“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” —William Wordsworth

There is so much research about the benefits of journaling: it relieves stress, sparks creativity, improves confidence, helps with conflict resolution, improves writing skills, boosts memory, increases emotional intelligence, helps achieve goals, evokes mindfulness, improves health, and makes you smarter.

But sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and expecting to pour oneself through the pen can be a bit daunting for even the most inspired writer.

To help you get through that first step of putting pen to paper, I’ve made a list of five things you can journal about and why.

1. Write about goals and progress on goals

Life hack 101: You’re way more likely to achieve your goals if you simply write them down. The process of writing your goals signals to your brain that they are important, and then your brain organizes and prioritizes based on that information.

By journaling about your goals, you’re not only able to clarify what you’re really going for, you’re also able to expand upon it and push yourself to dream even bigger. Write about all of the details of how it will feel to achieve the goal, what it will look like, and the effect it will have on you and your loved ones.

As you continue to write about your progress, you’ll notice that you are evolving and expanding. This propels you toward your goal even more because you start to see the momentum that’s building and you ride that wave to completion.

2. Explore and resolve challenging experiences and emotions

We all face difficulties in our lives and relationships, and it’s what we do during these times that make the biggest difference in our overall happiness. Journaling is a great way to relieve the pressure of these situations and put things into context so we can process and release.

Writing your experiences and accompanying emotions on paper makes them knowable, and therefore more manageable.

Start by just getting it all out – even if it’s illegible and nonsensical. Don’t censor or edit yourself, just be in the ick and let it all out.

Once you’ve moved through the surface feelings and emotions, dive into the deeper layers of what’s really going on for you.  Try seeing things objectively and write down your observations about your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Forgive yourself (and anyone else involved) for the confusion, hurt, and struggle.

See if you can find a lesson or opportunity in the situation, and journal about what that growth looks like for you.

Lastly, answer this question: How would I move forward in this situation from my deepest values and highest self?

3. Self reflection

Use your journal to tap into what you’re experiencing. Where are you at? How are you feeling? What’s going on for you?

Getting your musings, ideas, and feelings onto paper helps you to understand and integrate them so you can move forward with more grace and joy.

Imagine that you’re talking with a really good friend who won’t judge you for any of your thoughts or feelings, and just write. If you get stuck, it might be helpful to go through some of the major categories of your life and reflect upon how you’re feeling about them: friendships, livelihood, impact, health, romance, creativity, community, play, and spiritual health.

Don’t be afraid to go deep. Ask yourself the questions you’re afraid to ask. Get to know yourself.

4. Develop your intuition

Journaling is like speaking to yourself and listening at the same time.

If you have any concerns or questions, write them down and ask your subconscious to come on board while you’re meditating or sleeping to bring you answers beyond your normal awareness.

When you’re done meditating or when you awaken, immediately write for ten minutes about any breakthroughs or revelations.

You might be surprised what creativity and inspiration come to you!

5. Reflect on the positive things in your life

Journaling about a positive experience let’s your mind relive it, which boosts confidence in your ability to create happiness.

Start by just making a list of five things that you’re grateful for today. As you do this, you’ll become aware of the awesomeness that is already present in your life. Practice being as present as possible with these pieces of joy in life.

Writing about the good things changes your orientation from scarcity and stress to abundance and peace, simply by shifting your focus.

Journaling is a super valuable practice in any amount, but making it a ritual that you practice every day creates profound change. If you’re feeling stuck around what to write about – try one of these five things. If none of them are calling you, just set a timer for five minutes, put your pen to paper, and write without stopping. Yes, some of what comes out will be craziness, and that’s okay! The point isn’t to write for the entertainment of others, it’s to provide an outlet for you to express, release, and reflect.