Journaling can help you unravel complex emotions, thoughts, and feelings as you move towards action.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of journaling, various styles of journaling, and how to build one of the best habits into your life!
6 Different and Unique Ways to Journal
What’s the best way to journal? If you’re new, try out a few different approaches before you decide which one you resonate with most.
Remember, journaling is supposed to benefit you. Don’t stick with a method because others you know enjoy that approach or because you feel like you “should.”
For example, one day, you might have a lot of anxious thoughts racing through your mind. Try journaling with a flow-of-consciousness approach and see if you can find what is causing your anxiety to spike. Or if you’re short one time, try a one-word approach.
Check out these popular ways to journal:
#1 Gratitude journal
In a gratitude journal, focus only on what you are grateful for in life. While you want to be careful not to be dismissive of life’s challenges, gratitude journals can help you realize that regardless of circumstances, there are always reasons to be thankful.
With a gratitude journal, you can experiment with various formats and approaches. One way to get started is by writing down 3 to 5 things you’re thankful for daily. Focusing on the good aspects of life has been shown to have many benefits for mental health and confidence.
And it doesn’t have to be grand adventures, either. Your gratitude journal can look like this:
- That first sip of morning coffee. It wakes me up and makes the day seem possible.
- A surprise phone call from an old friend! So nice to catch up and reminisce.
- The way my dog greets me when I get home. I love him and it makes even the worst day a bit brighter.
- Finding a parking spot right in front of the grocery store. It was a small win, but I’ll take it!
Here’s some extra science to dial it in: Researchers found that gratitude journaling helped nervous first-time university students adjust to dorm life within as little as 3 weeks!
Read Gratitude Journal: 35 Prompts, Templates, and Ideas to Start to learn about other scientifically backed benefits of gratitude journaling, get some tips on how to get started, and read one of Oprah’s gratitude journal entries.
#2 One-word journal
If you’re running short on time, try finding one word that captures how you’re feeling. This can help you be honest with yourself and name your emotions while not being an overwhelming time commitment.
If you have extra time, try finding your one word and then expanding on what is contributing to you feeling that way.
Here are some examples of what that could look like:
- “Hesitant—As I head into work this morning, I’m a bit nervous to see what the dynamic will be with our new boss. I’m glad I met her last week, but I have no idea what to expect. Will she come in and try to make a lot of changes all at once? That could be stressful. But she might also help the team iron out some of our differences and work together better than we currently are. I want to hope for the best, but I feel a little hesitant because I’ve seen leadership changes go poorly in past workplaces.”
- “Overwhelmed—I know I’m supposed to be feeling excited about going home for the holidays, but honestly, I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed. I still have to take all my finals and don’t know when I will have time to pack. I also feel like I was just getting settled into a great dynamic with my roommate that I’m worried will change after a few weeks apart.”
- “Thrilled—I just found out that I landed the internship! It’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m excited about the prospect of learning in the context of a small startup. It will teach me a lot and help me decide if I want to start my own business after graduating. I didn’t expect to get it; I know how competitive internships are, so it’s affirming to know that all of my preparation paid off.”
Remember, if you’re running short on time, just stick with one word! But sometimes, expanding on your word can help you process why you’re feeling that way as you work towards self-discovery.
#3 Bullet journal
Bullet journaling is a journaling approach where you can tailor the contents of your journal to your needs. Many people use it to combine their planner, journal, habit tracker, mood tracker, and goals all in one place.
The core components of a Bullet Journal are:
- Index: The table of contents that you update as you go.
- Future Log: A place to jot down long-term goals and events that will happen in the coming months.
- Monthly Log: A month-at-a-glance page, showing all the dates and activities for the current month.
- Daily Log: Your day-to-day tasks, events, and notes.
Here’s a simplified example of how a week’s worth of Bullet Journaling might look:
Future Log: 2-3
Monthly Log (January): 4-5
Week 1 Daily Log: 6-9
Sister’s birthday in February
Vacation in May
Monthly Log: January
1: New Year’s Day
5: Doctor’s appointment
18: Team Meeting
20: Pay rent
30: Book club meeting
Week 1 Daily Log
Monday (Jan 3)
• Buy groceries
○ Team meeting at 2 PM
— Ideas for project X
Tuesday (Jan 4)
• Call Mom
• Finish project proposal
○ Yoga class at 6 PM
Wednesday (Jan 5)
• Doctor’s appointment
○ Lunch with Sarah
— Research Bullet Journal methods
In this example, you can see tasks, events, and notes for each day along with how they fit into the larger organization system. The power of the Bullet Journal is in its flexibility; you can adapt it to suit your own needs and preferences.
