It feels like well-meaning people friends, family members, and social media contacts bombard me with messages about the benefits of journaling these days – both online and in-person. I do want to journal and tried multiple times. I even bought a beautiful journal with pictures of unique artwork sprinkled throughout the pages thinking it would motivate me. But I journal for a short time, then stop. The practice just doesn’t stick for me. However, I recently found some good journaling apps. For others who, like me, are more digitally minded, these apps may help you journal across all your devices so you stay on top of it. I plan to try…will you join me?
Benefits of Journaling
So what are the benefits of journaling? Why take the time to develop a practice? People tell me they journal to reduce stress, improve health, strengthen their memory, and promote their emotional well-being.
I’m told 15 minutes per day devoted to journaling is sufficient to reap many of the benefits. I am not one to talk or write out my feelings often; I tend to be the helper and like to project an image of strength, even to myself. I do know though that when I do get out the heaviness in my heart, I generally feel better emotionally which often leads to feeling better physically. In addition, I find that writing about my thoughts and emotions frees up space in my memory so I can better retain information that serves me better.
Journaling for Mental Health
Mental health professionals talk a lot about journaling too. They often recommend journaling for mental health, though stress that journaling is not a substitute for professional treatment when necessary. Here are some of the key benefits of journaling for mental health as explained by professionals.
Writing in a journal allows you to express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a safe and private space. This can help you release pent-up emotions, reducing emotional stress and promoting emotional well-being.
Journaling encourages self-reflection and self-awareness. By writing about your experiences and thoughts, you can gain insight into your emotions, behaviors, and patterns. This self-awareness can lead to a better understanding of yourself and your triggers, helping you make more informed decisions and develop healthier coping strategies.
The act of writing can help reduce stress by organizing your thoughts and providing a structured way to deal with challenging situations. When you put your worries onto paper, they might feel less overwhelming, and you may gain a sense of control over your thoughts.
Journaling can help you work through problems and dilemmas. Writing about a situation allows you to analyze it from different angles, brainstorm solutions, and weigh the pros and cons. This process can lead to greater clarity and a better sense of direction.
Gratitude and Positivity
Incorporating gratitude journaling into your practice involves writing about things you’re thankful for. This can shift your focus toward the positive aspects of your life, which can help improve your mood and overall mental well-being.
For individuals dealing with trauma or difficult life experiences, journaling can serve as a therapeutic tool to process and make sense of these events. It provides a structured way to explore feelings, fears, and reactions, which can contribute to healing.
Journaling can help you track your personal growth and progress over time. By reviewing past entries, you can see how far you’ve come and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.
Mindfulness and Mind-Body Connection
Engaging in mindful journaling—where you focus on the present moment while writing—can enhance your awareness of your thoughts and emotions. This practice can foster a stronger mind-body connection and help you manage stress more effectively.
Catharsis and Release
Sometimes, writing about difficult experiences or intense emotions can provide a sense of catharsis—a release of pent-up feelings. This can contribute to a feeling of relief and emotional cleansing.
Boosting Mood and Well-Being
Regular journaling has been associated with improved mood and overall well-being. It can serve as a positive daily ritual that promotes self-care and self-nurturing.
Please note that if you’re dealing with severe or persistent mental health issues, it’s advisable to seek support from a qualified mental health professional. Journaling does not replace professional help.
Best Journaling Apps
Below are some journaling apps recommended by our readers. Most are free, though have in-app purchases available for more functionality.
Day One: This app allows you to add text, pictures, videos, and music! You can tell your story with or without words. The password-protected app allows you to tag and sort entries and customize reminders so they ping you at the time you choose. Available on both Android and IOS.
Penzu: This simple, user-friendly app is no-frills journaling at its best. Whether you want a tool to record your daily emotions and activities, keep a food diary or even record your dreams, this app has you covered. Available on both Android and IOS.
