Embarking on a journey of self-reflection through journaling is daunting. It asks you to put away all distractions (yes, even social media and technology!) to sit with yourself and ask the tough questions. That's why making sure you select the best journal to help you achieve the goals you have in mind–the ones that brought you to journaling in the first place–is a critical first step.
"I find the more often I do it, the more I actually crave doing it by the end of the day! I get excited to let out my thoughts," exclaims Roxie Nafousi, Self Development Coach and author of Manifest: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life.
We researched and vetted endless journals considering format, page length, and overall impact on the user.
BestSelf Co. Self Journal
Straightforward layout and navigation
Plenty of writing space
Some sections can be repetitive
The Self Journal by BestSelf is our top pick for self-reflective journals for a reason. This undated and budget-friendly 13-week journal will guide you through pages of daily planning, weekly intentions, habits to work on, and much more. Given its easy navigation, straightforward layout, and ample space for reflection outside the guided prompts, this journal is a staple for anyone needing to realign with themselves.
Features like a hardcover, elasticated closure, and heavyweight pages keep this journal feeling elevated and chic, not dated and childlike. The brand even ensured that the pages within increased productivity, utilizing science to ensure goal setting and cultivation of happiness were metrics that would improve by the end of the 13 weeks.
Some reviewers note that certain aspects of this self journal are a bit repetitive. For example, each day features gratitude sections twice. Overall, though, the quality materials, easy-to-use layout, and ample space for journaling make this a standout pick.
Price at time of publish: $32
Dimensions: 5.75 x 8.5 inches | Format: Prompt | Page Count: Not specified | Weight: 1.52 pounds
Best for Manifestation
Manifest: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life
Includes real-life examples
Less space for journaling
More reading-based than written activities
Our expert source, Roxie Nafousi, is a self-development coach who knows a thing or two about manifesting the life you want. Her own journal, Manifest: 7 Steps to Living Your Best Life, is equal parts spiritual journey and introspective as journalers learn her seven steps to leading a bountiful life in an interactive and easy-to-digest format. The guide blends philosophical practices with intentional prompts to help you understand what may be holding you back in your life and what you can cultivate more of to become your most authentic self.
Filled with writing exercises as well as real-life examples, it’s easy to take this journal’s guidance and apply it within your own life. The listed steps are simple to follow, and the advice is widely applicable. However, it doesn’t offer as much room for writing on your own as other options on our list.
Price at time of publish: $15
Dimensions: 5.55 x 0.85 x 8.05 inches | Format: Prompt | Page Count: 192 | Weight: 0.93 pounds
Best with Prompts
A Year of Zen: A 52-Week Guided Journal
Full year of prompts
Ample writing space
More suited for advanced journalers
Prompts are seasonal
A Year of Zen is one of the few high-quality guided journals on the market that encompasses a whole year's worth of self-discovery. Zen priest and teacher Bonnie Myotai Treace, sensei, takes you through pages of seasonal and emotionally-introspective prompts that help you explore–not judge–your consciousness. Filled with open-ended prompts, this journal will lead to thoughtful consideration and offers up plenty of room to write in responses.
While this option does feel more advanced for someone just starting in the world of journaling, a seasoned journaler will find this both enlightening and gratifying once completed. It’s worth noting that while you can technically dive into this year-long journal at any time, the prompts are seasonal, which means you may find that the week in which you start doesn’t exactly match up to the time of year if you go off-calendar.
Price at time of publish: $12
Dimensions: 6.25 x 0.75 x 9.25 inches | Format: Prompt | Page Count: 176 | Weight: 1.05 pounds
Appointed Co. The Notebook
Forest Sustainable Council (FSC) certified
Multiple color choices
Variety of page formats
The highly coveted and industry-loved products from Appointed Co. leave nothing to be desired, and The Notebook is no exception. It’s spiral bound, made in America, and built not only to last, but also with the environment in mind. This notebook-style journal utilizes water-resistant book cloth for the cover, keeping everything inside dry just in case you encounter water or other liquids. It’s also environmentally-friendly, thanks to the use of FSC-certified paper.
You can customize The Notebook, too. There are eight color choices, varying page formats (lined, grid, and dotted), and optional cover monogramming. These details make this the unguided journal to beat. However, because it’s unguided, there are no prompts inside–and the cost of this notebook runs on the expensive end.
Price at time of publish: $34
Dimensions: 7.5 × 9.5 inches | Format: Lined, grid, blank | Page Count: 75 | Weight: 0.95 pounds
FORM Daily Check In Journal
Goal and intention setting guidance
Step-by-step and easy to follow
May be too structured for some
The FORM Daily Check In Journal is nothing like the guided notebooks you've experienced previously. As this journal takes you through 200 pages of self-reflective prompts, you'll find yourself more grounded and aligned with the goals and intentions you set each morning. Along with thought-provoking and intention-building prompts, creator Sami Clarke offers you space to express any pent-up emotions or moments of gratitude. It's easy to navigate and offers a chic, minimalistic design that makes the journaling process feel genuine, not like a chore.
