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  • Writer's pictureAnda Sărăcuț

The Power of Journaling

When you hear about journaling, the first thing that comes to your mind might be the “Dear diary…” that a lot of us were writing as teenagers, in a hidden notebook under our mattresses. It kept our greatest secrets about our school crushes and teenage dramas, being the only place to confess our struggles without judgement.

So, I get why keeping a journal seems like a childish activity. But the concept and its benefits can be extremely useful even in adulthood, not only for improving your mental health, but also for helping you control your emotions. Overall, it’s very simple - it only implies writing down your thoughts, ideas, and feelings - it’s a place where you can feel yourself and be the real you. It's the power of journaling.

The power of journaling

It may seem odd that journaling would be an improvement in your life - in fact, you’re just writing some random thoughts down on a paper, how can this be an investment in yourself?

Well, first of all, a main benefit of journaling is that it allows you to be more introspective. This is a key component of a good mental health, as it helps you clear your mind. At first, it might seem like you are wasting your time, but in time you’ll see that by journaling frequently, you start to analyze and understand your feelings and thoughts better. You start establishing an honest and powerful relationship with yourself, enabling a strong self-acceptance.

I love the fact that journaling is helpful in either ways, whether you had a bad day or a good one. Writing my thoughts down after a bad day gave me not only the opportunity to read them again later and learn from these experiences, but it also helped me in that exact moment to clear my mind and not spend time in a whirlwind of emotions. When I had a good day and wrote everything down, it was extremely exciting to be able to read all of the details later, and be able to relive some fun days.

There are times in your life when you feel inspired, balanced, and everything seems to be in the right place. But you will also experience times of stress, and maybe question your life’s purpose. When you stick to journaling through all of your ups and downs, that’s when it becomes more valuable. Only consistency brings journaling’s benefits to the surface.

Also, don’t set extremely high expectations of this. If you think you have more serious mental health problems, a therapist is always the best idea. Journaling would be just a good step towards healing.

Types of journaling

Free writing

This means letting your thoughts and ideas flow, without filters. Just write whatever comes to your mind - funny moments, experiences, plans, hobbies, relationships, crazy ideas, dreams, letters to people, and so on.

You don’t have to be careful about how you phrase everything, just be your uncensored and unscripted self. Keep your hand moving and get all of your thoughts out.

Gratitude journaling

It is well known and proven by lots of studies that expressing gratitude boosts happiness, as well as physical and psychological wellness. Keeping a gratitude journal means writing down a few things you’re grateful for - a person in your life, an act of kindness, a special moment, or some good food you had - it could be anything.

Just write 2-5 things like this daily - it takes much less time than any other type of journaling, so it is easy to do this every day. It’s always a good idea to find something good in every day.

Artistic journaling

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you should be extremely talented or have some training in drawing, painting, or other forms of art. Let your creativity flow, and get things off your chest in an artistic way, without bothering about imperfections.

This type of journaling can include very diverse types of art - it can include drawing, painting, making collages, doodling - everything you could think of. If you want to combine having a planner with this kind of artistic journaling, bullet journals could be a solution, although they are theoretically more organized and they require time to put them together - but I definitely recommend searching for them on Pinterest - that’s the most inspiring resource for them.

Hobby journaling

This type of journaling consists of writing about your passions. Whether you started a fitness journey or you’re learning more about gardening, document your experiences in a journal. This is extremely helpful to gather all of the information you are studying, and look back later to see how much you’ve grown regarding that topic.

Season-of-life journal

Whether you are going through a pregnancy, wedding planning, or starting your retirement, it is so much fun to revisit these pages later, after you’ve documented every detail of that part of your life.

These are just a few of the journaling ideas, there are many more types - journals about traveling, dreams, plans, etc. Just start one that is appropriate for you and your context.

Tips and ideas for journaling

1. Try to write daily - it doesn’t matter whether you are writing 3 lines or 3 pages - just write your daily thoughts as they come to you.

2. Try with pen and paper first - the connection between you and your thoughts is stronger if you write by hand, because the slowness of this type of writing enhances your mode of thinking, accessing deeper thoughts and better analyzing your feelings.

3. Make it fun and enjoyable - if you don’t feel like writing lots of pages, just write one sentence a day. It's very easy to come back to it again the following days. Don’t worry about following a certain structure of it - let it be fun. Make it a pleasurable experience, not a chore you knock off your to-do list.

4. Don’t edit - as I said earlier, write without filters and fear of judgement - the journal is your safe space, only for your eyes. Don’t censor your thoughts. Don’t even worry about correcting your grammar.

5. When writing about something that is a struggle for you or it’s a disturbing topic, try writing about yourself in the 3rd person - it helps to distance yourself from the situation and see things more clearly, from another perspective.

6. Make this a habit - especially when you keep a free writing journal, don’t wait for something special to happen in your life. Make this an everyday routine. This will be easier if you put the journal somewhere visible, to be easier to remember. For example, if you enjoy writing your thoughts in the morning, put your journal in the place where you usually enjoy your coffee; if you prefer writing in the evening, put it on the nightstand, to write before going to bed.

7. If it’s easier for you, write your thoughts using bullet points - maybe writing a long text with paragraphs is not suitable for you, maybe it unconsciously puts a little pressure on you about the coherence of your writing. Using bullet points might help you get all of your random thoughts out easier.

8. Search online or come up with some journal prompts that are right for you, and write them somewhere in your journal, whether it’s in the beginning or end, or on a post-it inside. These prompts are questions that give you inspiration if you don’t know what to write about. Some examples are:

  • How am I feeling today?

  • What emotions am I holding on to?

  • What is distracting me from being productive?

  • What happened before I felt a shift in my mood?

Final Thoughts on the Power of Journaling

The most important advice on journaling is to do it your own way. Maybe you’ll take these tips in a strict way, or maybe you’ll just use them to guide you into finding your ideal way of journaling.

Experiment with multiple ways of doing this and see how each of them makes you feel. Maybe you tried writing on paper but you don’t find it enjoyable - you absolutely don’t have to feel like you failed in journaling and give up, it can be done on your phone’s notes app or on your laptop just as well.

Writing digitally has its own benefits as well, making you feel like you’re not wasting time doing it, because you write faster on a keyboard than you would do with a pen.

Start journaling. Open up. Let the thoughts and words flow.


Journals we love

Present, Not Perfect: A Journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go, and Loving Who You Are, by Aimee Chase

The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living, by Ryan Holiday

The Untethered Soul Guided Journal: Practices to Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer

Wreck This Journal: Now in Color, by Keri Smith

Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life, by Monica Sweeney

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