The benefits of journaling are well known and scientifically proven. Therapists and life coaches have been assigning patients writing projects for a long time. Creative writing has been shown to help manage stress and improve mental health. Certain types of journaling have even been shown to improve immune system function and lead to an overall most positive outlook on life. So, it’s no secret that journaling is good for our well-being. However, is all journaling the same? Do we just pick up a blank book and get to writing?
If you are reading this, you have likely tried this before, and you have probably failed. Don’t beat yourself up! You were probably just trying the wrong journaling technique. Did you know there are hundreds of types of journals out there? Well, there are! Bullet journals, Dream Journals, Morning Pages, and Gratitude Journals are all beneficial if used correctly and by the correct person!
Every person is different. Our wants and needs are different. We have different mental health and physical health struggles. We have different time schedules and habits. Heck, some of us even have swings in all this stuff, within ourselves, based on the day of the week! Therefore, it makes sense that the same method of journaling isn’t going to work for all of us. Let’s take a look at some of the most common journaling practices and which personalities they work best for.
Document Your Experiences With an Adventure Travel Journal
Regardless of the technique you prefer, a well-designed journal is a handy tool to have on hand! Our travel adventure journal gives you everything you need to plan the perfect trip, make the most of your experience, and record your memories. With photo and writing prompts, activity suggestions, and tips for keeping track of the details, you won’t want to leave home without it!
A Free Writing Journal for Overthinkers and the Overstressed
Freewriting is basically that kind of journaling that many of us have failed at in the past. It’s a book of blank pages, where you write down whatever comes to mind. This is generally done as stream of consciousness writing. You write in a wave of whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be fully-formed thoughts or even complete sentences, you just write out the mess that is raging in your head.
Some free writers have much more structure to their writing. They may write prose, poetry, or even use prompts to answer guided questions. Creative, or expressive writing, has been shown to have huge health benefits, including decreasing the risk for heart attacks. Freewriting serves to release stress and is a great way to get difficult emotions out of our heads and onto paper, where we can see them and begin to make a plan for dealing with them.
Freewriting is great for overthinkers. If you have a constant barrage of ideas, conflicting emotions, stress, and anxiety in your brain, freewriting can allow you to get it all out, so that you can think more clearly. It also works very well for creative types and people who are generally good writers, to begin with. If you are a perfectionist, you will likely struggle with freewriting. It doesn’t have enough form and organization for you. If your goal for keeping a journal is to help manage anxiety and depression or just clear your head, then freewriting may be a great option to add to your self-care routine.
Morning Pages for Those Who Need Help With Stress Management
If you like the idea of freewriting, but you need a few more rules, Morning pages might be for you. Morning Pages was designed to help overthinkers get out all those stressful thoughts, first thing in the morning, before the day has had time to wear on them. Writing as your first activity of the day allows you to be the most honest with yourself. Writers often feel that the longer they are awake, the more alert they become and the more they are likely to censor their true thoughts and emotions.
Morning Pages is still basically freewriting, but with a few parameters. It is a form of journaling developed by Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way.
- Firstly, morning pages must be done first thing in the morning, when your mind is the freshest.
- Secondly, you are supposed to write three full pages each day.
- Thirdly, you must write in a stream of consciousness. Don’t edit it. Don’t organize it. Don’t censor it. Just write what comes.
This method, like free journaling, is good for overthinkers and those that deal with stress and anxiety. It is also, weirdly enough, can be good for perfectionists, but you will have to fight against your desire for things to be organized and perfect. Some people with high-stress jobs, that require them to be almost perfect, find that their morning pages are the one place where they can be free and let loose!
Guided Journals for Those Who Need Help With Creativity
Guided journaling is a form of expressive writing, where each journal entry begins with a prompt for the day. Usually, these journaling prompts are about a topic that makes you think about life in a deeper way. You are then asked to free write your thoughts, feelings, and emotions around the topic. Some people combine this form of journaling with meditation. Meditative journaling can be just freewriting once you are in a meditative state, or it can be meditating on an idea or prompt and then writing what you have discovered. If you already use meditation in your self-care routine, adding journaling may be just what you need to take it to the next level.
Guided journals can help improve creativity, strengthen writing skills, and help those of us that aren’t so great at expressing feelings, become a little more self-aware. For a great start to guided journaling, try out the 60 Days, New Mindset Journal.
Bullet Journals for Goal-Oriented Achievers and Artists
Bullet Journals, or BUJO for short, are essentially a mix between a journal and a planner. They function as a collection of calendars, to-do lists, habit trackers, and notetaking. The original bullet journaling method was developed by Ryder Carroll and is a simplistic system for organizing your life. Her system uses a series of lists, with only bullet points of information, to quickly categorize your life events, memories, tasks, and goals, based on related information and when things need to be done. The method is practical and works best for those who are looking to increase productivity. However, the practice has been taken over by the artistic sector, and now if you Google bullet journaling, you are likely to find something more akin to the world’s fanciest scrapbook.
