We’re all looking for something that can make us better, happier, and more effective. While there are many ways to improve these areas, only a few can be as efficient as journaling. Journaling is one of the most effective yet simple tools for self-improvement. Let’s have a look at what journaling is, its benefits, and the different styles and types of journals.
What is journaling?
Journaling is a tool for capturing thoughts, emotions, events, ideas, observations, memories, and more. These things can be captured in writing or as recordings.
Most people think of a diary when they hear the word journaling, but it can be much more. The difference is that a diary is a place to record events as they happen, while a journal can be more forward-thinking and help you shape future events.
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The benefits of journaling
Journaling is a great tool for self-improvement. It’s a way to get your thoughts out of your head and into the world without having to communicate them to another person. It’s a place where you can be honest without anyone but yourself judging you.
There are only a few habits, if any, which can positively impact as many different areas of your life as journaling. Depending on what kind of journaling you do, the possible benefits are:
- Calming anxiety
- Healing trauma
- Calming the mind
- Making better decisions
- Better sleep
- Higher productivity
- Building self-esteem
- Finding acceptance and forgiveness
- And much more
There are plenty of benefits to journaling, and no matter what your goals are, you can use one to improve the quality of your life. To reach your full potential.
Different styles of journaling
The type of journal you’re writing determines which areas of your life you want to improve. The style determines if you’ll get any effect at all.
There are several styles, and it’s up to you to find what works for you. Below you’ll find 4 different approaches to journaling. You can pick any or combine them as you want. There is no wrong way to do this.
Journaling with prompts
A lot of people, especially beginners, prefer journaling with prompts. It’s a style of journaling that begins with a question or statement for you to finish. Some examples of prompts you can use are:
- What made you happy today?
- What difficulties did you overcome today?
- What tasks are you going to complete tomorrow?
Whether you want to work on your trauma or build self-esteem, journaling with prompts is a great way to do this. Since you have to answer specific questions, your efforts will often be focused on a narrow area, which makes it harder to get sidetracked.
Some people think that this style is too rigid. They feel trapped within it. If you’re one of those, you might prefer free writing.
Free writing is, as the name suggests, a style where you are free to write whatever is on your mind. There are no restrictions, no guidelines, and nothing for you to think about. This style is great for dealing with the chaos of everyday life, as it works with whatever is on your mind at the moment.
Some people see free writing as too chaotic. They need more structure to benefit from their efforts. If you’re one of those, you might prefer journaling with prompts.
Journaling with stickers
Most people journal on a computer or in a notebook. This allows them space to write what they need, and it’s easy to create structure around it. An alternative to this is stickers.
The benefits of journaling with stickers are that it seems more manageable because of their small size, and you can display your most important notes after. This style of journaling works best as a loose structure, where you have your stickers close by and then grab them every time a significant thought pops into your head.
Most journals are in writing, but they don’t have to be. An alternative is to record yourself while speaking.
This type of journaling works like any other. You can journal with prompts or freely. The only difference is the medium.
The different types of journaling
There are many types of journaling to choose between. Most people find that having more than one type of journal works best for them. Let’s have a look at some different types of journaling and what benefits they have.
Self-improvement is not all about getting better but getting better at the right things. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what it is you want. You might have a vague idea, but you aren’t sure, so you scramble around and work on a million different things without really improving at any of them. A goal journal can help you work on the right things.
Start your goal journal by writing what it is you want to become better at or achieve. Try to write a bit about it if possible. Continue to write a bit about your goals every day, and slowly, you’ll better understand what it is you want.
When you understand what it is you want, you can make your efforts more focused and create a plan to reach them.
Related: Create the right habits to reach your goal
A daily journal is the classic diary and might be the most common type of journaling. It’s a place where you can write about your day. What did you do? How did you feel? Did you learn something new?
A Daily journal is a great tool to record your life and track progress. You can look back at how you handled the same problem in the past or how far you’ve come since then. It can even help you fall asleep as you empty your mind from the day that has passed.
