Why you should keep a journal – Benefits & Types of Journaling

Guest post by: Jewell Singletary, founder of Gratitude Griot

Keep a Journal 

If your mind’s eye image of journaling is Anne Frank and her diary, then throw away your lock and key and think again. Journaling is a stress management tool, as well as an excellent way to express your innermost thoughts and feelings. You should keep a journal as an active mindfulness practice to process your experiences. Journaling can be a therapeutic tool to track your progress and personal growth. Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Heidi Sander for Authority Magazine. We connected on how journaling can help you be more calm, mindful, and resilient. I have been journaling for nearly three decades, and I highly recommend writing as a calming contemplative practice.  

Benefits of Journaling  

Journaling is an activity to process your thoughts and shift your perspective. Journaling supports creative expression and developing emotional intelligence. Putting your plans on paper can be a checkpoint to track progress towards achieving personal and professional goals. Good old fashion pen to page is a time-tested problem-solving technique too!  

Journaling is one of the top strategies therapists recommend for patients who experience depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Journaling also helps alleviate the impact of anxiety, and other mental health issues. Writing and releasing unproductive thoughts can lead to a clearer and calmer experience in the present moment. The reflective process of journaling helps to strengthen self-awareness and build resilience.  

A wellness writing habit is beneficial to overall well-being. Science studies show that people who write for two 20 minutes sessions per week have a lower risk of developing heart disease. Journaling by candlelight before bedtime has saved the sleep-deprived slumberless nights. Winding down with mindfulness activities like meditative journaling and other calmative peaceful practices sets the stage to sleep in a sea of merit. People living with chronic illness can also use a journal to track symptoms to share with doctors and influence their treatment.  

A consistent writing practice contributes to positive psychological and physical implications. Writing improves mental clarity and strengthens our ability to focus. Journaling is a proven practice to lower stress. Writing words is a way to mindfully engage the deepest parts of ourselves for the sake of self-care. There are so many different types of journaling; keep trying methods until you find the right fit for you.  

Types of Journaling  

  1. A journal can be a simple notebook free-write. Set a timer and allow thoughts to flow from pen to page. Free-writes can have a form or be free-flowing. Try a free write to recap the day, a dream, or a memorable moment. Blank page journals are best for brain dumps and those that prefer to live outside the lines.  
  2. A gratitude journal is great to cultivate good thoughts before you are sleeping and a way to remind yourself of all the blessings that you appreciate. Neuroscientists have proven the impact of a consistent gratitude practice on our brain. Thankful thoughts increase the flow of feel-good hormones dopamine and neurotransmitters like serotonin and suppress the stress hormone cortisol. We can rewire our neurological make-up to resist stress and increase ease. 
  3. An art journal is a mix of mindfulness activity and creative expression. Art journaling does not have to be elaborate or extravagant. Doodling, drawing, and bubble diagrams in the margins all count as art journaling. The most accessible art journaling activities are simple, resourceful projects and can be completed with crayons and a notebook. It’s not about being the best artist. Everyone has some level of creativity. Try this beginner art journaling tutorial to tap into your artistic abilities.  
  4. A bullet journal is a part-day planner, diary, and mindfulness meditation. Bullet journaling is a way to organize all aspects of life into a streamlined system. The goal of a bullet journal is to support productivity and achieve personal and professional goals. There are sections in a BuJu for daily to-do’s, monthly calendar, notes, and intention setting. It’s like a planner with a guiding purpose.  
  5. A guided journal is a creative low content book that includes prompts for those that need more inspiration to start writing. There can be a variety of writing activities, affirmations, and thoughtful quotes featured in a guided journal. A guided journal takes the pressure out of thinking about what to write and can be a gently guided expansive exercise.  
  6. Jetsetters should try travel journals to track their trips. Oscar Wilde once said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” Document your travels by writing out your itinerary and international experiences. Make it a scrapbook by adding pictures, maps, stickers, and other keepsakes and memorable moments. 
  7. Another hobbyist style journal is a food journal. Foodies and restaurant connoisseurs can keep track of their culinary adventures in a food journal. Don’t think of this as a diet diary. The intention of a food journal should be a fun way to document the dive bars and five stars that you adore with words, pictures, recipes and so much more! 
  8. Call all avid hikers, green thumb gardeners, and nature enthusiasts for field journaling. A field journal is a grounding practice that helps humans connect to nature. Gardners and wildlife wanders can write about feeling rooted, their planting progress, or growth goals.  
  9. The average American is high five figures in debt. Money murders marriages and causes chaos and conflict. About a third of adults in romantic relationships report managing money is a major source of conflict in their relationships. Few are taught how to manage money woes and finance foes. A finance journal can help you mindfully muddle through money habits and spending patterns. Documenting debt and other finances can be beneficial to get better at budgeting.  
  10. Reading journals are best for bookworms that capture the chapters and characters that caused a cranium commotion. Keep a log of all the books you’ve read and jot notes on thoughts and themes that resonated most. Reading journals are not just for book club members and reading enthusiasts. If you are constantly searching for Instagram caption quotes, then a reading journal might be right for you. Write quotable phrases for quick reference in your reading journaling.  

Journal Prompts  

The above is a sample selection of ten types of journals and not at all an exhaustive list. Below are some journal prompts to get you started. 

  1. Set your intention around how you’d like to feel in this next season of your life.  
  2. Try a gratitude-free write and list all everything you appreciate in your life.  
  3. Image your best life and write all things you want to manifest.  
  4. Celebrate your wins by writing what you did well in the past week. 
  5. How can you incorporate more of the things that bring you joy in your daily life?  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jewell Singletary is a creative entrepreneur, educator, and multidisciplinary artist. She is a writer who runs Thee Be Well Blog and a YouTube channel called Gratitude Griot in which she shares guided meditations and beginner yoga classes to help reduce stress. Jewell also hosts the Yoga Wit the Ohmies Podcast, the h[ohm]e of healing conversations around all things mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. 

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