It’s also an excellent option for those who are artistic or enjoy being creative because you can design your own spreads.
Here are some examples of bullet journals that people have created:
They can be a space to get creative or you can keep a minimalist approach—whatever works for you!
In this video, Sadia Badiei, the creator of the YouTube channel, Pick Up Limes, shows her minimalist approach to bullet journaling.
Minimal bullet journal setup » for productivity + mindfulness
Badiei’s minimalist approach is less time intensive than a more creative design. But if it sounds fun to use a dozen different colored markers to design beautiful pages in your bullet journal, go for it!
A diary is a journal intended for data collection and progress tracking.
The terms journal and diary are sometimes used interchangeably, but they technically do have separate purposes.
Diaries are typically intended for:
- Keeping track of the books you have read for the year and jotting down a few thoughts about each one
- Logging what you did on any given day—this might be especially interesting while on vacation
- Tracking progress towards your goals
- Recording new recipes that you try and what you thought of them
Since a diary is more of a collection of data, it may not have all of the emotional benefits that journals offer. However, it can be encouraging to see your progress in different areas of life or have a log of special events or times.
#5 Flow of consciousness journaling
This is one of the most common approaches to journaling and what many people think of when someone talks about journaling. With this approach, you take a notebook and pen and start writing. Use the journal as a space to process how you’re feeling and define what your goals and priorities are moving forward.
Here’s an example of what flow of consciousness journaling could look like:
“I woke up today feeling overwhelmed. I don’t quite know why, nothing huge has changed in life recently. I think I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure to make career advancements, but I feel like I just recently got settled into my current role. It took me so long to feel confident that I can be successful at my job. But I want to wait until a promotion or new position is something I want, rather than something I feel pressured to reach for.”
Some people find it challenging to start with a blank piece of paper and go from there. If you resonate with that, try using a prompt and see what happens.
You can also start by describing your day and noting any worries or joys. Try to be non-judgemental of yourself. Judgment is rarely the best way to move forward toward growth. Instead, let your journal be a space where you can be honest and recognize what you are experiencing.
#6 Video journaling
If sitting down with a pen and paper is not working for you, maybe video journaling would be a better fit!
Think of it as venting to yourself. Prop your phone up and start talking about what is on your mind. This could be a beneficial method for verbal processors or those who struggle with dyslexia or ADHD.
One downside to video journaling is that it doesn’t challenge you to slow down like writing your journal entry by hand does.
Try combining methods—once you finish talking, pull out a notebook and write down your three biggest takeaways from what you talked about.
This allows you to verbally process most of what is on your mind while reaping the benefits of having a written log that you can reflect on.
5 Journaling Tips for Beginners (and How to Even Start!)
Building a habit of daily journaling follows similar principles to founding any habit. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses the primary components of habit building. The three main components are cue, routine, and reward.
Let’s talk about each of those and more!
Source: Charles Duhigg
Find your anchor
When you’re starting a new habit, it’s helpful to find something to anchor your habit to. Duhigg calls this anchor a cue. The goal is to find something that reminds you to pull out your journal and spend a few minutes writing.
Many people have their journaling anchor at a specific time of day. But this might not be the right fit for you! For example, if your work operates on a shift schedule or you are in school, and your schedule is different every day, it might be hard to have a routine anchor at a specific time.
An anchor can be anything from a time of day, set of events, or feeling.
Here are a few different ideas for anchors:
- Brewing a fresh cup of coffee first thing in the morning
- Crawling into your bed and unwinding from the day
- Going to a local coffee shop on the weekend to read and think
- Feeling overwhelmed and looking for a way to help yourself slow down
Pro Tip: It takes a while for new habits to get established. If you’re finding it hard to tie journaling to an anchor in your day, set a recurring reminder on your phone for the same time every day or week.
Set your routine
Find a comfortable, nice place to sit, pull out your journal, and start writing. You can set a nice ambiance by lighting a candle or finding a sunbeam to sit in. Do whatever helps you feel comfortable and look forward to your routine of journaling.
