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7 Different Ways to Journal to Help You Create, Reflect and Explore

writing a journal

Journaling is a powerful way to uncover our thoughts and feelings. It’s as though the act of writing helps to pry out the hidden, murky, unsure emotions, concerns, worries and reflections from our bodies and our minds. Journaling is a great way to jot down half-formed, foggy ideas. To shape and develop them.

Journaling is a great way to create connections between seemingly disparate subjects. It’s helpful for spotting patterns in our own lives. It’s helpful for exploring our wishes, dreams, hopes, intentions; and for catching and containing our observations and descriptions of the world.

There are many different ways we can approach journaling. Here are seven suggestions to try:

Pen morning pages. You might be familiar with the daily practice of “morning pages,” created by author Julia Cameron. Basically, every morning you write, by hand, three pages about anything and everything that comes to mind. According to Cameron, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages–they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing’…Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.” The key is simply to write down whatever is swirling around in your brain, which helps you clear out the clutter, and clear the path to creation.

Record a 5-minute check-in. At the same time every day or whenever you get a chance, record your thoughts and feelings. (Most smartphones have a recorder.) Simply talk about what’s bothering you, what’s making you smile that day, how your body is feeling, what thoughts you’re having in that moment. You also might record your musings and observations. Speaking aloud can be very helpful for generating and growing our ideas.

Respond to the same questions or prompts. Journal your responses to the same questions or prompts on a regular basis. For instance, maybe you’d like to cultivate a gratitude practice, so your prompts are:

  • My favorite thing about today was:
  • I’m so thankful for:
  • Today, I noticed this  ________ about beautiful Mother Nature.
  • I thank my body for helping me to:

Or you might ask yourself check-in types of questions, such as:

  • Where am I feeling tension in my body?
  • Where am I feeling ease?
  • What do I need right now?
  • What do I need this week?

It can be helpful to go back and read through your responses. You might learn that certain people, places, or events trigger specific emotions. You might learn other important insights about yourself.

The gratitude practice might help you become more aware of the beautiful things in your life, and even lift your mood on the tough days. Just a bit.

Practice bullet journaling. Digital product designer Ryder Carroll invented this method. According to Carroll, notebooks are a “creative playground.” (I love that.) His notebooks are his canvas, where he “dares to create, to make, to plan.” Carroll has created his own notebook but you can use any notebook you like. Basically, bullet journaling consists of four parts: an index to easily find what you’ve jotted down; a section for recording future tasks and events; a daily list of tasks; and a monthly calendar. Plus, you also use different symbols, such as an X to denote that you’ve completed a task. You can learn the specifics of bullet journaling and how it all works here and by watching this video.

Create a quick drawing. Whether you’re an artist or not, sketch how you’re feeling. Sketch your ideas or worries or aspirations. Sketch your surroundings. Sketch your nighttime dreams. Sometimes, drawing—whatever it is—can feel so freeing. And, in a way, it helps us to open various different doors inside our minds and hearts.

Correspond with someone else. Pick a close friend you’d like to correspond with. You might commit to writing a letter to each other every week. Write about how your days are going. Write about your wishes, triumphs, trials, frustrations. Write about anything you’d like your friend to know. Respond to your friend’s concerns and questions. Then at the end of the year, exchange your letters, so you each get your letters back. Look through them to read your thoughts and reactions at different points in time.

Create a daily collage. Jamie Ridler, a creative living coach, makes a collage every day in her journal. According to Ridler, the idea is to capture the essence of a given day in visual form. She includes things such as: words she finds to be meaningful from newsletters she receives; images she finds to be interesting; movie tickets; and wrapping paper. If you’d like to try this but are pressed for time, simply include a single image, as Ridler suggests. You can watch videos of Ridler’s inspiring journals here.

Perhaps the most important part about journaling is that it involves taking time out for yourself. To wonder, observe, reflect, dream, question, understand. It gives us the opportunity to let ourselves be seen and heard. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, that time is powerful.

What’s your favorite way to journal? 

Image credit: psphotography/
7 Different Ways to Journal to Help You Create, Reflect and Explore

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). 7 Different Ways to Journal to Help You Create, Reflect and Explore. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Jun 2016
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