Everything you Need to Know to Get Started with Journaling

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed about your future? Or perhaps you’re suffering from chronic anxiety and stress and aren’t sure how to better manage your emotions? If that’s the case, you’ve landed on the right page!

Illustration of a person sitting under the palm tree and writing

After all, modern life can be stressful and quite frankly overwhelming sometimes. Being constantly connected, trying to multitask, and striving for better on a daily basis can be draining and affect our mental well-being.

In that context, journaling can be a powerful way to relieve some of this anxiety and stress and help us thrive. As a testament to this, some of the greatest minds of this world, such as Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison, have spent hours journaling, keeping track of their knowledge, achievements, dreams, and goals.

Do you want to know how journaling can help you be more productive, happier, or more relaxed?

In this article, we’ll explain what journaling is before highlighting the key benefits of keeping a journal. We’ll also deep-dive into some of the best journaling techniques before explaining how to start journaling. All you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the read ;)

What is journaling?

Journaling is the practice of writing your thoughts, emotions, or goals in a journal or diary on a regular basis. It’s also a way to connect with yourself, express your emotions, track your everyday life, your feelings, your dreams, your fears, and experiences. This self-care technique has been shown to help strengthen mental well-being and boost the immune system and has therefore enjoyed increased popularity over the last decade.

Benefits of Journaling

Help Manage Your Stress

Journaling can be a powerful therapeutic outlet to help relieve stress. Indeed, by expressing yourself on paper, writing down your fears, worries, and even recording negative experiences you’re facing at work or in your personal life, journaling can be cathartic. It can provide a safe and private space where you can freely express negative thoughts or repressed emotions you don’t feel you can share with anyone, allowing for emotional cleansing. As a result, writing about stressful experiences can be an effective stress management tool that can help reduce stress and its impact on your emotional and physical health.

Boost Your Memory

A study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology revealed that writing is an excellent way to boost your working memory. Indeed, the same way athletes need to train to stay in good shape, the study showed that your brain needs to keep active and engaged in order to stay sharp. Some of the key factors contributing to the improvement of your working memory when writing regularly include focusing on a single task without distraction, thinking of ways to describe events, and recalling descriptive words.

Help You Fight Depression

Journaling can be a great way to help you work through depression, navigate what’s happening in your life, and ultimately heal.

The reality is, the more you know about your depression, the better you can manage it. By helping you track your triggers and identify regular thoughts, patterns, and behaviors, journaling can help you better understand where your sadness comes from and define a plan to control it better.

Journaling also gives you an opportunity for some positive self-talk and acts as a reminder of your biggest achievements and your best memories.

By identifying your happiest moments and helping control your emotional triggers, writing can help also improve your mood.

Help You Achieve Your Goals

A journal is an excellent goal tracking tool. Indeed, by writing down clearly defined goals and recording the steps you’re taking in order to achieve them, a journal can help you fulfill your wildest dreams and aspirations. As a testament to this, a study led by the Dominican University in California even found that people are 42% more likely to reach their goals if they write them down. The reason is simple; writing down your goals can help declutter your mind, give you clarity, and help you create a vision for your future, ensuring your daily habits align with your priorities.

Enhance Your Creativity

Creative journaling is a very efficient way to boost your creativity. Your journal is your secret garden. Indeed, no one else has access to it, and nobody else will ever see or read what is in your journal. This helps relieve any kind of societal pressure and paves the way for your imagination to grow and your incredible ideas to flow unhampered. Besides, not only can you write down your wildest dreams in a journal without fear of being judged, but you can also use your journal as a way to relax and free your mind from the daily draining clutter and noise, allowing your best ideas to mature and come to fruition.

Best Journaling Techniques

Bullet Journaling

A bullet journal can be used as an organization tool to keep track of your goals, daily achievements, write your to-do lists, or brainstorm ideas. It can also be used as a reminder tool. A bullet journal provides you with a one-stop-shop for all your ideas and allows you to plan, organize, and track your entire life in one consolidated place. The great thing about a bullet journal is that it can be adjusted at any time to fit your needs.

If you like structure and keep organized by listing things, a bullet journal might be a great tool for you.