Research shows1https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0197455605000699?via%3Dihub that journaling for as little as two 15-minute sessions every week can significantly decrease levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility.
Another hindrance from journaling might be that you’re worried it will take too long—that’s valid! If that’s holding you back from journaling, set a timer and only let yourself write for 15 minutes. If that sounds like more than you can commit to, try doing a one-word journal or scribbling down three bullet points about what’s on your mind.
You can switch it up day-to-day, too! For example, if you enjoy journaling in the morning but oversleep one day, just write down one word for that day.
Or, if you are trying to journal every Saturday, but your family goes camping for the weekend, just pull out your journal and jot down three bullet points that you’re grateful for that day. You can get back to writing longer paragraphs another weekend!
Journaling as a habit is intended to help you. Don’t get overly tangled up in what you feel you “should do” or what “others are doing.” Find the style that helps you.
Find your reward
You might find that the benefits of journaling are all the rewards you need. But long-term wellness benefits can be hard to appreciate in the moment. If that’s the case, find a reward that will help motivate you to journal.
For example, if you have a book you’re itching to read, you could tell yourself that you’ll wait and read until after you’ve journaled for 10 minutes.
Or, you could get a bar of your favorite chocolate from the grocery store and only eat it while journaling.
Try treating yourself to a facemask and nice bath after journaling, or having a special candle that you only light while you’re writing.
Sometimes, just being able to check something off your to-do list is motivation enough to get it done. If so, add journaling to your list of tasks for the day, and then enjoy the sweet reward of checking off that box.
One of the most common obstacles to journaling—especially for beginners—is not knowing what to write about. That’s where prompts come into play. They act like conversation starters for your dialogue with yourself.
There are many types of prompts, but you might want to start here:
- Reflective Prompts: These prompts help you delve deeper into your thoughts and feelings. Examples include “How do I feel right now?” or “What’s bothering me the most today?”
- Goal-Oriented Prompts: Use these to set targets for yourself. Examples could be “What are my top 3 priorities today?” or “What skill do I want to develop this month?”
- Gratitude Prompts: These focus on positivity and contentment. Try asking, “What are three things I’m grateful for today?”
- Creative Prompts: If you want to tap into your creative side, use prompts like “Write a letter to your future self” or “Describe your dream vacation.”
- Daily Recap Prompts: Document the minutiae of your day with queries like, “What made me smile today?” or “What did I accomplish?”
- Challenging Prompts: These can provoke deeper thinking and might include questions like “What’s a fear I faced today?” or “What are some barriers keeping me from my goals?”
Start your journaling session by picking a prompt that resonates with you for that day. Use it to warm up your writing muscles and set the tone for your journal entry. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can use multiple prompts in a single entry to explore different facets of your life.
Pro Tip: Write down various prompts on slips of paper and place them in a jar. On days when you’re really stuck, simply draw a random prompt from the jar.
With prompts, you remove the daunting task of staring at a blank page!
Remove the inner critic
The act of journaling is deeply personal, a conversation between you and the paper (or screen). One of the quickest ways to inhibit this free-flowing exchange is to censor yourself.
Censorship puts up barriers between your innermost thoughts and the journal in front of you. When you’re not authentic in your writing, you miss out on some of the therapeutic benefits of journaling, such as emotional release and deep self-reflection.
For example, many people obsess over spelling and grammar, which disrupts the flow of their thoughts. You may also be concerned about what someone else—even a future you—might think about your musings can hold you back.
Or, you might be riddled with self-doubt. Questioning the validity or importance of your own thoughts can prevent you from even getting them down on paper.
But it’s time to really be free from your inner critic!
Here are some tips that might help:
- Private & Secure: Make sure your journaling medium is secure and private, so you’re more comfortable being candid. If it’s a physical journal, keep it in a safe space; if digital, make sure it’s password-protected.
- Stream of Consciousness: Try writing in a stream of consciousness style, where you jot down whatever comes to mind without worrying about structure or coherence.
- Time Limit: Set a timer for your journaling. Knowing you only have 5 or 10 minutes can encourage you to get to the core of your thoughts quickly, without overthinking.
- Non-Judgmental Zone: Remind yourself that this space is judgment-free. You can even write it at the top of the page as a constant reminder.
- Review Later: If you’re concerned about the ‘messiness’ of your entries, allocate time much later to review and possibly organize them. By then, you’ll have the emotional and temporal distance to see them more objectively.
