Do you keep a journal? To many of us, the idea summons up certain images: perhaps a pre-teen girl with a fluffy pen and braces, wistfully penning “Dear Diary” to divulge her innermost secrets and heartaches.
Well, cute as that image may be, most of us don’t really want to be associated with it. But journaling is a whole lot more. Trust me. Some of the most successful politicians, artists, scientists, and business minds in the world are journal-keepers. Think in terms of Leonardo da Vinci, Rainer Maria Rilke, or President Truman.
What are the benefits of journaling? Well, for one thing, it helps you to be more organized and communicate your thoughts better, which isn’t limited to the pages of your journal. This skill carries over into public speaking, sales pitches, and networking abilities. Journaling also helps you be more organized about your personal goals, and more accountable on following-up. Journaling can help you make a habit of remembering the details of your life, which exercises your brain and gives you better recall. Journaling helps you develop emotional intelligence and better understand your own motivations, as well as those of people around you. Journaling can spark your creativity and unlock hidden potential. It can even help you down the path of healing, and it’s proven very successful in treating individuals to overcome addiction, trauma, and depression.
Looking for a way to make your journaling more enjoyable or effective? Try out some of these creative approaches.
Scrapbook: Gather mementos from your day (ticket stubs, leaves, receipts, notes, etc.) Incorporate photos whenever possible, because they’re always fun. This often takes longer than other methods of journaling, so set aside some time if you like to really specifically construct. But on the other hand, it really doesn’t have to be a big production, with matching borders and artistically arranged groupings. Just add something in there and then write about it, write around it, go nuts!
Sketch: I personally like making cartoons of scenes that I’m trying to communicate. They’re more fun to write, and they’re really fun to look back on. Plus, they exercise your ability to communicate in a different way. Not into cartooning? Sketch something new in your view each day. And if you’re not awesome at drawing, that’s fine too. Cut and paste inspiration from magazines and newspapers instead.
Bullet Journaling: You don’t need to communicate everything in full sentences. After all, your journal isn’t a 7th-grade English test. If journaling always feels like a big undertaking to you, start looking into bullet journaling instead. Bullet journaling is a recent method of journaling that manages to combine a daily log, a to-do-list and a planner. It helps you set goals and mark what’s been done and what needs to be done. So if you always feel overwhelmed by the stuff in your head, or you simply have a hard time remembering things, try it out!
Date Book Journal: Similar to the bullet journal, this is a way of journaling that gives more structure, and less room for free writing. Because it’s so clearly dictated by a calendar, it gives you a chance to keep automatically organized. Most date books also only leave a small amount of room for each day. So you can have one side dominated by plans that you need to remember, and fill in the extra spaces with thoughts and comments about the day afterwards.
Gratitude Journal: Sometimes focusing on the minutiae of every day can get us down if we are predisposed to a blue mood. A gratitude journal can go a long way in shifting your perspective. Instead of writing down the things that bug you the most (as we tend to do) write down 1-5 things that you’re grateful for every single day. It’s the kind of thing that can make your thinking go from “what a terrible week!” to “wow, I’m really lucky.”
Write to a Friend: Remember Perks of Being a Wallflower? Think about that classic opening to each section: “Dear friend…” I’ve noticed that this kind of journaling is especially handy if (1) you’re really trying to convey your life in a way that will make sense for others to read, OR (2) if you’ve been feeling really lonely. Say, you’ve just moved or something. Whether or not you end up sending these letters, writing as if to a friend will help make the writing feel more vivid because it’s not just a log, it’s an attempt to connect across the divide of time, distance, or consciousness.
Word Count: Many artists and professional writers enlist this method to unlock their creativity. It helps to kickstart their mind’s power each day. Set yourself a minimum requirement and then just freewrite to that point. It works especially well if you’re using an online resource to keep your journal, or even a word doc. However, you can get the same effect by designating “14 lines” per day in a written journal instead.
Inspiration Journal: This is especially handy if it’s a small journal that you can keep in a pocket or purse. Record quotes from books or media that inspire you, record thoughts about things that happen as you go along your day, record names of things that you want to look into more later. Logging inspiration will make it easier to pull out when needed in moments when you’re feeling just kinda… blah.
Dream Journal: Explore your subconscious. The more you write about your dreams, the better you’ll remember them. Start writing down what you would LIKE to dream about and see if you can start focusing and harnessing your sleeping imagination!
List Journal: This can be an interesting way to shake yourself out of a routine if you’re getting bored of your usual style. Every day that you write your journal, create a list. There are lots of creative ideas online that you can look up, OR you can make up your own. Here are some to get you started:
- Places I’d like to see
- People who have changed my life
- My favorite books
- My favorite things to do in rainy weather
- My bucket list
- Names for kids (or pets!)
- Favorite items of clothing I’ve ever owned