How to use a bullet journal? You can either buy a pre-made bullet journal or create your own. Based on Caroll’s method, your bullet journal should feature an index, along with future, monthly, and daily logs allowing you to plan and track tasks, meetings, appointments or events, and add reminders. The tasks should be represented by a dot bullet, events by a circle bullet, and notes by a dash bullet. Priority tasks should also be highlighted using an asterisk, and completed tasks will be represented by an x. This way, you’ll get a birds-eye view of all the things you need to do this month and be able to adjust as you go.

Freewriting

Freewriting is a journaling technique that allows you to write about anything, for a set period of time without having to worry about grammar or self-editing. It was popularized by Nathalie Goldberg and encourages writers to take a leap of faith, freely write their thoughts, emotions, and let their creative juices flow. This technique is a powerful way to help content creators and academics boost their creativity while brainstorming ideas.

How to freewrite? The most important thing to do when you freewrite is to forget about language rules. Clear your mind, set a timer (ideally between 10 and 20 minutes), and write. Keep writing without ever stopping regardless of the grammatical mistakes or typos until the time limit is over. It’s important to write even if you think it’s stupid or useless, as this is the only way to unleash your creativity with this journaling technique. From this disorganized, seemingly meaningless writing, something powerful will emerge that you can use in your academic or official writings, even if it takes a few freewriting sessions.

Art Journaling

If you want to explore fun ways to express yourself, your thoughts, or your emotions, an art journal might be a fantastic tool for you! Whether you use drawings, paintings, sketches, doodles, collages, or a mix of these and writing, keeping an art journal can be an efficient way to help you channel your emotions. It can also help you express your dreams, relax, plan, and organize your life, boost your creativity, or reduce your stress.

How to use an art journal? With art journaling, there aren’t any specific rules. The idea is for you to have fun with it. Gather supplies such as paint, gel pens, scissors, markers, and old magazines and start creating ;)

Unsent Letters

If you need to process your feelings regarding a particular person, the unsent letter journaling technique could prove helpful. The idea is to put your emotions into words on a piece of paper, from anger and frustration to admiration or love. Sometimes writing down your feelings towards someone addressing them directly in your writing can help you navigate and channel your emotions and process them. As a result, this widely used technique can help you get closure, collect your thoughts, release repressed emotions, and even give you more clarity about specific feelings.

How to write unsent letters? When writing an unsent letter, make sure you’re completely honest and genuine and don’t repress from writing down your true feelings. Make sure you freely express your anger, frustration, sadness, or disappointment. Nobody will ever receive or read this letter, so unleash all of your thoughts. Also, unsent letters can be written to anyone or anything, so there is no limit as to who or what you can write a letter to. You can also start your letter with a prompt such as ‘’ What I need to tell you is’’ or ‘’What I don’t like about you is’’ to help you get started.

There are many other powerful journaling techniques, such as dream journaling, writing a reflective journal, or morning pages.

How to Start Journaling

Your journaling process should be unique to you. Don’t try and create a perfectly organized journal, instead strive for genuine self-expression and authenticity. To help you get started, we’ve listed below a few tips to follow:

Pick your journaling tool

It can be a notebook, a password-protected WordPress website, or an app. Some of the best journaling apps include Day One, Journey, and Grid Diary. Note that, while journaling apps all have different features, strengths, and weaknesses, Day One is regularly touted as the best journal app.

Write a little every day

Pick a time of the day where you can allocate ten or fifteen minutes to writing and make it a habit. Consistency is key if you want to make the most out of your journaling practice.

Start with short entries

If you don’t know what to write about, begin with short entries like gratitude entries, for instance. As time goes, your entries will become longer, and you’ll start truly connecting with your inner self. Besides, you can also use a template with some recurring questions such as ‘’what was the highlight of my day’’ or ‘’what do I want to achieve today’’. You don’t have to write poetically and make long-winded sentences. You can simply write bullet points or short sentences.

Avoid distractions

In the digital era, we get bombarded with notifications and information all day long. When journaling, make sure you turn off your notifications and find a quiet corner to sit and write in peace for five to twenty minutes.

If you’re journaling on your laptop, close all your tabs, and only keep your journaling page open to avoid any distractions.

We hope this article has shed some light on how you can benefit from journaling and what some of the best journaling techniques are.