- Destroy or Delete: If an entry contains thoughts or feelings that you absolutely don’t want to revisit or risk someone else seeing, you always have the option to destroy or delete it afterward.
- Affirmations: Start your journaling session with an affirmation that encourages freedom of expression, like “This is my space to be me.”
40 Journaling Prompts to Get You Started
Sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper can feel intimidating. If you feel stuck, try one of these journaling prompts to get your thoughts flowing.
- What was the best part of your day?
- What are three things you hope to achieve this year?
- What is something simple that brings you joy?
- Write down three people you spend the most time with throughout the week and think of one way you can show them your appreciation.
- What is your favorite personality trait in yourself?
- What is a memory you cherish?
- Where do you hope to be in five years?
- If you were still at your current job in three years, would you be excited or disappointed?
- Write down 20 bullet points describing what you would like your life to look like.
- Who do you feel most comfortable around?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What is something you appreciate about your upbringing?
- Describe a recent challenge you overcame.
- When was the last time you cried, and why were you sad?
- When you feel anxious, what is something that helps you feel centered?
- Describe the positive traits of someone you have a difficult relationship with.
- When were you last frustrated with someone, and why?
- What would your perfect day look like?
- When faced with a stressful situation, do you shut down, get short-tempered, or overthink things? Why do you think that is?
- What is your favorite food and why?
- What on your schedule can wait until next week to be taken care of?
- What is one thing you’ve been putting off doing for a while, and why are you avoiding it?
- Write a letter to your younger self. Are there parts of your life today that your younger self would be excited about? Are there ways you’ve changed or challenges you’ve overcome?
- What is one lesson you’ve learned in the past year?
- Which of my belongings are the most special to me and why?
- What is causing you to feel the way you do?
- Are there commitments in your life that you no longer enjoy but feel obligated to continue doing?
- What do you think about most these days?
- How do you feel about a certain situation, and what do you know to be factually true about that same situation?
- What is your favorite part of your daily routine, and why do you enjoy it so much?
- What needs do you have that are not being met in this season of life? Are there ways that you can work towards meeting those needs?
- How would you describe yourself to someone else?
- What do you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?
- If you have children in the future, what is one thing you hope they learn from you or characteristic of yours you hope they inherit?
- What is something new or exciting that you’ve learned in the past month?
- What character traits do you value most in other people (honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness, kindness, sense of humor…), and why is that something you value? Do you exemplify those characteristics?
- Describe a significant life event that shaped you into who you are today.
- Write a theoretical letter to someone you don’t see anymore. Describe how they impacted you and how you’ve grown since you last saw them.
- What is an opinion or belief you used to hold that you no longer agree with? What caused you to change your view?
- What is beauty, and why are people drawn to it?
For more questions you can use as journaling inspiration, check out these 255 Philosophical Questions to Spark Deep Critical Thinking.
Morning vs. Night Journaling: When is the Best Time?
Are you a morning lark or a night owl? It turns out this question is as relevant for journaling as it is for your sleep schedule.
- Kickstarts Creativity: Imagine cracking open your journal and letting your creative juices flow right before your morning meeting. Journaling boosts your creativity!
- Goal Setting: Morning journaling gives you a chance to outline your day’s goals, breaking them down into achievable tasks.
- Prep for the Day’s Meetings: You know that 2 P.M. meeting with the big client? Use your morning journaling session to jot down key talking points and questions you want to cover. When the meeting comes around, you’re not just prepared—you’re dialed in.
- Mental Freshness: The morning is when your brain is at its most pristine. You can articulate complex thoughts with nuance, adding an extra layer of depth to your work and interactions.
Rush Hour Dilemma: Let’s be real—some mornings feel hectic—maybe you’re juggling a quick shower, answering emails, and perhaps wrangling kids. Fitting in journaling might just tip you into chaos.
Brain Warm-up: Not everyone is a morning glory. For some, the brain doesn’t really turn on until after a shot of caffeine or two, making those early journal entries look more like sleepy scribbles.
- Reflection: After a long day of tasks and meetings, your evening journal session becomes your space for reflection. You jot down what went exceptionally well today and ponder on what you could tweak for an even better tomorrow.