The Original Bullet Journals are best for Type-C list makers and Type-A achievers. Bullet journal people are organized, detailed, and pragmatic, usually. However, with the makeover of the original bullet journal, more freethinking artists and creatives have found that it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it give us a place to doodle and scribble, but it increases the level of organization in our lives. Artists and visual learners love the bullet journal because it gives us a creative outlet at the beginning of every day, week, and month. We get to design our new spread, and it serves as art class and “get my life together” class.
So, really, bullet journals are great for people who are really organized and love to check off a list and for people who need a little more organization in their lives. For bullet journal ideas, more about the process, or ready-made journals formatted for you, check out the official Bullet Journal website.
Gratitude Journals for Pessimists
Life is hard. Many of us are jaded and have taken on a negative attitude toward areas of our lives. Research shows that negative outlooks often create and exacerbate negative outcomes, though, and that isn’t what any of us want. Most of us are a bit pessimistic by way of difficult circumstances, not because it’s a trait we really like having. Gratitude journaling might be able to help though. It has been shown to improve our overall outlook on life, according to a study by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. According to their study on gratitude and wellbeing, gratitude journalers complain of fewer physical maladies and generally feel more optimistic than people who daily journal about their stressors or anxieties. Focusing our mind on the good, and not giving so much thought to anxieties, can shift our perspective.
Gratitude journaling is great for the worrywart. If you are constantly being bogged down by the worst-case scenario, and you can’t seem to shake it, five minutes of gratitude journaling, added to your daily practice, may just be the ticket. This journaling habit is simple. You can literally just make a bullet list of things you are grateful for today. However, to get the full effect, write out the question, “What am I grateful for today, and why?” Answering this simple prompt causes you to think about the people and situations in your life that bring you joy! Dwelling in joy, instead of anxieties, produces the endorphins we need to eventually begin to change our pessimistic attitudes. If you want something more organized, the Five-Minute Journal is a great guide to help you on your gratitude journey. It’s specifically curated for the daily life of busy people, helping you create your gratitude journal in just five minutes.
Food and Workout Journal for Those With Addictive Personalities
Food journaling is just what it sounds like. It is a form of habit-tracking that allows you to keep up with what you eat, when you eat it, and jot down food-related information. This works great for visual learners and those of us who need accountability. Having an app, and often a community of other people doing food journaling with us, keeps us accountable to the program, whatever that may be. Journalers keep up with the goals, accomplishments, and hardships of the process. They discuss their feelings around failures and encourage themselves with affirmations.
Food tracking is just one kind of habit tracker. This form of journaling can also be used to track exercise, readings and devotionals, quitting smoking, or pretty much any other habit you can think of. Just beware, if you have a truly addictive personality, journaling your habit may become your next addiction.
The Letter Journal for the Pragmatic Types
Some of us find it very difficult to sit down and pour out our feelings. The whole process of self-reflection just seems a bit too sentimental and like a waste of time. Plus, we feel dumb talking to ourselves. Letter journals are great for these personalities. The letter journal is basically writing an unsent letter to a family member or loved one. You can write to someone whom you admire, someone who has passed, or someone you would like to meet. Many journalers find it cathartic to write to their future selves or to their former selves. This allows the writer to explore their feelings and emotions in an indirect way, as they have a conversation with the person on the other end of the letter. You may choose to send your letters someday or keep them to yourself, depending on the situation, and how angry you were when you wrote it!
Letter journaling is also great for personality types that struggle with conflict resolution and communication. It can be a method of problem-solving, allowing you to get your feelings and words out of your mind and onto paper, where you can analyze them. Then, if you choose to have the conversation, you will be better prepared, and it will likely be a more controlled and productive conversation.
Art Journals for Those That Struggle With Words or Paying Attention
Verbal and written communication does not come easily to all personality types. Some of our minds work in pictures, and if we sit down to write about our feelings, there will be nothing but writer’s block. Literally, nothing is going to come out. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you don’t have something to say! You just need to say it differently.
Art journals are usually a compilation of drawings or doodles. They are great for those of us whose minds tend to wander. We can doodle, scribble, and color in an almost subconscious state, which relieves stress and gets our energy, without us having to say a word. DIY journals are popular among this crowd. Just grab some markers and a thick-sheeted notebook. However, curated art journals exist as well, like the 365 Days of Art, available on Amazon. This guy has a new artistic challenge for you every day of the year. If you are short on time, grab an adult coloring book from a local retail store and start with that while you wait for your real one to arrive.
