Find the Perfect Type of Journaling for You

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Life is always busy, but sometimes seem busier than others. This morning, I picked up my journal for the first time in 2 weeks. Just seeing the cover makes me smile. I realized as I took pen to paper how much I had been missing it, like an old friend I had not seen in a while. Have you tried journaling before? There are several different types of journaling. Every type of journaling will not work for everyone. It’s not a one-size-fits-all plan. However, there are definite benefits to keeping a journal. As I wrote in my journal this morning, I thought of you, my friend. I want to share several types of journaling that I know about so that you can find the one that is right for you.

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Why Should I Squeeze Journaling into my Already Crowded Schedule?

Journaling is a great way to practice self-care. It helps me unwind and process my thoughts. My journaling time is part of my “me” time. Some great people throughout history have kept journals, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, for example. There is a connection between writing and our brains. It just makes some things click better, and it’s a great way for me to help process my emotions or sort out my thoughts.

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What are the Benefits to Journaling?

All the people that I listed above were genius scientists. While I wish that I could tell you that becoming a genius was a side effect of keeping a journal, I don’t think that’s true. However, I don’t know of a single person that keeps a journal that does not benefit from it. Some potential benefits are:

  • More mindfulness
  • Stretching your IQ
  • More Achieving goals
  • Increased emotional intelligence
  • Better memory and comprehension
  • Lowers anxiety, stress which leads to better sleep
  • Benefits communication skills both written and verbal
  • Increasing your self-confidence
  • Sparking Creativity

How Do I Start Journaling?

Starting a journal is really pretty easy. All you need is a journal and a pen. You can get as simple or as fancy as you want. You could even just use a plain notebook. Personally, I prefer a bound journal because it keeps all my pages in one place and I am not tempted to tear out pages for things like my grocery list and if it’s a bound book, I am less likely to misplace it. I have journaled in a plain notebook before and found it years later.

While it was fun to go back and read, it did not hold up terribly well and it blended into all my other notebooks that had random things in it. Additionally, since having children, plain notebooks with blank pages seem to be a beacon that attracts my children to draw when I’m not looking. I love encouraging creativity, and I’m glad that they do enjoy drawing, however, battle scenes in my journal do tend to be a bit distracting.

I have seen some very fancy journals too. Some have planners integrated into them, and others are for a specific purpose, like a dream journal, an art journal, a prayer journal, or a writing journal. A gratitude journal probably falls into the specialized journal category as well, but I kept it in a separate category since I wanted to elaborate on that type of journaling a bit.

Does Journaling Take a Lot of Time?

Journaling can take as much or as little time as you want it to. Much of how much time it takes depends on the type of journaling that you decide to do. Some journals are specifically designed so that you can get it done in 5 minutes or less. Others may only take a minute, or if you free-write like I do and get very into what you are writing, then it can take as much time as you have available.

One of the reasons that I love journaling so much is that no matter what type of journaling you choose, they are all very versatile. You don’t journal for anyone else. You journal just for you. If you only have 5 minutes, that’s great! If you have 30 minutes, that’s great too. If you want to write every day, wonderful! However, if you only want to write ever so often, that’s fine too.

Types of Journals

If you have not started journaling yet, you might be confused by all the different types of journaling that are available. Choose whichever one appeals to you. You can stick with one or you can try a variety of different types of journals. As I said above, the only person that you have to please with a journal is yourself.

Bullet Journal

Bullet journals are one type of journal that has really taken off in the past few years. I have not tried bullet journaling yet, but I am considering trying it when my current journal runs out of pages. One of the things that sets a bullet journal apart is that the first thing that you put at the beginning is an index so that everything you write is organized. You will also need to number the pages.

Bullet journals are super flexible but organized. You might have a section for planning for the month, week, or the day. You might use it to write your goals, or things that you are grateful for, you could have a section for free writing or drawing. You could also include a section for reflection on yourself or your goals. How you arrange it is completely up to you. A bullet journal can be a huge asset to time management as well.

Many people that use bullet journals enjoy color coding them and say that using fancy pens helps them get the motivation to write in it on a regular basis as well as helping them with their organization.

Free Writing Journal

This is the type of journaling that has been around forever and what I currently do. It’s more akin to keeping a diary. I can write as much or as little as I like, and I can do it as frequently or as infrequently as I want. I have found that journaling at least a few times a week helps my mental outlook. I start to miss it when it’s been a while since I’ve written, as was the case this morning. I like that I don’t have to think about organizing it as much, I just write what’s on my mind.