- Unwind: After closing your laptop, your journal offers a good way to transition from work mode to “you” mode. In fact, one study showed that journaling about completed activities before bed can help individuals fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
- After-Hours Insight: Ever notice how sometimes the best solutions come to you when you’re relaxed? Your journal is the ideal place to capture those after-hours “aha” moments. Tomorrow, you’ll have a secret weapon—clarity.
- No Time Pressure: The world has clocked out. There are no imminent deadlines or emails demanding immediate answers. You can luxuriously explore your thoughts without glancing at the clock.
- Mental Fatigue: If your day involved a constant barrage of tasks and challenges, your evening journal may inherit the brunt of your mental exhaustion. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the right words when your brain is begging for rest.
- Emotional Residue: Journaling can stir the pot of your day’s emotional leftovers. Whether it’s frustration from a difficult meeting or the stress of a deadline, putting it all down on paper might make it harder to switch off and sleep.
Both have their merits, and the “best” time really depends on what you aim to get out of your journaling practice. Are you an intention-setter or a day-reflector? Pick your time accordingly, and write on!
8 Journaling Mistakes You NEED to Avoid
Even in a practice as personal as journaling, there are some mistakes you might be making. Here are some of the things I’ve learned through my journey, and wish someone told me earlier:
- Overthinking It: Journaling is not like writing a speech. No need for perfect grammar or a gripping plot twist. Even if you forget to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, no sweat! Practicing letting go of strict grammar rules is also a practice of self-compassion.
- Being Inconsistent: The benefits of journaling multiply when done consistently. I’ve always found that journaling here and there just doesn’t work out. Aim for at least a few minutes daily—but try to be consistent.
- Judging Your Thoughts: This is a judgment-free zone! Allow yourself to express thoughts and feelings without critique. Pretend like nobody in the world will ever read your words—and don’t imagine writing to an audience (unless your journal prompt specifically states that!).
- Skipping the Details: While you don’t have to write a novel, including some details can enrich your journaling experience. Plus, it’s always fun to go back and see if your memory was correct.
- Avoiding Negative Emotions: Journaling is a space to explore all emotions, not just the Instagram-worthy ones. Plus, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed, writing down your thoughts can help you accept them better.
- Keeping It Superficial: This often happens when you focus too much on the “what” of your day. Instead, focus more on the “why” and “how”—”Why did I do this action?” “How did it make me feel?”
- Forgetting to Revisit Past Entries: Looking back can offer valuable insights into your growth and mindset changes. You’ll often notice bad habits that you might want to fix!
- Locking Yourself into One Style: Your journal can be a mix of lists, narratives, sketches, or even digital entries. Variety is the spice of journaling life!
Remember, the biggest mistake in journaling is not to journal at all. So dodge these pitfalls and get writing!
Digital vs. Traditional Journaling: Pros and Cons
Choosing the right journaling format can feel indecisive.
Will you swipe right for digital journaling or go old-school and profess your love to pen and paper? Let’s break down the pros and cons, shall we?
- Tactile Experience: There’s something genuinely magical about feeling the texture of the paper and the glide of the pen. It’s sensory, intimate, and oddly satisfying. Sure, you can get close on a digital screen using something like the Paperlike screen protector. But it’s still not as “natural-feeling” as paper.
- No Distractions: Your paper journal won’t ping you with notifications or entice you with YouTube recommendations. This is a great option if you’re doing a (temporary or permanent) digital detox.
- Personal Touch: Doodles, different colors of ink, and even the occasional coffee stain add a unique flair to your journal that can’t be replicated digitally. You can also add stickers, flowers, and other goodies you find throughout your day.
- Not Easily Searchable: Unless you’ve developed some marvelous indexing system, finding specific entries can be a hunt.
- Bulk and Weight: Carrying a physical journal around can be cumbersome and heavy. Doubly-so if you’re into fancy colors and markers.
- Permanence: Made a mistake? Unless you’re a fan of scribbles and cross-outs, there’s no backspace key. You can also misplace or los your journal—and once it’s gone, there’s no Cloud backup.
- Search Function: Looking for that aha-moment from three months ago? Some apps like GoodNotes can be great for searching your notes, but it can still be a hit or miss depending on your handwriting.
- Portability: Your digital journal can go wherever your phone or laptop goes, and can often double-up as a media device.
- Easy to Edit: Cut, paste, delete, rewrite—your words can easily be changed as you see fit.
