crazy amount out of it. You may hope to discover a breakthrough in your love life and end up just talking about what you ate for breakfast. You'll miss days, you'll spill coffee on the pages, you'll spell everything wrong. If someone in the future just happens to discover your journal and they can decipher your chicken scratch, you'll just look crazy. But the journal will work for you. By letting go of getting it right, you become free to explore whatever comes up. Most days won't yield gold but once in a while, something will come up that will change your life, and all you need to do is keep showing up. That brings me to my final point. You never know what's going to come up in your writing. You being here tells me that on a certain level you want to do some digging. But I advise that you do not try to dig to the center of the earth in your first 10 days of writing. It's true that most breakthroughs require some discomfort. It's important not to avoid negative emotions altogether. But if you find that you're getting into something a bit too heavy, just stop. You can get there when you're ready. So whether you're prepared to jump into your first prompt right now, or you're going to wait for your designated time and place, I will see you in the next video. 3. Day 1: Motivate: Welcome to Day 1 and your first prompt. Now, it's my guess that at this point you are in one of three different camps. One, you know specifically what you would like to get on journaling. Number 2, you feel like there's something you can get but you don't quite know what it is. Three, you're maybe a little skeptical, you're not sure if journaling can actually provide something for you, but you're here trying it out. It took years of hearing other people praise journaling for me to even consider trying out myself. Then when I did, I wasn't totally blown away. It was interesting that's about it. It wasn't until I had my first major breakthrough with journaling, that my whole opinion changed. I went from being mildly curious to hear making a class wanting the whole world to do it. Whether you're excited, skeptical, maybe bored, maybe anxious wherever you are today, it works. Today we're setting the intention for the days to come. Whether or not you believe in the power of journaling yet, you chose to be here for some reason. We're going to start by exploring that. Take out your journal, whether that's a notebook, a scrap piece of paper, maybe you're being a rebel and using your phone, and write this at the top. What do you hope to get out of journaling? By beginning this journey with getting clear on the why for our journaling practice it helps keep us motivated on those days when we really aren't feeling up for it. For me, journaling brings a clarity that I don't get other places in my life. It's really good at cutting through the noise and getting to what's important. This is extremely valuable to me and because of that, even when I don't feel like writing, I do. With the prompt written at the top of your page set a timer for 10 minutes, and begin writing. This being our first day it's important to remember that nobody ever needs to see what you write. You are free to spell things wrong, to use incorrect grammar, you can swear as much as you want, there really are no rules. If at the end of the 10 minutes, you are still sitting in front of your journal you've won. If the timer goes off and you still feel like writing, go ahead I'm not going to tell on you. After you finish writing today, you may be tempted to jump to the next video. Don't do it. The goal of this class is not to get through the content as quick as you can it's about spending a little bit of time each and every day exploring your thoughts. Slow and steady wins this race. Tomorrow, we'll be doing one of my favorite distressing exercises. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day and I will see you then. 4. Day 2: Unload: Welcome to Day 2. Just a quick check-in before we begin. Have you chosen your time and place to write every day? Are you there now? It won't be possible every day, but if you were able to stick to your plan, give yourself a nice pat on the back because consistency is the bedrock of a long-lasting habit. Today is pretty straightforward. We're going to be getting out all those little thoughts that just bounce around our heads all day. At the top of your page, what is on your mind? Now there are two things I want you to consider for today's prompt. First, nothing is too small to include. If I were doing this, I would write down things like finish my journaling class or create a budget for the month or plan your next vacation. But I would also write down small things like I need to walk the dog today and I need to cook dinner and my friend sent me a video that I should probably watch. The rule of thumb here is if it takes up any space at all in your brain, write it down. Second, this is about acknowledging not solving. It's very easy for this exercise to feel like a to-do list, but it's not. All we're doing is bringing to light the things that are on your mind. You have no obligation to act on any of it. Think about when you have something you're struggling with and you bring it to a friend. What's the most helpful? When they tried to solve the problem for you or when they just listen? That's your job here, is you're not trying to solve everything, you're just trying to hear it. If however at the end of the exercise you feel empowered to take an action or two, go ahead, I'm not going to stop you. After your 10 minutes are up, it's likely that one of two things will happen. First, you may feel lighter because you just got everything out. But two, you might actually feel more stressed now that you have a fuller picture of what's going on in your life. In this exercise as well as in your future writing, aim to be okay with whatever comes up. Sure, it's nice to feel happy and peaceful all the time, but that doesn't really work because negative emotions just always arise, they come even if you don't want them. By accepting rather than fighting these emotions, we can learn a thing or two and have them not have so much power over us. Sure, being stressed doesn't feel good, but it could teach us that we need to change something. Tomorrow, we'll be looking at the things that give us energy and those that take it away. I'll see you then. 5. Day 3: Energize: Hello and welcome to Day 