What is journaling

1 What is journaling?

What is journaling?

Woman writing near window sill

Journaling is, firstly, the process of getting your thoughts out of your brain and onto paper. Secondly, journaling is the act of regularly writing these thoughts down either onto paper or into a digital format so as to create a body of work of your writing. Thirdly, journaling is a way of personalising your experience of the world.

Journaling does not necessarily track the details of your every day life, like a diary, but addresses certain aspects of your life. Unlike keeping a diary, you do not need to keep a daily entry and are not ruled by the days. It is a freeform exercise where the main purpose is to reflect on your thoughts and feelings rather than simply keep a log of the days.

The flexible nature of journaling

Because of its free nature, journaling allows you to address complex problems or problems in your brain that give you high anxiety and find solutions as you write.

Journaling is flexible and personal and there are no rules. It is recommended that Journaling should be a regular habit, but this is not vital. You can journal every day for a month and then miss a week. It’s totally up to you.

Dr Pennebaker who has led significant research into journaling for mental health is not “a big fan of journaling every day.” Dr Pennebaker’s research has found that even a one-time 15-to-30 minute session of focused journal writing can be beneficial. The important criteria is that you make it your own.

“One of the interesting problems of writing too much, especially if you’re going through a difficult a time, is that writing becomes more like rumination and that’s the last thing in the world you need,” he said. “My recommendation is to think of expressive writing as a life course correction. As opposed to something you have commit to doing every day for the rest of your life.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/style/journaling-benefits.html

Journaling and mental space

Above all, journaling is your own personal mental space given a physical presence. So don’t journal as if someone is watching over your shoulder, but use your journal and be totally free to completely express yourself. This is why there are so many different types of journal – to be able to express yourself exactly as you want.

So the difference between keeping a diary and journaling is the range of freedom of expression that is open to you when journaling. Keeping a diary is written and most often kept in a year diary with a section allocated to each day. With journaling there are no rules and you can create your own kind of journal that expresses who you are and how you want to bring your thoughts to the world. More of the different types of journals later.

Journaling is creating a meaningful connection with yourself

The act of journaling is designed to help you connect with your inner thoughts. Connecting with our brain: what we are really thinking, discovering how we really feel about our life experiences can be therapeutically healing for our minds and our bodies.

I first started to notice the relationship I was forming with myself when I started journaling about the clothes I was wearing, wardrobe journaling. It wa great to meet up with people who now feel less and less burdensome.

“The art of Journaling is in the process itself”


I love this quote from the sanctus community, that Journaling is the process itself. As you journal you see for yourself that what you are creating is so much more than just words. You are forming something concrete outside of your mind that until just recently only existed in your mind.

Journaling is an act of writing and an act of creativity

You create a journal, whereas you keep a diary. With a diary you conform to the rigours of each day. Every day you write in your diary and at the end of the year you have ‘filled’ your diary. So keeping a diary is all about the diary itself.

With journaling, you create your journal as you go along. So you are creating something new, something that hasn’t existed before. Journaling is the process of that creation. It is about both the creation in the writing and of the process.

Getting started

  • Unless you have a huge amount to get off your chest start small, don’t overwhelm yourself by expecting to write 1000 words every day.
  • Journaling should be natural and freeflowing so make the experience as free and enjoyable as possible
  • Write from the heart. You are not writing for an audience
  • You don’t have to write every day
  • You can write your thoughts down onto paper or onto a digital diary
  • You can write on any topic you like – You don’t need to limit journaling to your thoughts and feelings. You can create an art journal or a healthy eating journal. The secret to your success is to choose a subject that interests you.
  • Start by doing

Labelling emotions

Journaling is an organisational system

“Keeping a journal, according to Dr. Pennebaker, helps to organize an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma. When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/style/journaling-benefits.html

Journaling, trauma and healing

In his landmark 1988 study, outlined in his book “Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotion,” students were randomly assigned to write about either traumatic experiences or superficial topics for four days in a row. Six weeks after the writing sessions, those that had delved into traumatic experiences reported more positive moods and fewer illnesses than those writing about everyday experiences.

Headlines other people used:

Benefits of journaling
Importance of keeping a journal
How to start journaling
How to write a journal
Journaling tips
journaling ideas
Examples of journaling
Types of journals: food journal; writing journal; exercise journal; pregnancy journal; gratitude journal; travel journal; prayer journal; time capsule;
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Reflective journal example
Journaling for business success
Mindfulness journal
Health benefits of journaling
Journaling prompts
Journaling tips for beginners

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