- Distractions: Social media notifications and pop-up ads are just a click away, and oh boy, do they love to interrupt.
- Technical Issues: Battery died? App glitching? Apple Pencil not working? These modern-day nuisances can disrupt your flow.
- Less Personal: It’s hard to add personal touches, and let’s face it, typing doesn’t have the same romantic vibe as writing by hand.
So, which one is right for you? The tactile experience of traditional journaling or the modern efficiency of digital? I myself prefer a digital journal since I travel a lot, but I know plenty of people who keep it physical.
Don’t stress too much; remember, the most crucial part is what you’re putting inside the journal. Now, go ahead, choose your format—and start journaling!
The Best Journaling Apps and Tools
We’ve rounded up some of the best apps and tools to take your journaling into the digital age. Whether you’re an app aficionado or a tech newbie, there’s something here for everyone.
Why It’s Awesome:
- Versatility: Evernote does it all, from checklists to voice memos.
- Templates: Suffering from writer’s block? There’s a template for almost every journaling style you could think of.
Not So Great:
- Learning Curve: Evernote has so many features that it can be overwhelming for beginners.
- Premium Features: The best options require a subscription.
Why It’s Awesome:
- Apple Pencil Compatibility: GoodNotes lets you write as naturally as you would on paper.
- Book-like Experience: Navigate through your journal entries like flipping through a physical book.
Not So Great:
- iOS Exclusive: Sorry Android fans, this one’s not for you.
- One-time Purchase: The app requires an upfront payment, which might not suit everyone, but it was definitely worth it for me!
Why It’s Awesome:
- Photo Integration: Enhance your entries with photos to relive your memories vividly.
- Location Tagging: Add a location to your entries to track your emotional geography.
Not So Great:
- Mostly iOS Focused: Android users have fewer features to play with.
- Limited Customization: What you see is largely what you get.
Why It’s Awesome:
- Cross-Platform: Compatible with Android, Apple, Windows, and Mac.
- Video Journaling: It’s like vlogging, but for your eyes only.
Not So Great:
- Limited Free Version: The more advanced features require a premium subscription.
- Storage Hungry: Video entries can eat up your storage pretty quickly.
Why It’s Awesome:
- Handwriting Recognition: Makes searching through your handwritten notes a breeze.
- Audio Sync: Allows you to record audio as you jot down your thoughts, perfect for reviewing your thoughts later.
Not So Great:
- iOS Centric: Available only on Apple devices.
- No Password Protection: If privacy is your concern, this could be a deal-breaker.
So there you have it. A variety of journaling apps, each with its own unique features and quirks. If you’re having a hard time deciding, I’d lean towards GoodNotes or Notability—unless you’re a traveler, in which case Journey is a great one. Happy journaling!
Is Journaling Good for You? (The Science Behind Journaling)
Researchers have found that journaling improved2https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241691147_An_everyday_activity_as_a_treatment_for_depression_The_benefits_of_expressive_writing_for_people_diagnosed_with_major_depressive_disorder study participants’ mental wellness by minimizing feelings of depression, helped lower high blood pressure, and boosted3https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3372832/ immune system function.
So yes, journaling is great for you! Check out these other great benefits:
- Job Hunt Boost: A study4https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/256708 followed engineers who had been laid off. Those who journaled their feelings about the experience had a job placement rate three times higher than those who didn’t. Both groups had the same number of interviews, suggesting that journaling helped participants process emotions and shine in job interviews.
- Academic Advantage: Another study5https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11785938_Expressive_writing_can_increase_working_memory_capacity showed that first-year college students who journaled improved their grades, test scores, and even their working memory.
- Trauma Healing: This study6https://hbr.org/2021/07/writing-can-help-us-heal-from-trauma discusses how expressive writing can aid in healing from trauma, lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and improve overall well-being.
And if you think journaling isn’t for everyone, check out these famous people who journal:
- Oprah Winfrey: She has long been an advocate of keeping a gratitude journal. She writes down five things she’s grateful for every day.
- Albert Einstein: The world-renowned physicist kept travel diaries that revealed insights into his creative process.
- Ernest Hemingway: Author Ernest Hemingway was an avid journaler, using it to jot down thoughts, observations, and drafts for his stories.
- Lady Gaga: The pop star has spoken openly about how journaling has helped her cope with stress and anxiety.
