Journaling – What is it and how to do it.

You may have already heard that journaling or keeping a diary can help you in many different ways. But what journaling is and what the benefits are can sometimes be confusing. This brief article has been written to help in your understanding.

If you want to understand more, perhaps sign up to our short 5 day email course on Journaling.

What is journaling?


Journaling is the act of expressing your deepest thoughts and feelings by putting words to your inner life and then putting these words on paper. Journaling is a mental, emotional and spiritual exercise that helps you build strong “emotional muscles” to deal with life’s difficulties and uncertainties. In identifying your negative thoughts and beliefs and cultivating positive, healing ones in their place, journaling helps you discover your sense of purpose and meaning in life, as well as your relationship to a higher power.

Journaling can be fun. Sometimes we capture that positive stuff that helps us feel gratitude for those around us and as we revisit later, we are taken on a journey richly clad in positive energy and useful thoughts. Sometimes journaling is restorative. It encourages you to dig deep in an emotional exploration, channeling feelings into a form of self-expression that encourages growth and discovery.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how busy you are, finding just a few minutes somewhere in the day to keep a journal could bring many advantages.

What is journaling?

What is journaling?

The benefits of journaling

Calm your mind

There’s something calming about writing down your thoughts at the end of the day, even if your thoughts haven’t been particularly positive. Negative thoughts can be offloaded from your mind, while positive thoughts can be reinforced to make you feel even better. Journaling for mental health has been shown to be beneficial.

Become more aware of yourself

It’s surprising how many people don’t truly know themselves and who they are. Keeping a journal can help you to understand your emotions better, and you’ll start spotting patterns and learning about your triggers.

Track your development

No matter what your age or experience, there is always room for improvement and development. This doesn’t have to be a long-term process either – journalling can be a way of tracking your progress during any given time period, for example, a trial period at your new job or a course of counseling.

Increase your brainpower

Keeping a journal on paper allows you to take some time away from your phone or laptop if this is what you would normally type of work on. Not only does this help to recharge your batteries a little, but you’ll be able to tap into your creative energies. This is just one of the ways that you can keep your brain working, particularly as you grow older.

Reduce depression and anxiety

This cannot be said for everybody who keeps a journal, but many people have reported that recording their daily thoughts helps to reduce depression and anxiety. At the very least, it will help you to develop a tool that you can take to your doctor or therapist. It will help any health professional to understand you as a person, and you can both use it positively.

Identify patterns and trends

Following patterns and trends about yourself can be very useful, not only for learning more about yourself and becoming aware of who you are but also for identifying things to avoid or encourage. If you notice that you seem happier during particular weeks or days, try to find out what you did differently or what happened differently.

Some examples of journaling

We now understand that journaling is a useful way of getting your thoughts down on paper, relieving stress, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Alongside other methods, journaling is a great way to be mindful and become more aware of yourself. You can monitor yourself and the way you are changing and developing, but which type of journaling should you try?

  • Morning pages

    This is a good way to create a habit and stick to it. Although people are encouraged to wake up slightly earlier to write down their thoughts and feelings for the day, it doesn’t matter if you forget or don’t have time. You can always catch up later, although it’s a good idea to make a note of the time for future reference.

  • Gratitude journals

    A good idea for people who are trying to become more positive or build positive habits, a gratitude journal allows you to record all the things you are thankful for. These could vary each day, or it could be that you are thankful for similar things each and every day. Even if you never read it back, it’s a good exercise to remember your blessings.
    I find that when working with clients that are too busy to reflect, that writing a gratitude journal is an easier entry point.

  • Single words

    For people who don’t feel like they will have enough time to commit each day to keep a full diary or journal, you can start out using single words. Think about one word that describes how you’re feeling that day, and write it down alongside the date. As the weeks go by, you may find that you notice patterns, or you might become curious about your own feelings and start keeping a more detailed journal.

  • Creative journals

    As well as writing the facts about you and your life, you can experiment with your creative side when using this journaling style. You can either use creative tools such as paints and pencils to demonstrate with art how you feel, or you can write short pieces of music to describe your emotions.

  • Photograph journals

    In the age of technology, it’s perfectly reasonable to take a photo of yourself every morning or evening and keep a diary. You can either do this by keeping them in an individual folder on your phone or computer with a short description for each one, or you can print them in batches and keep them in a scrapbook with a few sentences to describe how you were feeling that particular day.

There are many tools that you can adopt.

Some are paper-based, whilst others are making use of technology such as apps or websites. Personally, I struggle with online journaling – it is something about the tactile nature of writing that works for me. However, I do know others where this use of technology works well.

Whichever you decide – the system needs to work with you, your style, and your work patterns. As you start to journal, it is likely that you will need to add journaling time into your diary. This is usual especially as you are trying to form a new habit.