Reading Journal for Quiet Self-Reflectors
Many introverts love nothing more than to get lost in a good book. They can travel to faraway places, meet new friends, try new foods, and never have to leave the comfort of their own nook, or actually speak to anyone. Keeping a reading journal can be great for these folks, as it allows them to visually reflect on what they have read, how it pertains to their lives, and what they have learned from it. This form of writing is not only great for self-reflection, but also for retention of information. Just grab a journal and keep it with your book. When you finish reading, jot down a few things that stuck out to you.
Travel Journals for the Adventurous Type
Travel journals are pretty straightforward, though they can be done in a myriad of ways. Think about it, many of your favorite Youtubers are really just video travel journalers. They tell you about a place, what it means to them, how they felt there, and their reflections on their experience. If you travel a lot, you know that at the moment when you see something amazing, you think, “I will never forget this.” However, a few days later, it has faded, and you have moved on to the next great adventure. Travel journals are great for those of us who tend to hop from adrenaline to adrenaline, from place to place, and from experience to experience. We are fast-moving. We forget, but we don’t want to. Travel journaling allows us to keep the memories we would otherwise lose. We recommend that all travelers have some form of a travel journal!
This could be a video journal like a vlog. It can be personal, no need to set up your own YouTube channel or anything. It can be a photo journal, where you simply print photos and write a short blip about what happened and how you felt. We have even seen people keep photo journals on their phones, just by creating an album for each destination and writing a comment on each photo. Other travelers keep a pocket journal on them, at all times, writing bullet notes for things that happen during their day. There is no right or wrong way to make a travel journal. Just do it. Your memories are precious, conserve them.
Topical Journals for Enthusiasts
Topical journals can be kept for anything that you are passionate about. Do you have a hobby? A green thumb? Are you obsessed with trying new coffees or beers? Do you love to take on new recipes?
Topical Journals are great for that personality that wants to know all there is to know about a subject. You can jot down research, write about your experiments, track your goals, document your failures, and keep it all in one neat place for future reference.
Goal and Dreams Journal for the Dreamers
Some of you have big dreams! Seriously, you are going places, but you need a way to keep track of all your excellent ideas. A dream journal is like a written vision board. It’s a place for you to organize your dreams into categories: work, play, finances, home, children, travel, etc. You can have a spread with every big goal and how you plan to get there.
More creative types love this form of journaling, as it allows them to incorporate drawings and photos, clippings, and items they love into their journal. There are no limits. If you can “dream” it, you can journal it.
Dream journals are not just a creative outlet though. They are a way to organize your goals into a manageable system that will help you track your progress and achieve it all! Set goals for this week, this month, this year, 5 years, 10 years, and watch them get accomplished!
Dream Journals for the Creatives
There is another type of dream journal you may come across. This one involves journaling all the details you can remember from your actual dreams. You know, the ones you have while you are sleeping. While it may sound a bit out there, history has shown that many of our great ideas come from dreams. Einstein often analyzed his dreams. Many great songs have been written from something the artist dreamed. People often have great spiritual awakenings from a dream process. Journaling about our dreams is a way to bring what is going on in our subconscious to the forefront. We often dream about things that are happening in our lives, and bringing that unconscious thought to the conscious areas of our brains, by writing it out, allows us to do a deeper analysis of what is going on.
Obviously, it is best to analyze and write about your dreams first thing in the morning, as they tend to fade quickly. Incorporate pictures, as much detail as possible, and don’t leave out how you felt in the dream. Reanalysis of our dream states not only lets us in on what our brain is dealing with, but it often leads to fabulous ideas!
Reflection Journals for the Night Owls and the Sleep Deprived
Okay, so not everyone is going to get up early to write three pages of feelings every day. In fact, very few of us will. Some of us are barely getting our clothes on in the morning before running out the door. Others are completely dead to the world before a cup (or pot) of coffee. We see you people. No worries, there is a form of journaling for you too.
Reflection Journals are the opposite of Morning Pages. Reflection Journals are to be done at night and allow you to think about the events and tasks of the day. You can write about what happened, how it made you feel, or what you accomplished today. Many reflection journalers also choose to make a list of tomorrow’s tasks at night. This is a great idea. In fact, for those who struggle to fall asleep at night, research shows that taking five minutes to make a to-do list for tomorrow can help immensely. According to this study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, making a to-do list prior to bedtime helped subjects fall asleep faster.
It makes sense. If you take some time to debrief your day, then you aren’t replaying everything that happened over and over in your mind, and you can rest. Plus, if you have a plan for tomorrow, that is manageable, then it eases the mind from racing over all the things you have to get done. Research shows that the more detailed the debrief and to-do list are, the better. Get all those racing thoughts out. Prepare for tomorrow, and go to bed feeling confident that you have a plan, and it’s all doable.
Self-Esteem Journal for Those Struggling With Self-Worth
Self-Esteem journaling is great for those who struggle with self-acceptance. This could include lifelong struggles like drug dependence, eating disorders, and suicidal tendencies. However, it could also include those of us who are struggling with a situational stressor that has us doubting our worth, like weight gain after pregnancy or getting fired from a job.