This journal encourages plenty of self-reflection, but it is a bit stricter in its questions and guidance. Journalers who prefer a bit more of a free-flowing reflection style may find there’s little space to deviate from the step-by-step process.
Price at time of publish: $32
Dimensions: 7 x 9 inches | Format: Prompt | Page Count: 200 | Weight: 1 pound
Leatherology Snap Journal with Pen Loop
Full-grain leather cover
Unguided and prompt-free
Leather is a material that can serve two purposes, aesthetics and protectiveness. One mainstay in the leather journal market is the Snap Journal with Pen Loop from Leatherology. The brand offers nine shades of this classically styled notebook and features 128 pages of acid-free paper (and it’s refillable, so you can add pages once they’re all used up). As an unguided journal, you won’t find any prompts, questions, or steps in its pages; it’s more like a lined notebook for freeform journaling and reflection.
The biggest drawback of this journal is its price tag. The genuine leather cover makes it far pricier than most, even though it’s relatively small in size. However, while it is higher in price, this journal was built to last and handle whatever life throws at it (and you).
Price at time of publish: $80
Dimensions: 8.25 x 6 inches | Format: Lined | Page Count: 128 | Weight: 8.6 ounces
PAPERAGE Blank Journal Notebook
Wide range of colors
Includes cover pockets
May not be ideal for beginners
If empty pages are your style, the PAPERAGE Blank Journal Notebook is everything you need. It includes 160 blank sheets ready to take on the most creative and thoughtful musings–or even designs. This journal also features a flat-lay design to make journaling a breeze and ensure consistency in material. The addition of pockets on the inner covers for any notes or cards you care to tuck away offers more convenience. Simple, yet to the point is the ideal way to describe this journal option.
Without any prompts, this notebook-style journal is best for more experienced individuals who like the freedom to let thoughts flow freely. The wide range of vibrant color choices offer something for every taste, and the slim profile makes this a journal you can take anywhere.
Price at time of publish: $12
Dimensions: 7.95 x 5.67 x 0.7 inches | Format: Unlined | Page Count: 160 | Weight: 12 ounces
Best for Art
Dingbats Wildlife Plain Medium Notebook
Acid-free, ink-proof paper
Made from recyclable materials
Doesn’t lay completely flat
Paper has slight waxy texture
Journaling has no strict rules, so if you find yourself gravitating toward art in the process, that's wonderful. Just make sure you have a notebook like the Plain Medium Notebook from Dingbats Wildlife to support your creative endeavors. Format options like dotted, lined, plain, and square mean this journal offers universal appeal. Of course, the 192 pages of acid-free paper support pens, markers, and fountain ink, making page bleedthrough minimal to non-existent. As a personal touch, each of the 14 color variations has an animal on the cover, so make sure you select the shade and creature that's expressive to you.
Just note that this hardcover journal doesn’t lay completely flat, which can make it a little tricky for those who prefer a totally even writing or drawing surface. The paper has a slightly waxy feel, which may affect how some pens or pencils react on its surface.
Price at time of publish: $22
Dimensions: 8.46 x 6.3 x 0.79 inches | Format: Dotted | Page Count: 192 | Weight: 1.01 pounds
Papier Monogram Leather Notebook
Upcycled leather cover
Multiple monogram placement options
For anyone who is looking to elevate their journaling experience, the Monogrammed Leather Notebook from Papier is a cut above the rest. With options to personalize the bottom right corner or center of the hardcover leather casing with a monogram stamped in hot-pressed foil, this journal can sit beautifully on any vanity, dresser, or side table. There are 96 pages of 90 GSM lined paper nestled inside, just waiting to be written on.
However, this self-reflection ready journal does come with a high price, thanks to its supple leather cover. Although it is higher in price, the details–like the use of recycled leather and pages sourced from sustainable, FSC-certified forests–make it a personalized and eco-minded choice.
Price at time of publish: $55
Dimensions: 5.5 x 7.75 inches | Format: Lined | Page Count: 96 | Weight: Not listed
Animusphere Pocket Notebook
Small and nicely portable
Built-in pen holder
Includes two notebooks
Not very spacious
Unguided and prompt-free
Nothing is worse than having a one-off thought or idea in the middle of your day, with nowhere to write it down. That's when the Animusphere Pocket Notebook comes in handy. Compact in size, this dual set of journals includes 200 pages of cream-lined sheets of paper held within a leather hardcover. The functional pen holder on the side means you won't have to scramble to look for a writing tool. The size is slightly bigger than an iPhone, so you can rest easy knowing it won't monopolize too much space inside a desk drawer, bag, or pocket.
