It’s more than just a diary

People have kept journals for as long as we can remember. Sometimes referred to as “diaries,” journals are a secret place where one can share their most private thoughts and feelings. No one has to read the entries. It can be a therapeutic practice.

In fact, studies have proven that journal writing, otherwise known as expressive writing, creates a positive impact on one’s mental health. So, what are the benefits of journaling? Are there different types of journals? How can you start a journaling practice? If you have these questions, don’t worry. We have all the answers.

Why you should keep a journal

Contrary to what you think, journaling is no longer an old-fashioned, out-of-date practice. You were once ashamed to admit you kept a journal. Nowadays, people embrace journaling for its many health benefits.

Journaling reduces stress. We build up a lot of stress during the day, and journaling is a great habit that allows us to talk about what is causing the stress. Expressive writing for about 15 to 20 minutes a day lowers blood pressure and improves liver functionality. Writing about your stressful experiences helps you manage them—almost like a form of meditation.

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Journaling also improves your memory. By reflecting on your day, you have to remember everything you did. Journaling boosts your memory and your working memory capacity, which in turn improves your cognitive processing.

Finally, journaling allows you to be more in-tune with your emotions. It can help provide a sense of confidence, self-identity, and control over personal change. Expressive writing helps individuals understand themselves better.

Types of journaling

There are many types of journaling to consider. Each version is appropriate for different people. Find the type that works best for you, and don’t be afraid to test the various types before deciding which one is best for your personal needs.

For example, the one-sentence journal allows you to summarize your day in just one sentence. What was the most important outcome of the day? Can you describe it in just one sentence? Examining your day through one sentence might help you learn to focus on the “big picture.”

Make a regular habit out of journaling, and you will most likely feel much better about yourself in the long run.

A bullet journal has become popular in recent years, mostly because it’s basically a to-do list and a personal organizer. The journal describes your life through an analog system, where you have a key that indicates different events in your daily routine. You can have a different symbol for tasks you started, tasks you left incomplete, nutrition intake, habits, events, notes, etc. Bullet journals help you have a clear idea of your life and what occupies most of your time.

A nighttime journal is probably your typical idea of a journal. You reflect on your day when you’re alone in bed. You pour out your thoughts and emotions, and then you’re able to sleep peacefully. As you sleep, your brain releases the “static energy” that has built up during the day.

Finally, a gratitude journal has also become popular in recent years. The concept is simple: you record and reflect on things you are most grateful for on a regular basis. What happened today that you’re grateful for? You train your brain to focus on positivity.

How to start a journal

Now that you’ve determined which type of journal is best for your needs, you’re probably wondering how to get started. First, find a place where you can write. This must be a space where you feel comfortable and you won’t have any interruptions.

Contrary to what you think, journaling is no longer an old-fashioned, out-of-date practice. You were once ashamed to admit you kept a journal. Nowadays, people embrace journaling for its many health benefits.

Close your eyes and begin reflecting on your day.

Think about your actions, interactions, major events, and how you felt during the day. Work through the problems you’re experiencing. Turn to your journal to discuss how you can overcome those problems. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself questions.

Start writing. It’s a journal, and it should be a judgment-free space for you to write. No one else will read your journal, so write whatever you are feeling. Make a regular habit out of journaling, and you will most likely feel much better about yourself in the long run.

A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:

It’s important to take care of your body and mind. Learn about five easy self-care tips to improve your mental health.

You need to love yourself to improve your mental health. Learn about some easy ways to love yourself that will have a positive impact on your life.