Self-Esteem Journals are usually specially curated, though you can do it DIY. They are generally a series of daily quotes, prompts, or affirmations that you are to expound upon by including information about yourself. They serve as a reminder of all the things you are capable of and excel at, and they can be truly helpful in our journey towards self-awareness. We love the series of journals by New Mindset!
Single-Sentence Journaling for the Busy Bee
Journaling one sentence every day is doable for just about everyone. Plus, according to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, it can have huge benefits. According to Clear, journaling one sentence a day keeps journaling fun and makes it easy to feel successful. You don’t need to feel obligated to write everything that happened today or take valuable time away from your day. Just write down one memorable thing. It can be something funny that your child said. It can be something awful that happened at work. It can be something mundane like, ” I stepped in dog poop today on Grand, Avenue, spent the rest of the day stinking.” Whatever stuck out to you today. Write it down.
Looking back on these simple statements not only helps preserve memories, but it lets us in on our mental and emotional state that day. What you chose to write about, when you only had one sentence, says a lot about your mindset for that day, week, month. Looking back on these will help us cherish the good days, analyze the bad times, and move forward with more gratitude and awareness, and it only takes a few seconds.
Worst-Case Scenario Journals for Those With Fear Issues
Fear and anxiety issues abound in our society. They range from full-on, incapacitating mental illness, where individuals are paralyzed with fear to moms worrying about every detail of their child’s lives. The thing about fear is that most of the things we fear the most will never actually come true. They are completely irrational. We spend precious hours of our day and lose sleep at night over things that are highly unlikely to happen.
Worst-Case Scenario Journaling follows a general prompt of “What Am I Afraid of?” If that happens, then “what are the consequences?” Writing out the fears that fill our minds and then analyzing that fear and its consequences does a few things. Often, when we re-read them, especially out loud, they sound ridiculous. Just getting it out of our mind and on to paper, where we can inspect it, changes our perspective. That isn’t always the case though. Sometimes, deeper inspection is needed. Re-reading our writings helps us to notice catastrophic thinking and overgeneralizations (things like “this ALWAYS happens to me,” or “I never win.” These thought patterns are disruptive and wreak havoc on our peace.
Journaling about worst-case scenarios allows us to look back and compare our fears to what actually happened in the situation. Also, the train of “if that happens, then what” questions allows us to end up at a place that probably doesn’t look nearly as bad as our brains imagined. Here’s an example:
What are you afraid of today?
I am afraid my child is going to fail 2nd grade.
If that happens, then what?
Then he will have to repeat the grade.
If that happens, then what?
He will be made fun of and feel bad about himself?
If that happens, then what?
He may develop self-esteem issues and be hurt?
If that happens, then what?
He may require therapy or more help than I can give him?
If that happens, then what?
At the end of it …your child got therapy. They probably learned techniques to increase their self-confidence and ways to deal with bullying. They probably learned to be more empathetic to others who are struggling. They are now, possibly, at the top of the class, instead of the bottom, further increasing self-esteem. You got stronger through the situation too, and you both learned to take an adverse situation and make the best of it.
This is just a simple scenario. For complicated issues, it may take several rounds of questioning, over a period of time, with several analyses of your responses. You may need further professional help as well, but this method of journaling is a great start to getting a handle on irrational fear.
It is also recommended to journal your strengths and capabilities in the situation. What do you bring to the table and how can your actions change the scenario. This is a reminder that you are not helpless in most situations. You have a say, and you can have a plan. Getting all this out and having a plan generally causes the anxiety to dissipate.
Journaling is not a one-trick pony. There are so many methods and techniques out there. It’s just a matter of finding out which one works best for you. If you have tried and failed in the past, pick yourself up and try again with another method! We hope this guide helped you find a technique that will work for you! Try one out and let us know in the comments how it went!
Want to get started journaling, but unsure where to start? Check out our guide on Journaling Tips for Beginners for great pointers on how to get started!
Have you decided to try the craze of bullet journaling? Dive into all the details you need to know to get started with our Ultimate Guide to Bullet Journaling.
Disclaimer: Journaling is a technique that can be a beneficial part of your self-care routine. It does not take the place of proper therapy, medication, and spiritual guidance needed for mental illness or extreme anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing continued depression, unbearable anxiety, or thoughts of self-harm, see your doctor now. There are things you can do to improve the situation, but that doesn’t take the place of proper medical care.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are dozens of beneficial journaling techniques that might suit your personality and skills better. Try bullet journaling or single-sentence journaling for a quick and easy way to start the habit.
Avid travelers need a quick and easy way to document their memories. Try a photo journal, a video journal, or a book created specifically for adventurers, like the travel journal from Let’s Roam!