Journaling provides a safe, powerful space for self-expression. It is an opportunity to listen to ourselves, and to pay closer attention to what’s happening inside our hearts and heads, and to what’s happening outside in our surroundings.
Journaling is a pause button—especially if you’re used to a busy, bustling, full schedule. Because when you’re going nonstop, it’s easy to get disconnected from yourself.
Journaling is a way to reconnect. It is a way to practice self-care.
As Jessica Turner points out in her excellent book Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter and Thrive, there’s no right (or wrong) way to journal. It just depends on what resonates with you, which also might change from time to time, from season to season, from year to year.
Below are five ways you can journal from Turner’s book.
In this type of journal, you simply jot down whatever comes to mind. It’s loose and flexible. Think of this as a non-judgmental space. That is, don’t judge what thoughts, feelings or worries arise. Give yourself permission to write down anything and everything that pops up.
Karen Copp, a nurse and mom of two, told Turner that she uses her journal as a “brain dump of ideas, hopes and dreams.” Before Copp started journaling, her mind felt scattered and cluttered. But journaling gives her clarity and helps her to fully focus on other things, like work.
A great example of a free-form journal is Julia Cameron’s “morning pages“: “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.” These pages “provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.”
This is perfect for people who don’t really like to journal, or who might be new to journaling. Or it’s helpful if you’re short on time. For instance, Turner, who isn’t a big journaler, enjoyed spending several minutes during her lunch break going through the prompts in the journal 52 Lists. “[T]he prompts inspired creativity and self-reflection in a fresh way for me.”
You could use different prompts every time. For instance, Turner made lists of everything from what she loved to do outside to what she wanted to do at wintertime. Or you could use the same prompt, such as listing everything you loved about the day, and a few things that were hard. Or you could simply list a few things you don’t want to forget.
You could make different days different themes: Since Mondays tend to get a bad rap and be tough for many of us, you could nudge yourself to find the positive in that day (e.g., a list of everything that made you smile). Wednesday might be a list of activities you’re planning for the weekend, and so on.
“By recording your gratitude, you become in tune with the day’s smallest blessings, including things you might have previously overlooked,” writes Turner, founder of the popular lifestyle blog The Mom Creative. Plus, she notes, rereading this kind of journal can help you navigate a tough time.
You might challenge yourself to jot down different things every time to help you really pay attention. You might create categories, and record one thing you’re thankful for in each one, such as: work, home, family, friends, self.
This is a space for documenting your prayers. According to Turner, “through prayer journaling, people are able to focus on their relationship and communion with God. Writing is a slower process than speaking, so it can make the art of prayer more meaningful.”
It also can be a place for studying Scripture and enhancing your understanding.
This is simply journaling on your computer or phone. For instance, Christina Kirk, a scientist and mom, told Turner that she typically writes emails in Gmail that she never sends. This works for her because she types faster than she writes, and writing can frustrate her.
You might use your phone’s notepad to jot down whatever is on your mind throughout the day or on your commute if you take public transportation.
You can journal in all sorts of ways. What’s most important is that it resonates with you, that it provides you with whatever you want journaling to provide, such as clarity, calm and inner connection.