Journaling generally involves the practice of keeping a diary or journal that explores thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of your life. There are several diverse ways to do this. Journaling, as a stress management and self-exploration tool, works best when done consistently, but even occasional, sporadic journaling can be stress relieving when the practice is focused on gratitude or emotional processing. One of the most effective ways to reduce stress with journaling is to write in detail about feelings and thoughts related to stressful events, as one would discuss topics in therapy, and brainstorm solutions, but there are several diverse ways to practice journaling. Start by taking a few minutes (10 minutes) and write in your journal. Notice how you feel before and after you write. Notice if there is any difference or shift in your inner state, your feelings, your mindset, etc. Then notice how this might impact your interactions with others in the minutes and hours that follow your writing.

The method you choose can depend on your needs at the time, and your personality; just do what feels right. While it is a solitary act, it’s benefits are far reaching.

The Benefits of Journaling

Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool; oftentimes, one can hash out a problem and come up with solutions more easily on paper. Journaling about traumatic events helps one process them by fully exploring and releasing the emotions involved, and by engaging
both hemispheres of the brain in the process, allowing the experience to become fully integrated within one’s mind.

Journaling can also help you to focus on areas of your life that you’re like to focus on more often, as is the case with gratitude journaling.

As for the health benefits of journaling, they’ve been scientifically proven. Research shows the following:

  • Journaling decreases the symptoms of many health conditions
  • It improves cognitive functioning.
  • It strengthens the immune system, preventing a host of illnesses.
  • It counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

HERE ARE A SELECTION OF JOURNALLING IDEAS WHICH MAY INSPIRE YOU

 

JOURNAL WRITING EXERCISE FOR FEELING CALM

Think about a place that brings you feelings of calm and inner peace. Imagine this place in as much sensory detail as you can. What do you see, taste, hear, smell and touch in this place? Write about this place in as much detail as possible. Now read what you just wrote and allow your thoughts of this place to support you in experiencing a feeling of calm in this moment. Know you can return to this place/feeling at any time by bringing this calm place to mind with the help of writing about it.

If you already have a favourite journaling habit keep it up! But you may want to try something new in addition to it. And if you’re new to journaling, here are several practices to try. See what works best for you.

BULLET JOURNAL OR PERSONAL PLANNING JOURNAL

Some people simply keep journals to track what they need to do each day, goals they have, memories they create, and other things they don’t want to forget. Because writing things down can help keep your mind uncluttered and help you to remember what’s important to you, this can relieve stress as well. Being more organized and balanced is a wonderful way
to feel less stressed.

And remember, if you find yourself not keeping a regular schedule with journaling, it’s a habit you can resume at any time. You don’t have to journal every day for it to work for you—a few times a week is still highly beneficial, and even journaling on an as-needed basis brings benefits. If you had a journaling habit and stopped because life got in the way, remember—any day is a good day to get back into the habit!

WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS EACH DAY

This is by far my favourite of all the journaling ideas on this list. It’s also a crucial part of my morning routine, and something I’ve been doing daily for over five years. Every morning, I wake up, grab my journal, and re-write my goals. This is a daily practice for me—I’ll never miss a day for the rest of my life.

There are two reasons I decided to make this journaling idea a life-long habit:

  1. Journaling my goals reminds me what matters most to me right now (when you do
    this, you’ll find that some of the goals you re-write will get more specific, while others
    will change or get forgotten about all together).
  2. Something magical happens when you regularly write down what you really, truly,
    genuinely want in life—you start to get it. Great ideas hit you out of nowhere, and
    your mind urges you to act on them until your goals become a reality. It’s a beautiful
    thing.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Every morning, before you begin your day, open a fresh page in your journal and write down your top 10–15 goals.
  • The next day, wake up and do the same thing without looking at the previous day.
  • Do this for 30 days — wake up, re-write your goals, don’t look at the previous day and what you’ll notice is that your goals will begin to clarify, transform, or change altogether. This is a good thing, because it helps you hone-in on what you really want
    in life.
DAILY LOG

The daily log is when you journal about your day-to-day: what you did, what you ate, who you saw and spoke with. Whatever you want. It’s a working way to log your life. The best part about this journaling habit is that you literally have a hand-written record of what you’ve done on any given day… And believe me when I tell you that it comes in handy.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  • Get a journal that’s comfortable enough to carry with you wherever you go.
  • As various things happen throughout your day, simply log them.
  • You can jot stuff down, draw pictures, or record them as detailed notes—it’s totally up to you. Since this is something you’ll need to do daily, the important thing, is to keep the parameters loose enough that you’ll do it.
GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Here are three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. My family.
  2. Doing work that helps people improve their lives and achieve their goals.
  3. The beautiful smoothie I’m sipping’ on as I write this.

Easy, you can be as detailed as you want, or as specific as you want. You can even keep the list going if you want. But be sure to include at least three things.

A few more things to keep in mind…

Gratitude journaling can be done anytime during the day, but I’d recommend doing it in the morning before beginning your work day. Why? Because genuine gratitude reverberates into the rest of your entire day, setting off a domino effect of optimism with which you can approach your work, your clients, your family, and everyone else you cross paths with.
On top of that, it’s psychologically impossible to feel stressed and grateful at the same time. In other words, gratitude is win whichever way you look at it.