A daily journal is the most common type for a reason. It helps you stay on track, track progress, and learn from the past.
Most people focus more on things they don’t have and not on the things they have. This often brings a lot of unnecessary unhappiness and anxiety. If you tend to focus on what’s lacking in your life, you’ll benefit from having a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal is a place where you can write about the things you are grateful for. Did you wake up in a warm bed? Did you go to bed hungry last night? Do you have people you love, and are you loved?
A lot of things in your life might seem trivial because you’ve become accustomed to them. A gratitude journal can help you rediscover the importance of the things you take for granted. And when you find appreciation for the small things, you’ll find more peace and happiness in life.
Problem solving journal
A problem usually seems much bigger when it’s in your head. There are too many details to keep track of. It can be difficult to find a solution. A journal can help you get the problem out of your head and into the world where it seems more manageable.
All you have to do here is to write about the problem. What is it? How will it affect you? How did you end up here?
Often, you’ll find that the problem is half-solved when you answer these questions.
Journal for stress and anxiety (Thought journal)
Stress and anxiety can come from two sources. Externally or internally. While we tend to focus on the external situation, it’s far more common to be something inside of you that is causing these feelings. A lot of these feelings are born and amplified by overthinking. A thought journal is a great tool for when you’re dealing with this.
Start by bringing to mind what it is that is troubling you. Take a short moment to think about this and then begin writing. Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t think about grammar, structure, or that you’re writing looks neat. Just write. Let your thoughts stream out into your notebook.
When you’re finished, you can look back through your notes, and often, you’ll have learned something new about yourself and your pain.
Most people work better when they know exactly what they need to do, by when, and have someone to hold them accountable in the end. A productivity journal can help you with that.
Take a moment at the end of your day with your journal. Consider what you need to get done tomorrow and write it down. Be as specific as possible, so you know exactly what you need to do. At first, limit yourself to one or two tasks to gain momentum and build self-confidence.
The next day you’ll take out your journal. Did you do all your tasks, why/why not? When you’ve finished reflecting on the day that has passed, you can set yourself a new productivity goal for tomorrow.
The more you do this type of journaling and accumulate success, the easier it’ll be to stick to your productivity goals in the future. You might fail some days, but that’s okay. It’s a process, like anything else.
Habit tracker journal
A habit tracker is a device you use to count how many days in a row you have succeeded with a habit. You can do so with apps, in a calendar, or with a habit tracker template.
With a habit tracker journal, you’ll take this a step further. You’ll note the days you were successful, but you’ll add a small note about how it went. Write a bit about how it felt or if you encountered any problems. On days you didn’t complete the habit, you can write about what went wrong and how you can avoid making the same mistake in the future.
A habit tracker journal is a great tool for building habits, but it isn’t a place to cuddle your ego. Be honest and hold yourself accountable.
How to start journaling
Hopefully, you have an idea about which type and style of journaling you like. Now it’s time to create the habit.
The easiest way to make journaling a habit is to do it after one of your current habits. That way, journaling becomes a part of the old habits loop, and it’ll be easier to form. If you don’t know which habits to stack it on, you can find one by using this tool.
If this approach doesn’t help, you can find more ways to form habits here.
How often should you journal
You should journal as much as it makes sense for you. For most people, this is at least once a day. Doing it this frequently makes it easier to form the habit, and you’ll get better at it fast.
Where to go from here
There is no right or wrong when it comes to journaling. No solution fits all, and it’s your task to try the different types and styles to find what you like and what works for you. Remember, just because your friend’s found growth in one type doesn’t mean you can’t find it in another.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel you’re good enough at it yet. Journaling is a personal tool for you, and if you chose so, you alone.
Understanding and overcoming Trauma: The Journey to Personal Growth
Habit tracking – How to easily make good habits stick
Habits- A simple guide to self-improvement with better habits