3. How would you like to be happier? Maybe that's something that you wrote that you wanted in the Day 1 prompt. While we may come up with interesting insights by choosing a prompt such as what will make you happy, it's actually an emotion that's quite difficult to quantify and surprisingly hard to chase. In fact, focusing too much on being happier can sometimes produce the reverse effect. That's why in today's prompt, we're going to be looking at a close cousin of happiness, which is what gives you energy. Investigating what grants us fuel, or wakes us up, or motivates us to do something can be an easier route to a happier life. By looking at the things that give us energy or take it away, we can fine-tune our life to include more one one and less of the other. But like yesterday, today comes with no obligations to actually change anything. If you discover that something takes energy from you and your life, that doesn't mean you need to eliminate it. Some things are worth spending energy on. Today's prompt is just about learning what makes you tick. If you decide that you want to do something about it in the future, you can. Our prompt is what gives you energy, and what takes it away? If you really want to get a full picture, try also asking who? When asking myself this question, I'm often surprised with how simple the answers are. The things that I think would give me the most energy are usually big things like vacations, lending big freelance jobs, or finishing complicated projects. But where I get most of my fill from our smaller things, it's solving crosswords in the morning, or talking to a friend on the phone, or just going for a walk around the block. In fact, many of those big things that I think give me the most energy are what take it away. I hope today provides you with some interesting insights. Tomorrow, we'll be focusing on ourselves. See you. 6. Day 4: Examine: It's Day 4 and I hope you are ready to write. As promised, today, the focus will be on ourselves. The prompt is, who are you at your best? You may have noticed that we don't always act the same in every situation. A lot of the time we act differently in the same situation. One day, we're brimming with energy and confidence, the next, we're tired and full of doubt. One day we're generous and kind to everybody we encounter, and the next we're just straight up grump. Maybe it has to do with what we're doing at the time or the people we're surrounded with. But no matter how you slice it, we're not very consistent. For today's prompt, think about the times when you're most proud of yourself, when your best self shines through, who are you being? What are you doing? What are the conditions in which this best self emerges? Personally, I find the Hayden that I'm the most proud of or that I like the best is the one that gets so engaged in the things that he's doing that he completely just loses track of time. This will show up in talking to friends for hours on end or going on a long walk in nature, or even just imploring more time into a project than is actually necessary because I'm just enjoying it so much. I find that when I'm truly following my curiosity, everything just takes care of itself. See this as an opportunity to view yourself, not as a fixed object, but as someone who is ever-changing and who could actually inspire you. In tomorrow's exercise, we'll be taking a closer look at our day-to-day experience. See you then. 7. Day 5: Iterate: Welcome to Day 5. Hopefully by now you're finding it a bit easier to fit journaling into your day-to-day life but if you're not, don't sweat it because it takes more than four days to build at it. While it's tempting to go into a journaling exercise expecting a big immediate life discovery, the reality is that improvement through this exercise is a much more slow paced game. This is why we're focused on brief periods of writing every day rather than one long essay. One way to start netting the small wins that come from journaling is to look at little things you can change in your daily life. That's our prompt for today. What lesson from yesterday can you apply to today? Or if you're reading later in the day, what lesson from today can you apply to it tomorrow? As has been the theme throughout this whole class, do not feel any pressure to make big sudden changes. For one, all that significance and work can be a real habit killer especially so early in the game. But also small gradual steps are more effective than giant leaps when you're trying to create change that lasts. Don't let the disruption culture of today convince you that you should try and reinvent yourself overnight. That being said, I do want you to try and make one small change from this exercise. The smaller, the better. Mentally go through the previous day and look for something that you could have done differently. This isn't about optimizing or getting it perfect. It's about looking at what does and doesn't work and deciding what's deserving of the effort to change. I should underscore that, not everything is worth the effort to change. Personally, I'm trying to gain weight, not a lot but I do have a specific amount of calories that I'm supposed to get in a day. When I review the past day, I can see there were several instances where I opened the fridge with the intention to eat but couldn't find anything that I wanted or nothing was prepared. I just closed it and decided I'll figure it out later. For anyone who's tried to gain weight before, you'll understand that you need to seize every moment you can to eat. The small improvement that I'm going to make today is just to spend 30 minutes cooking a bunch of chicken. That way over the next few days when I open the fridge looking for food, I have some ready. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a step in the right direction. Although we'll be tackling a different topic tomorrow, this exercise from today actually works best when it's done several days in a row. This is because when you discover something you want to work on, the first solution you come up with often isn't the best. There's a good chance that a few days from now, I'm going to be sick of eating chicken. But by working on the same thing, day after day, we find better solutions, better actions to take. I hope you enjoy your journaling and the rest of your day, tomorrow we give thanks. See you then. 8. Day 6: Appreciate: It's Day 6, and we are halfway, maybe a little bit past half. Today's prompt is actually quite simple. It's what are you grateful for? Just as with the previous prompts, set your timer, and keep writing until the 10 minutes is up. You may have discovered on Day 2 that listing all the things that you were thinking about make you feel a bit better even if you didn't do anything about them. In a similar way, by acknowledging what we're grateful for, things that we already have, we can improve the quality of our life without changing anything. It's a simple idea, but focusing on what we do have rather than what we don't, really works. In your writing you may decide to list as many things as possible, or you may decide to pick a few things, and just expand on them just to keep writing about those ones. It's important to remember that once again, there is no doing it wrong here. While I'm grateful for my family and my career, I also make sure that I focus on some of those small things like the interesting insect I saw on my walk or a really cool song, or even just a game that I'm currently playing. Have some fun with it. If you haven't done something like this before, it may feel weird, that's normal so just stick with it. Tomorrow we will be focusing on letting it all go. Take care. 9. Day 7: Flow: Good morning, afternoon, or evening, and welcome to Day 7. Today might be a little weird for some of you. It certainly was for me the first time, but the results can be both interesting and actually pretty fun. If you still have any concerns about doing journaling right, today is your opportunity to get it all wrong because, for the prompt, there actually isn't one. You just start writing. That's right. Start your timer and just write down anything and everything that comes to your head. Don't stop. If you know you need to get groceries later, maybe you'll start writing down the things you need to pick up. If something interesting happened to you earlier, maybe you'll explore that. If you feel like your mind is completely empty, write what its like to have an empty mind. The important thing about this exercise is not to filter. Whatever comes into your mind, write it down. Every "um", every "I don't know what to write", every "Wow, this is done." Just write it down. The goal is to leave no spaces for you to even judge what you're writing, you just keep going. This is an exercise about letting go and giving your mind permission to just wander. To go where it wants. Something cool might come up, but most likely it won't. This isn't about discovering some top-secret subconscious insight. It's about letting go of control and seeing what happens. If at the end of the 10 minutes you decide this exercise was a complete waste of time, that's fine. You never have to do it again but my guess is that you've found the experience at least a little interesting and that's it for today. Tomorrow we'll be experimenting with looking at things from a new perspective. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day and I'll see you then. 10. Day 8: Reframe: Hello, and welcome to Day 8. I want you to think of a challenge you're currently facing. It could be in a relationship, it could be a personal goal you're trying to meet, maybe you're just having a hard time at work or at school. Whatever it is, make sure that it's something that is at least proving a bit difficult to you. Today, we'll be attempting to re-frame this challenge so it's easier to deal with. The prompt is, what would this look like if it were easy? Your first reaction might be, well, it's not easy. That's what makes it a challenge, and that's totally valid. But for the purpose of this writing exercise, I want you to act as if it were easy. Sometimes when we've been dealing with something for awhile, it's hard to see it in a new way. Once we've decided this is hard, we can only interact with it as if it were a hard thing. One benefit of journaling is that we can actually try on new perspectives without actually having to commit to any of them. Today as an experiment, let's see what happens if we try on something new. Perhaps you won't find a new solution. You may just discover that, yes, this is actually a very challenging problem. But if you really take on that, this is easy for the next 10 minutes, you may discover something that you haven't before. For example, I've tried several times to learn the guitar. I've done this by speaking to musicians, researching the best practice methods, and creating whole schedules around drills and all the best things to get good. I've also quit several time, and so because of this, my experience is that, the guitar is hard to learn. Recently I asked myself, what would it look like if learning the guitar were easy? Well, it would be easier if I didn't have to practice all those drills that people keep telling me to do or follow a strict schedule of this many minutes per day that makes it just feel more like work than anything. In fact, it would probably be easiest if I just looked up the songs I wanted to play and tried playing them, that actually could be fun. Because of this question, I've decided to take on this new, easier approach to learn a guitar. I may not progress very fast. I may develop bad habits, but so far I'm having a lot more fun and because of that, I'm actually playing more often. It's true that these drills and techniques that people told me to learn are important, but I'm a beginner, so I should just focus on having a good time and one day I will probably be motivated to work on those and to fix any bad habits that I get. Once again, you do not need to take action from this exercise. If like me, the new perspective provides you with something that seems worth trying, then yeah, go ahead. But you don't need to. For tomorrow's prompt, I'm putting the power in your hands. See you then. 11. Day 9: Create: It's day nine. We're almost there. This whole time we've been using prompts or questions as jumping off points to begin our journaling. For me, this is what has helped keep me engaged the longest over time. It's these asking questions and then answering them. This is because when I first started writing, I just spent a lot of time looking at a blank page. I didn't know what I was supposed to write about. It's once I discovered the power of questions that I really found my rhythm. So far, you've been using prompts provided by me. This is a great way to