What Should I Write in My Journal?
Deciding what to write in a journal can be as flexible as your lifestyle, and it often evolves along with you. While you might initially create your journal to decode your emotional patterns, you could soon broaden its scope to serve as your daily playbook.
- Emotional Patterns: Journaling can serve as a form of emotional inventory, helping you understand your feelings and reactions in various settings, be it at work or in social circles.
- Gratitude Milestones: Instead of just listing what you’re thankful for, also jot down significant moments when you felt a profound sense of gratitude. This adds depth to your practice.
- Catalytic Quotes: Collect words that not just inspire, but “catalyze” action. These should be quotes that make you want to get up and do something. Need some inspiration? Check out 417 Daily Positive Affirmations For Personal Growth.
- Intellectual and Emotional Epiphanies: Write down those sudden moments of clarity that help you understand yourself or your situation better, whether it’s an “a-ha” moment in your professional life or a sudden realization in your personal relationships.
- Unanswered Queries: These are questions you’re posing for your future self. It’s intriguing to revisit them later and see if and how your perspective has changed.
- Growth Areas: These are specific skills or traits you want to cultivate. Detail the actionable steps to track your progress in these areas.
- Self-Compliments: Yes, you heard it right. Write down the compliments you feel you genuinely deserve. It’s a form of self-affirmation that boosts self-esteem.
- Your Future Landscape: Create a tangible vision of where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years. Then, break it down into smaller, achievable goals.
- Daily Endeavors and Encounters: Chronicle not just your activities, but the emotional or intellectual nuances they bring. Was that meeting simply tedious, or did it make you reconsider the effectiveness of your communication skills?
- Challenges and Roadblocks: Don’t just vent about your obstacles, analyze them. What are the patterns? How could you tackle these issues in a more effective way?
- Nutritional Diary and Emotional Response: Keeping track of your meals is one thing, but analyzing how certain foods make you feel can offer a more rounded view of your eating habits.
This list is by no means exhaustive but serves as a solid springboard for your journaling journey. Feel free to adapt, mix, or create new categories that are uniquely tailored to you!
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How to Journal for Therapy?
Journaling can have a therapeutic effect, as it is a place to write unfiltered thoughts and feelings. Let yourself write transparently in your journal and see how that impacts you.
For some people, this may be challenging. Finding words to express your feelings may be hard depending on your childhood or the values in your household of origin.
If you find that to be the case, start by making observations about a situation. Then, think about how you feel in light of those facts. Sometimes seeing it written out in front of you can give you the time and space to recognize how you feel about the situation.
If you have a therapist, feel free to discuss with them what you wrote about in your journal. This can be an awesome way to keep track during the week what your mind is on or notice how you feel about a certain situation on various days—instead of just while you’re in their office.
Final Thoughts: Journal in a Way That Benefits You
Journaling can have many benefits, but not every approach will work for every person. You may even find that in different seasons of life, different approaches help you more than others.
Be open to trying new things and finding what is most helpful to you in a given moment.
Here are some general principles to keep in mind as you build a daily journaling habit:
- Find your habit loop. The three pillars of building habits are to find a cue that will signal a routine that ends with a reward. Your anchor could be sitting on the bus on your way home from work, right after you wake up on a Saturday morning, or a notification on your phone as you’re getting ready for bed. The routine is journaling. Finally, the reward can be a beautiful notebook, mental clarity, or your favorite snack!
- Experiment with various journaling methods. There is no right or wrong way to journal. Try multiple approaches and see what helps you the most. You can also switch between different approaches depending on what you have the capacity for that day.
- Be kind to yourself. One challenging aspect of naming emotions and, over time, recognizing patterns is that it can be easy to become frustrated or discouraged with yourself. Try to be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend if they told you about their feelings. Recognizing your weaknesses allows you to grow.
- Pay attention to how journaling is helping you. One of the most motivating aspects of starting a new habit is when you start to see its benefits of it. Pay attention to how you feel as you begin journaling. Do you feel more mental clarity? Do you have a stronger sense of what you want to accomplish in your life? Are you having more intentional conversations with loved ones? These are all amazing benefits that can come from journaling. Pay attention to how journaling helps you in the unique season of life you’re in.
Journaling is a great habit to establish! If you’re interested in establishing other helpful habits, check out this article where 10 C-Level Executives Share Their Habits For Success.
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