Some free writing journals have prompts to help you think of what to write. While some people like this, since I don’t journal every day, I usually have something specific in mind when I pick up my pen. If you are in need of some journal prompts, then I suggest simply googling “journal prompts” and choose one that you like.

Planner Journals

While I do love my free writing journal, if I try to plan in it, it seems to get a bit disorganized or I can’t find where I have planned things. That’s frustrating, to say the least, and as you can imagine I have not had much success with keeping a planner in my free writing journal. There are journals out there that focus more on planning and organizing than journaling. If you need to get organized, that might be a good choice for you.

Gratitude Journal

I try to incorporate gratitude journaling into my free writing journal, but there are some dedicated gratitude journals as well. I recently held a gratitude journal giveaway for the people on my email list. I was nearly jealous. It was so pretty and I loved the prompts and the stickers. If you want to focus on gratitude and consciously cultivate an attitude of gratitude, you might consider getting a gratitude journal. They do have prompts for specific things, but many of them are not dated, so you can do whatever prompt strikes your fancy on a specific day.

Related: Get the Most From Your Gratitude List

Specialized Journals (Dream Journal, Art Journal, Prayer Journal, Writing Journal, etc)

You may want to journal not just for whatever comes to mind, but to focus on a specific topic. There are all kinds of journals available that focus on a specific topic. You may want to start a dream journal so that you can start to remember your dreams better. If you do this, then keep it right beside your bed and write as soon as you wake up for maximum retention.

You may want to start an art journal if drawing is something that you enjoy or that helps you work through thoughts and emotions. Some people keep prayer journals or bible journals. Other people want to use a journal to help them write down their thoughts on a specific topic, such as a writing journal. I do sometimes jot down my blog post ideas in my journal. I remember them better if I write them down and I don’t have to worry about trying to remember that “really great topic that I thought of this morning that I can’t remember now to save my life.” (Tell me I’m not the only one that does that? Please?)

Things to Use Your Journal For

Now that we have discussed several different types of journaling, I hope that you have found one that appeals to you. It’s ok to try different types of journaling to find the one that suits you best. I am still trying things in my journal. I love experimenting. Sometimes I find things that I really like and other times it flops completely. (Like when I write down my schedule and then can’t find my schedule…) That’s ok. Your journal is your place for your thoughts and feelings. Since I mostly free write, this is what I use my journal for:

  • Reflection

Sometimes it’s helpful to reflect on an event that happened or my feelings about something. Writing it all down helps me to get more separation from my feelings so that I can analyze it more objectively and learn from it.

  • Personal growth

Since I frequently write down my thoughts and feelings, and then sometimes go back and re-read my entries, I can see areas of myself that I need to work on. We are all works in progress.

  • Processing Feeling

If I am upset about something, it has a good possibility of winding up in my journal. When I write about my feelings I can process them better. Something about the process of getting them out and on paper helps me to express them and then move on.

  • Recording ideas

If I have a great idea and my journal is nearby, it gets jotted down. When I write down my ideas, as I mentioned earlier I am more likely to remember them and I have a place that I can look back on to jog my memory if I do forget. Brainstorming can lead to some very good ideas.

  • Organization and Planning

Especially if you have a bullet journal or a planner journal that is specifically geared towards it, a journal can go a long way to helping you get organized. This is one of the major reasons I’m considering starting a bullet journal when my current free writing one runs out of pages.

  • Clearing and Focusing Your Mind

Sometimes my mind is so cluttered with everything that’s going on, if I can just get all my thoughts on paper it helps me to figure out what I need to focus on. It’s hard to be productive if my thoughts are going 5 different ways at once. If I can just do a brain dump in my journal or sort out everything, I feel much better and have a much clearer mind when I am done.

  • Recording things you Want to Remember

We all have little things that happen that we want to remember. Did your kids do something really cute today? Did someone do some little something for you that touched you? Write those things down! You may not remember them years from now, but you will when you look back and find your journal.

I found a diary that I kept when I was 11 and in it is a lot of the mixed up feelings that I had as a preteen, and it described several events that were happening in my life at the time. The entries brought those memories back much more clearly than I had been able to remember them before I found my journal. Sometimes the entries can make you laugh too. One of the entries that I found in mine was my “super secret” confession that I was 11 years old and still occasionally slept with a stuffed animal at night.

Final Thoughts on Different Types of Journaling

Though there are different types of journaling, most are very versatile. They all have some amazing benefits. Journaling is a very low-cost hobby to start, as many journals cost less than $10. If you really just want to try it out, grab a notebook and a pen and start writing. The great thing about journaling is that it’s all for you. You don’t have to please anyone but yourself. It’s good for your emotional and mental health, your productivity, and your creativity.

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