However, this petite notebook doesn’t include some of the extras that beginners may want in a self-reflection journal. Without prompts, guided introspection, or insight, it’s really best for those who prefer brief, jotted-down notes rather than longer-form journaling.
Price at time of publish: $6
Dimensions: 4 x 5.7 inches | Format: Lined | Page Count: 200 | Weight: 9.9 ounces
Moleskine Classic Notebook
Versatile paper options
Wide range of color choices
Durable hardcover exterior
Somewhat thin paper
Nothing beats the classics, and whether you're a novice or a pro journal user, the Moleskin Classic Notebook is one you've likely encountered before. This staple notebook includes 240 ruled and lined pages open for anything from brain bumps to goal setting to expressive poetry and everything in between. There are 19 different shades of this hardcover, elasticated closure notebook to choose from, so when it comes to getting a replacement, you'll only have trouble deciding which you want next.
Some journaling enthusiasts note that the 70 GSM paper thickness is a little thin for their liking. Depending on how you’re using this notebook, you may find it to be lighter and thinner than anticipated–but its longevity and flexibility allow for all the versatility you could want.
Price at time of publish: $23
Dimensions: 5 x 8.25 inches | Format: Lined, plain, dotted, double, square | Page Count: Not listed | Weight: 12.3 ounces
Best for Anxiety
The Anti-Anxiety Notebook
Useful, evidence-backed tips and tools
Helps identify behavioral patterns
Self-guided and paced
For specific journaling needs
Finding ways to cope with anxiety isn’t an easy task to take on. Finding the right routines and practices requires ample trial and error and might not always work to soothe and regulate the nervous system. If writing is your escape, the aptly named Anti-Anxiety Notebook from Therapy Notebooks offers over 100 guided journal entries powered by the psychological method of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). As you progress through the notebook, you'll be able to understand your triggers and guide yourself, in real-time, to a more tranquil state.
User reviews tout the benefits of putting this journal’s self-reflections, tips, and behavioral tricks into practice. However, if you’re not facing anxiety, this journal may not be as helpful for your needs.
Price at time of publish: $38
Dimensions: 8 x 5 inches | Format: Guided | Page Count: 270 | Weight: Not listed
Best for Beginners
Intelligent Change Inc. The Five Minute Journal
Short prompts for daily journaling
Only covers six months
The Five Minute Journal has gone viral time and time again, and for good reason. It’s a beginner-friendly pick for anyone who's interested in self-reflection, and the pages are simple to follow. Inside, you'll find a wealth of self-reflective prompts that take no more than–you guessed it–five minutes to complete. With enough pages to last six months, you'll find yourself in a completely different mental state when it's time for a replacement.
From quotes to challenges to questions, this quick daily journal covers every kind of reflection. The only real complaint is that most users wish it lasted longer than six months total! Fortunately, you can always grab a second one to finish out the year.
Price at time of publish: $29
Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches | Format: Guided | Page Count: Not listed | Weight: 10.9 ounces
Leuchtturm1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook
Idea for bullet journaling
Varied color and page choices
Not fully bleed-proof
Every bullet journaler knows just how important the page format of a notebook can be. That's why one of the trusted brands in the journal industry, LEUCHTTURM1917, created the Medium Dotted Hardcover Notebook. With just over 250 numbered pages, this acid-free paper can support the inks found in fountain pens and detailing markers alike. Plus, the hardcover and elastic closer ensure all your creations are tucked away from harm if you're on the go.
While this journaling-ready notebook is meant to work with a variety of pens, markers, and ink types, it isn’t 100 percent guaranteed to prevent those inks from bleeding through. Due to the thinner paper, it can happen, depending on your utensil of choice.
Price at time of publish: $23
Dimensions: 5.75 x 8.25 inches | Format: Dotted | Page Count: 251 | Weight: 14.9 ounces
Beechmore British A5 Journal
Vegan “leather” hardcover
120 GSM paper thickness
Some inks can bleed through
Beechmore Books offers the British A5 Journal, a vegan leather journal that’s ideal for anyone seeking an option built for longevity. The cream-lined pages are exactly what every free writer needs to relay their thoughts, manifest goals, and reflect on moments of gratitude. With six possible color options and a standard fabric page marker, this journal won't break the bank or harm any animals in the process.
However, you may want to test out your go-to journaling tool before putting pen (or marker) to paper. Although this journal includes thicker 120 GSM weight pages in between its covers, user reviews mention that certain inks can bleed through the pages, so it’s best to do a spot test first.
