What is Journaling?
No longer associated with the adolescent musings and reflections found in the diary of a pre-teen or an aspiring writer, journaling has become a popular way of practicing mindfulness that has exploded onto the wellness scene in recent years.
Essentially a written form of expressing your thoughts and feelings, journaling is a way of working through emotions, or it can be used to set targets and goals for your future.
Your journal can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, and there’s really no ‘wrong’ way to do it. The possibilities are endless, as are the benefits associated with it.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling often now falls under the umbrella ‘self-care’, and considering how many health benefits it has, it’s really not surprising. Some of the known benefits include the following:
- It’s well known to reduce stress levels: Writing can be a cathartic outlet that, for some people, is as calming as meditation. Physical stresses can be mitigated by journaling for as little as 15 minutes per day, with health benefits such as lower blood pressure and improved immune function.
- It improves your mindset: Journaling allows you to turn negative thoughts and self-doubt into positive self-talk. Gratitude journals are a particularly good way to focus on the good things in life, which can boost your mood and result in a happier, more optimistic mindset.
- It allows you to self-reflect: Being able to look back on what you’ve learned from each day is a great way to discover where you can improve, or where you’d like to make changes in your life. Self-reflection is also a great way to work through trauma.
- It can improve your writing: Practice makes perfect! Just like with any craft, repeated practice is a great way to improve your skills, and journaling is a great way to train your writing.
- Keeps your memory sharp: Not only does a journal help you remember things by providing space to jot down tasks and ideas, but you can also use it to look back on experiences and memories in your life. The physical act of writing also boosts memory and comprehension levels.
Types of Journaling
The first way to ensure you stay motivated on your new journaling journey is to find a journal that’s going to inspire you to write in it on a regular basis.
If you don’t, journaling can end up feeling like a chore rather than a mindful activity that you actively want to take part in.
Different forms of journaling are useful for working through different purposes, so most journals will include a section at the beginning to help you establish what you’re hoping to get out of your journaling journey.
Bullet journals are most of the most customizable forms of journaling, as you can design your own schedule in a visual and aesthetically pleasing way.
Armed with some pastel-colored highlighters and some cute sticker sets, a bullet journal can be whatever you intend it to be.
Some people may find this a little daunting at first, especially if you’re new to journaling and haven’t found the best style for you. For others, the creative freedom you have to layout your thoughts and plans is motivation enough to get started.
One of the easiest ways to improve your outlook on life is by taking the time to appreciate the little things you already have, and a gratitude journal allows you to turn negative thinking into positive feelings.
These journals encourage you to list some of the things you’re grateful for, which is known to reduce stress levels. Studies by The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Davis show the scientific importance of practicing gratitude, the benefits of which include:
- A more positive mindset
- Happier emotions
- More joy and optimism
- Higher levels of generosity and feelings of compassion
- Stronger immune system
- Self-Reflection Journals
Similar to gratitude journals, self-reflection journals can be a great way to find peace with yourself. You can choose to write about good or bad things that have happened to you and reflect on them to see how they’ve shaped the person you are today.
It can help to provide you with a better understanding of your own thought process and to align your future actions with what you’ve been able to take away from your past experiences.
For some people, the hardest part about motivating yourself to journal is finding the time to dedicate to it, therefore some journals are designed to specifically take up as little of your time as possible.
With 5-minute journals, you can practice your journaling skills first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or whenever you get a free moment during the day!
You’ll find these are mainly gratitude journals or habit trackers, but they can be an incredibly useful way to improve your mood or productivity levels.
One of the key motivations behind journaling is the ability to look back in the future and remember past events in your life, from the mundane to once-in-a-lifetime. Journals designed for long-term use provide space for you to collect your thoughts and memories for future reflection.
Not only is this an easy form of self-reflection, but 5-year journals also allow you to speak (or in this case, write) your goals into existence by visualizing where you’d like to be 5 years from now.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but memory fades over time, and there’s nothing that quite compares to reading back over your own thoughts.
If you’re lucky enough to experience the pleasure of traveling the world, you’re probably going to want to remember those experiences, and a travel journal is a great form of motivation to document your travel adventures.
Most will include space for you to write down important information regarding your travel times with an inner pocket for tickets and mementos that you collect along the way.
There are plenty of other types of journaling out there, so it’s all about finding which one is right for you.
Whilst it’s important to try and stick to some form of routine, try not to beat yourself up for missing a few entries or having a few days in a row where you couldn’t find time to sit and write down your thoughts.
Journaling is meant to be an enjoyable experience, and at the end of the day, finding something fun is the best form of motivation there is.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a blank or guided journal better?
There is truly no way to determine which type of journaling is best suited to you until you try it.
Some people will find the prompts and pre-designed layout of a guided journal restrictive rather than inspiring, whereas others will find it helpful to start with more than a blank page.
If you’re a long-term journaler, you’ll know what sort of structure works for you and may struggle to find a pre-designed journal that suits all your needs.
On the other hand, if you’re routine is less established you may benefit from following the prompts in a guided journal
What is the best time to journal?
Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no right time to journal.
Some people prefer to set their goals in the morning, but there’s conflicting opinions over which is the better time for creativity and productivity levels.
The best time to journal is simply whenever you can find the time to sit and write!
Does journaling help with anxiety?
There are many known benefits of journaling and mental health is something that journaling is thought to help with.
Writing down your stresses may help pinpoint what is causing more anxiety than usual, which can provide a useful starting point for working through it.
No matter how powerful the written word is, however, it’s no substitute for professional medical help, so please speak to someone you trust if you feel like you’re struggling.