My Favorite Ways to Journal

There are so many different ways to practice self-care that sometimes we can get lost in the sea of options to work out, meditate, listen to music, do yoga, read a book, watch a show, etc. One way that always stands out to me though is journaling. Part of what makes it such a great self-care activity is that there is no one set way to journal. Some people love to pour their heart out on pages and pages, while others have trouble finding the time to even open the book. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, journaling allows you to find the way that works best for you to express yourself. Below are a few ways that you can journal. Try them out and find the one that fits you best! 

  1. 1. Word Vomit: Write it Out

    Do you sometimes feel like you have so much going on that you just need to put it down on paper so your brain can hit pause? By simply using a journal to write freely, you are giving yourself the freedom to write as much or as little as necessary for that day. I call this word vomit because there are no grammatical rules, paragraph minimums or maximums, and there doesn’t need to have a beginning, middle or end. This is simply you allowing your thoughts to flow freely from your mind onto a page. This might involve writing out whatever events, stressors, successes and failures happened during your day, it might be writing down your dreams when you wake up from a restless night of sleep, or it could be all of the things you have planned for the day ahead of you and how you feel about it. 

  2. 2. Say Thank You: Gratitude Lists

    Do you find yourself wishing you spent more time counting your blessings rather than listing your worries? Practicing gratitude can help you to feel happier, recognize the good in your life more frequently, and show more appreciation for good things that happen in your day. There are a number of ways you can make a gratitude list. You might want to list out the numbers one through 20 and recognize 20 things that you are grateful for in that moment. Another option is to write down three things that you were grateful for from your day before you go to bed. Any list you create can be about people, places, moments, or things. It is entirely up to you!

  3. 3. Musical Mindfulness: Press Play & Write On

    woman listening to music and dancing

    Is music one of your favorite ways to express yourself? Do you find that you have a soundtrack to your days? A great way to journal at any time during the day is to play a song and draw or write whatever comes to mind. It can be your favorite song, one that you heard recently, one that resonates with you in that moment, totally your choice. Let it play and then let your thoughts flow onto the paper. You might draw what the song is describing or write down lyrics that seem the most powerful to you. This is a very personal journaling method but it can be done anywhere, anytime! 

  4. 4. Best, Worst, Grateful: Mindfulness in Under Three Minutes 

    Do you want to practice mindfulness but can’t seem to fit even 10 minutes of meditation into your day? In under three minutes, this journaling method can let you reflect on your day, recognize what brought you joy, what was hard, and what you are grateful for. Another option is to reflect on what you are looking forward to the next day rather than or in addition to what you are grateful for. I really like this one because it allows me to reflect on my day in a time-sensitive manner and I can do it whenever I want.

  5. 5. Recognize That You Rock: Acknowledge Yourself

    Sign that reads “you are worthy of love”

    Do you have a hard time accepting compliments or finding things that you like about yourself? Every night, consistently if possible, write down one thing that you did well that day and/or are proud of. It can be anything from getting out of bed when you hadn’t slept well, to a stressful test that you managed to finish, to helping someone you care about go through something really difficult. If it works better for you, you can even write out a list of things you did well that day. The idea is to capture something about yourself that you can feel proud of and happy about. Besides, the whole point of self-care is to show ourselves compassion. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back!

  6. 6. True or False: Debunking Your Stressors

    Have you ever experienced something one way, but looking back on it realized your reaction was all in your perception of the event? If a particular thing is on your mind, write out what is factual and what is being assumed or felt. This can help remove our perception to find the truth of the moment. This can be applicable to arguments with friends or family, overanalyzing an important interview or test, or anything else that is causing you stress based on your perception of how it occurred. For example, I might be stressed because I took a test earlier that day and am worried about the grade I get on it. I could have a knot in my stomach and be constantly checking my phone to see if grades were posted. By sitting down and writing out that situation, I can look at it from a different perspective. I might realize that no matter what my grade is, I did my best and can feel proud of that. I might see that I actually felt pretty good about the test but the rest of my day made me feel like my confidence was misplaced. Maybe I notice that the truth of the moment is that I can’t undo taking the test, it is now in my professor’s hands, and regardless of the grade I get, I have everything that I need to be okay. 

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who, when I suggest it, argue that journaling simply isn’t for them. The truth is that journaling is for you, no one else. So, however it looks for you, whatever format, timing, frequency, or method works best for you is a great way to journal because you are doing it for you.