Price at time of publish: $20
Dimensions: 9.06 x 6.3 x 0.98 inches | Format: Lined | Page Count: 160 | Weight: 1.19 pounds
Oprah's The Life You Want™ Planner
Dates can be customized
Personal tips and guidance from Oprah
Suitable for all-year use
May include too many extras for some
We all live for Oprah's yearly list of favorite things, so it’s no surprise that her The Life You Want Planner makes our favorite journal list. This hardcover linen wellness staple contains 288 pages of guided prompts, quotes, and tips from Oprah herself. Thanks to an updated layout, this journal can be started and stopped whenever you wish. That means your journey to self-discovery can begin and end on your timeline.
Some reviewers do note that this self-reflection journal may contain a bit too much in the way of extras. In addition to reflections, quotes, and prompts to guide your daily journaling habits, this planner also features photos and tips, some of which may not be fully necessary for everyone.
Price at time of publish: $30
Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 6.5 inches | Format: Guided | Page Count: 288 | Weight: 1.43 pounds
With its well-rounded content, diverse color options, and heavy-weight pages, the BestSelf Co. Self Journal is the most exploratory and comprehensive self-journal. If you're looking for something more expressive and perfect for the seasoned journaler, Appointed Co.’s The Notebook is an aesthetically pleasing and functional option. For the budding artist, the Dingbats Wildlife Plain Medium Notebook is well equipped to handle the most detailed sketches and doodlings.
What to Look for in a Self-Journal
The size of your journal is mostly a personal preference. Usually, guided journals like BestCo.'s Self Journal are standard size, mirroring the height and width of a book, whereas something small, like a pocket journal (to jot down quick thoughts) in the vein of the Animusphere Pocket Notebook, is minuscule. A person who writes will likely select a substantially sized journal to accommodate the number of words they write on the page. You'll find that the more you journal and understand your journaling style, the more certain dimensions appeal to you.
If you plan to take your journal on the go, opting for a cover that can withstand daily wear and tear is worth the investment. The most substantial exteriors are typically hardcover, wrapped in materials like leather or plastic (if you need an affordable option). These materials are made to last and can even provide more of an aesthetic appeal outside of their functional aspects. However, if you prefer a cover that can bend and flex, a soft alternative may be the better fit. Ultimately, you should find a journal cover material that strikes a balance between longevity and appearance.
If you’re purchasing a guided journal, there’s likely a set page count that you can't control. If you’re looking for plenty of pages, it's easy to find journals with varying page counts meant for free writing. If you write a lot or perhaps have more ornate handwriting, select a journal with a higher page count–like The FORM Daily Check In Journal–so you'll have plenty of space to get through a full year. Alternatively, if you plan to use your journal to write down ideas that come to mind during the day, the page count might not need to be as high, meaning you can opt for a slimmer journal like Appointed Co.'s 75-page The Notebook.
Since there are so many diverse styles of journaling, it makes sense that various journal formats exist to accommodate those styles. An artist will prefer thick unlined pages that can withstand writing and drawing materials like charcoal. Someone who loves to bullet journal will seek a book with dotted pages that’ll work with their systematic techniques. Of course, a traditional free-form writer will seek a product with crisply lined pages that forgoes indentations. Ultimately, you should look at your needs and decide what journal paper format and type will perform synergistically with your work: lined, dotted, grid, or blank.
How do I start journaling?
The best way to start journaling is to carve out a few minutes a day with yourself and simply start. "This could be first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, or it could be just before bed with some relaxing music or candlelight to accompany it," says Nafousi. No matter what time of day you decide, it's crucial to do it daily to establish a foundation and make it a ritual.
What are the different types of journaling?
"There are so many different ways to journal, you can use guided prompts, brain dump, and free writing," emphasizes Nafousi. She continues by recommending you try several different formats. If journaling feels forced, it doesn't provide any personal growth and can often come down to the journaling style you’re following. These trials allow you to see what style works best with your lifestyle and feel the most organic.
Should I journal everyday?
Nafousi is a proponent of daily journaling, calling it a ritual rather than a habit. She explains that a daily practice becomes something you crave and can have a grander impact on mental and spiritual health when done daily. However, it's important not to get down on yourself if you can't do it every day. "Do what you can; best to do it a little more than not at all," she says.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Samantha Parsons has been a freelance writer for The Spruce since 2021 with bylines in publications like Real Simple, The/Thirty, and The Quality Edit. She is constantly speaking with experts, like Self Development Coach and author Roxie Nafousi, and testing dozens of products each month to make sure she recommends the best on the market. She spent copious time on this piece to ensure that the above journal selections were functional and fostered self-improvement. When she is not writing, Samantha works for a skincare brand and stays up-to-date on the latest news and releases across industries.