  • Here’s how this journaling idea works:
  • Crack open your journal or planner.
  • Write down three things you’re grateful for.
  • Optional (but highly recommended): make your list in the morning.
  • Also, if you already keep a journal, planner, or to do list of some kind, you can also just set aside some open space on one those pages to write out the 3 things your grateful for. This way, you can look at it throughout the day as you’re checking stuff off your list.
JOURNALING FOR PROBLEM SOLVING

Should you move to a bigger house? Should you quit your job? What’s your life’s purpose? These are examples of life challenges I’ve journaled about – and found solutions to – in the past.

The reason it’s great to journal about your problems is because our brains tend to enlarge problems, making them seem bigger than they really are. But when we write our problems down, we minimize them. I’m not saying your problems go away the moment you put pen to paper, but you do realize that your problems aren’t as daunting as they seem in your head once you’ve gotten them down on paper – and that’s a great first step, no?

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

Whenever you’re faced with a challenge of some kind, open to fresh page in your journal, and write out your problem as a question at the top of the page.

For example: “I’ve been offered a promotion at work. I’ll be making more money, but my daily commute increases by an hour. Should I take the promotion?”

Now, start a list of potential solutions. Or, start a Pros and Cons list to help you decide what to do about the problem.

For example: “I should take the promotion because…” or “I shouldn’t take the promotion because…”
• Unless you decide otherwise, this is for your eyes only; so, don’t worry about being organized here. The idea is to get clear about what you want and find a solution to your problem(s).

JOURNALING FOR STRESS

When we’re stressed out about something, it’s usually because our thinking is scattered. Or because we’re really pissed off. Or because we’re being bombarded with more stuff to do or to think about than we can handle right now.

In my experience, journaling for stress seems to have a therapeutic effect. If I’m angry about something or confused about how to approach a personal issue I’m wrestling with in my mind, I just take out my journal and start writing about it. In the beginning of these journaling sessions, I feel like a little kid, just scribbling out a bunch of incoherent run-on sentences. I start asking myself why I’m feeling the way I do… I write it all down. I get it all out. And it helps. It genuinely helps.

The stress may not go away entirely, but it’s a much better option than popping pills to cover it all up. In fact, journaling about the stuff that stresses you out helps you do something positive.

Emotional Release

You may also write about your emotional responses to events that have happened throughout the day as a way of coping with the stress. This can help you to process what you are feeling and perhaps even explore more positive reframing options. When writing about positive experiences, this allows you the ability to maximize and savour the positive feelings you may have for the good things that have happened in your day. This is also a terrific way to expand on the positive and manage the negative things that happen in your life, increasing your positivity ratio, which is an important aspect of stress management.

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  1. When you feel stressed, grab your journal and open to a fresh page
  2. Start writing down everything that you feel stressed or tense or anxious about. It helps to ask and answer the following questions during your journaling session:
    1. What am I stressed about?
    2. Why do I feel this way?
    3. What are some things I can do to alleviate the stress?
  3. There aren’t any time restraints or page targets here—write for as long as you want, and fill as many pages as you want. The idea here, is to make you feel like you’re “getting it all out” as if you were calling up an old friend to rant about something you feel angry about. Think of it like ranting to a friend, except inside your journal. Write it all down. Get it all out.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TODAY?

At the end of the night, right before bed, grab your journal and write down the single best thing that happened to you today. And yes, you’ve got to choose just ONE thing. The reason this specific question – “What’s the best thing that happened today?” – is so powerful is because it forces you to shift your focus onto something positive prior to dozing off to sleep… And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that it’s better to go to sleep thinking about something positive rather than it is to go to  sleep thinking about something negative.

Here are some examples of how I’ve put this journaling idea to work in my own life:
“What’s the best thing that happened to me today?”

Here’s how this journaling idea works:

  1. Open to a fresh page in your journal, or, if possible, have a small journal dedicated specifically for this purpose to keep next to your bed (which is what I do).
  2. Every night, before bed, take out your journal and answer this question: “What’s the best thing that happened today?” Then simple begin to write out the single best thing that you experienced today. That’s it.
  3. Your answer can be a single sentence or several sentences. But the key to doing this consistently is to keep it simple. Write it down and get your ass to bed.
RECAP: 6 JOURNALING IDEAS

1. Write down your goals every day.
2. Keep a daily log.
3. Journal three things you’re grateful for every day.
4. Journal your problems.
5. Journal your stresses.
6. Journal your answer to “What’s the best thing that happened today?” every night
before bed.

What you decide to do, is entirely up to you. But if you’ve never journaled before, my suggestion would be to pick just one thing from the list, try it out, and then move on to the next.

Once you’ve tried them all, you can then decide which ones to keep in the mix, and which ones you could do without.

Whichever way you decide to go, just remember this:

If you’re life’s worth living, then it’s worth recording.

And one of the best ways to record it is with a journal

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