get started or to mix up an already existing practice. But, there is real power in being able to create your own prompts; to be able to look at what's going on in your life right now and ask a question about it. That's what we're doing today. Create your own prompt. I can't say this enough. There are no right or wrong ways to go about this. You don't need to come up with some deep, hard-hitting philosophical question to explore. You can ask yourself, "what's going on?" and just see where that goes. In fact, one of my favorite questions is, what's your favorite smell? It's simple, it's open-ended, and it's fun. This being said, I do have a few tips for creating your own prompts. First, think about something going on in your life right now. If I were having a stressful day, I may ask, Why are you stressed? Or, is it worth being stressed about this thing? I may even ask if there is something small I could do to reduce the amount of things on my plate right now. Second, it helps to pretend somebody else is asking the question. This is really about having a conversation with ourselves. By thinking about something that you would like to ask yourself or something that you would like someone else to ask you, you can come up with an interesting question to have a conversation about. Third, reuse prompts that you like or feel free to change them a little bit. If there's something from earlier in this class that you really liked that you think is relevant today, it's okay if you didn't write those words. The whole goal here is to get you taking control of your journaling practice and deciding, "This is what I should focus on today." As with anything, coming up with good questions takes practice. If you need inspiration, I've created a website called prompt monster. I created it specifically for this class. It provides you with just a random prompt to start your writing. The more you write this way, the more you will start to find great questions everywhere you look. It's always a good idea that when you find one, to write it down for later. Tomorrow is our last day; it's day ten. For the final prompt, we're going to be reflecting on pretty much all of this; of the whole journey. I hope you've enjoyed today. I will see you then. 12. Day 10: Reflect: Here we are. It's the final day. Are you ready? Here is the prompt. What did you get out of this class? Just as it makes a difference for us to start our journey by acknowledging what we want, it's important to look back and see what did we get? Maybe you will learn something new about yourself or found a solution to an old problem. Maybe you just feel good. Even if the most notable thing you've got over the past ten days is a headache, write it down. Be sure to also look at what you wrote in day 1 and see if you got any of that. For this final prompt, I have a request. Call it extra credit. Share your writing in the class project. Now, I know journaling is a personal thing. As soon as you think somebody else might see it, you have to worry about grammar, spelling, looking good, it just ruins the whole process. But I asked this for two reasons. First, sharing what you've gotten in this class may inspire other people to try it. Some people see journaling just as something that other people do and maybe isn't relevant for them. But by seeing different experiences, they could be motivated to try it. Second, it helps me plan new material. Journaling is something I've wanted to do a class about for a few years now, and I've been uncertain about it. I'm still a little uncertain. Knowing what you did or didn't get can help me decide on what to make next. If you're not comfortable sharing what you've written, that's okay too. This is your journal and you never have to share it with anybody else. When you're ready, I will see you in the last video for a final conversation about your practice going forward. 13. Going Forward: If you're watching this video, that means you have completed all 10 days of this class. Well done. While 10 minutes a day of writing may not seem like a lot, the progress that you've made these past 10 days is actually quite significant. By setting aside the time each day, you've not only gone through the hardest part of starting a habit, which is the beginning, but you've also poured a considerable amount of time and energy into working on yourself. That's something that not a lot of people do. Before sending you off to continue your journey on your own, there are a few things I want to leave you with. First, and I've said this many times, there are no wrong ways to journal. What I shared with you in this class is just scratching the surface of the different ways you could use a journal. My advice, experiment. Look up different prompts, try new methods of writing and experiment with some of your own ideas. Journaling isn't a one-size-fits-all practice. You get to really make it your own. Next, don't get upset when you miss a day or a week or a month. Trying to write in most days is a better goal than trying to write every day. Life happens, priorities change, just make sure you cut yourself some slack for the longevity of your journaling practice. Besides, now that you know how to do it, this is a tool that will be with you forever. Most journalers I know, don't write every single day. A lot of them just write when they feel like they need it, and that's a perfectly great way to use it. If you haven't nailed down a consistent time and place yet, keep working on it. It's what makes the difference between just trying to fit journaling into your life and naturally just doing it because it's that time of the day. Lastly, I want to remind you of Prompt Monster. If you are ever stuck on what to write, you can just hop onto the website and there are literally hundreds of prompts to get you to start writing. As always, thank you for taking the class. Being able to share the things that I love through Skillshare, first art and design and now journaling, is a real gift and it would not be possible without you, the student. If you have any questions about this class or suggestions for future ones, you can leave that in the discussion section, I check it regularly. If you want to help this class reach more eyes, leaving a positive review goes a long way. I hope the time you've spent here has been worth it and with your new-found journaling skills, you are able to achieve great things. Happy writing.