Diarium: Diarium is an intuitive diary created to help you keep precious memories. It pulls content from social media feeds or fitness trackers and allows you to rate your journal entries to help track how you’re feeling. Another nice feature is the voice dictation capability. This app syncs across cloud apps like google drive so you can easily access your data from anywhere. Available on both Android and IOS.
Momento: This app provides a smart private journal that stays up to date effortlessly. You have the option to collect Uber history, saved Spotify tracks and YouTube videos, and pull your social media posts into one place. In addition, Momento allows you to create albums based on different events. It also offers journal prompts to help you get your thoughts down. Available on IOS.
Five Minute Journal Practicing gratitude with the 5 Minute Journal app is the perfect way for the journal newbie to get started. The guided journaling offers bite-sized prompts that focus on gratitude and self-reflection. Available on both Android and IOS.
How to Start a Journaling Practice
How to start a journaling practice? Friends tell me that getting started is the hardest part. So keep in mind that journaling is a personal practice, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Adapt these steps to your preferences and needs, and make journaling a meaningful and enriching part of your life.
Step 1: Choose Your Journal Buddy
Think about whether you’d like a cozy physical notebook or the modern touch of digital journaling. It’s like picking a loyal companion for your thoughts.
Step 2: Set Up Your “Schedule”
Decide how often you want to hang out with your journal. Could be daily, a few times a week, or whenever you feel like having a heart-to-heart. Just like meeting a friend for a cup of tea.
Step 3: Discover Your Why
Ask yourself why you want to start journaling. Do you want to unload your thoughts, track your adventures, or maybe have a quiet space to dream? Knowing your why adds a sprinkle of purpose.
Step 4: Write Whatever Comes to Mind
When you open your journal, you’re opening the door to your world. Write however you feel comfortable – paragraphs, doodles, or even a mix! Your journal is your canvas.
Step 5: Find a Cozy Nook to Journal
Imagine finding a cozy spot where you can relax and open up. Create that perfect corner for your journaling adventures, free from distractions.
Step 6: Start with a Little Hello
Don’t stress about writing a novel on your first try. Just jot down a few lines about your day, your feelings, or even what you had for breakfast – like catching up with a friend.
Step 7: Speak Your Heart
Your journal is like a trustworthy confidant. Be real, be you. No need for fancy words or perfect sentences. Just let your heart do the talking.
Step 8: Play with Prompts
Feeling shy? That’s okay! Sometimes, a little prompt can nudge your thoughts in the right direction. It’s like having a fun conversation starter.
Step 9: Take a Thoughtful Pause
After you’ve poured out your heart, take a moment to reflect. Think about what you’ve written, like pondering a really interesting question.
Step 10: Spice It Up!
Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Add some spice to your journal by throwing in doodles, goals, inspiring quotes, or anything else that makes your heart smile.
Step 11: When Words Play Hide and Seek
Feeling stuck? Write about your surroundings, your senses, or how you’re feeling stuck. You’ll be surprised how words start flowing!
Step 12: No Judge Zone
Remember, your journal is your sacred space. It’s not a competition. No judgments, no comparisons – just you being you.
Step 13: Celebrate You
When you hit milestones, big or small, give yourself a high-five! Celebrate your journey and how far you’ve come.
Step 14: Be Kind to Yourself
Missed a day? That’s okay! Life happens. Just like with a friend, you can pick up right where you left off.
Step 15: Walk Down Memory Lane
Now and then, flip through your past entries. It’s like revisiting old memories with a smile and realizing how much you’ve grown.
Is Journaling for You?
People journal for many different reasons and use different journaling styles. You may choose to use bullet points to describe your feelings/activities that day, or a paragraph format to let your creativity take over. Or perhaps a gratitude journal where you focus on specifically what you are grateful for each day. Whichever you choose, the benefits of starting some type of journaling practice seem clear. The hardest part is getting started and a journaling app may be just what I need to make the practice stick. I challenge you to join me in my efforts to begin today!