Updated: Feb 14
In this post, we will introduce you to some options that you can try out in your personal journaling practice! We will briefly summarize 10 techniques that are capable of creating powerfully effective transformations in your life when you apply them properly. Our intention is that in trying out these techniques, you will discover a new practice that is both self-revealing and life-enhancing. Keep in mind that this post includes only a few of all the journaling techniques out of the many that are out there, but the ones we chose to include are important and relevant to the information on journaling shared here at In A New Way. If you'd like to learn more about journaling and it's benefits, click the links found at the bottom of this insight for follow up content from the Omnipresent Information Connection Podcast!
The true power of journaling is in its ability to organize and/or focus your life, provide relief from certain stressors, and clarify your emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences. When we experience these benefits it becomes clear that journaling is not just a practice that enhances the lives of teenagers, which is an age group that often finds an escape or artistic expression in keeping a diary. You will discover by reading this article that as adults, we have even more reasons to practice journaling! The techniques that are utilized alongside your own self-honesty determine the types/amounts of benefits you will experience through your journaling practice. Many people keep more than one type of journal! For example, a person who feels like they're always busy may want to keep a personal journal that helps them to slow down and clear their mind, or to provide relief from stored-up emotional; energy... while also keeping a business-centered journal on the side that helps to organize their schedule and track business developments. Take some time to try out multiple techniques for journaling and we are sure you will be able to zero in on some techniques that will be effective in your life! Now let's get into what some of those techniques are.
Daily Planner Journal
Daily Reflection Journal
Reading Journal/Field Notes
Worst Case Scenario Journal
Freewriting is the simplest and least restrictive form of journaling. This is the technique that most children and teenagers will write with when they first start journaling. The main idea in freewriting is to set a specified amount of time that you will write for, otherwise choose a specific number of pages that you plan to fill up, and simply write! There is no restriction on what you decide to include in order to fill the pages or the time limit, as long as you are writing whatever comes to mind. When writing down anything that comes to your mind, it is helpful to keep in mind that the purpose of this writing style is not to be 100% grammatically correct. Give yourself freedom to be as sloppy in sentence structure or spelling as you need to be without worrying about going back and changing anything that you wrote. The freedom in freewriting is unlimited!
Less stress- Freewriting can bring a number of benefits to us. First of all, writing down whatever comes to mind without worrying about anything besides filling a time limit or page limit helps to ease any anxiety we may have felt about keeping a journal in the first place! Many people at times feel overwhelmed when they decide to start a journal because they feel like their journal needs to be perfect. If they mess up a sentence or write something down that did not express their thoughts perfectly they may get frustrated and give up early on. For that reason freewriting is a wonderful way to break the ice and start your journaling practice in a way that doesn't involve any added stress of needing it to be or look perfect.
Self Acceptance- Freewriting helps people to accept themselves! Pouring out anything and everything that comes to mind quickly and without a filter can at times show us sides of ourselves we did not expect. Sometimes the words expressed during freewriting may even shock us. Not to worry, though... this should be expected! Our minds produce multiple thousands of individual thoughts every day, and keeping track of all of them 100% of the time is an impossible task for anyone. That being said, there are many thoughts that may be expressed on paper during freewriting that, prior to writing them down, you had no idea were swirling around in your mind. When something you write down shocks you or seems to be out of character, it's important to not place judgment on yourself. Instead, accept them and move on to the next thought. In reviewing what was written down, you may gain some self-awareness about how your mind works. The more that you practice freewriting, the more you will be able to accept the words your mind and pen produce, and move on without judgment. The point of freewriting is not meant to be polished or neat, it's all about releasing what is in your mind onto paper without judgment.
Make Sense of Your Own Emotions- As previously mentioned, freewriting can help you be aware of how your mind works. It can also help you understand difficult emotions. Freewriting while we are feeling a difficult emotion or going through a highly emotional season can provide us with a healthy release of that emotional energy, just like when we "vent" our emotions to another human being. This literary venting session not only releases pent-up energies that we may feel uncomfortable expressing to another person, but it also helps us to understand how we feel. When we take something as complex and multifaceted as our emotions and put it on paper, even with freewriting there is a certain level of organization that occurs when translating thoughts into sentences. To clarify, doing this can be likened to untying a loose knot without needing to pick at it, which can be frustrating. Stretching out the knot into sentences forces us to slow down and see that emotional knot from a different perspective. Instead of being a balled-up mess it is now stretched out into a single, more comprehensible line of string.
Brainstorming- Freewriting is a great way to brainstorm. If you ever need to come up with new ideas, just letting your hand follow your mind and express it on paper can really help to get the creative juices flowing. Write for a certain amount of time, then review the page or pages that you just filled and see if there is anything you can work with and expand on!
Brain Detox- Freewriting is the best way to self-medicate your cluttered mind. Anytime you feel overwhelmed mentally, the practice of writing down anything on your mind without a filter can aid in letting go of the clutter. When you get it out on paper, the clutter is being sifted through and sorted out. Just like in making sense of your own emotions, free writing also will give you a healthy way to find relief from an overwhelmed mind.
Sleep- Oftentimes an overload of thoughts can cause people to have difficulty falling asleep at night. By freewriting at night, we can release those thoughts so they are processed before they have the chance of distracting us while we try to fall asleep.
Tips getting started:
A great time to practice freewriting is in the morning. Not only does writing anything at all in the morning get your brain neurons firing early, it also helps you to gather your thoughts and be in a more coherent state of mind. This can help tremendously in being more productive in the mornings and throughout the entire day!
Write your feelings down! Like we shared earlier in this post, freewriting helps us make sense of difficult emotions. When you feel a difficult emotion, give yourself a hand and a healthy release by trying out freewriting! Write down all your thoughts about what is causing you to feel this certain way. Let it pour out on paper instead of storing it up internally!
Remember, freewriting is completely free! The only way to begin is to begin. There is no need to be anxious about what to write about, just get that pen moving on paper and write anything that comes to mind!
2. Dream Journaling
Dreaming has been the source of inspiration throughout history. From Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity to Dmitri Mendeleev and the periodic table of elements, dreams have been known to bring important new ideas forth into the lives of many different people. Keeping a journal of our dreams can therefore be a simple source of new ideas in our own lives! All that you need is a journal, a pen, and a place to set them near your bed to get started. When you wake up, immediately write down any details you can about what you remember from your dreams.
Improved Memory- Keeping a dream journal has been shown to improve your memory. Waking up and immediately thinking of any small details from the dreams that occurred nightly gets the parts of your brain associated with memory firing right away. The same way you work a muscle at the gym, writing down your dreams "works out" your memory muscles! The more you work out your memory muscles, the more your memory will start to improve.
Insight to your Subconscious- Dreams can often give us insight into the inner workings of our subconscious mind. Dreams are often symbolic. They can show us areas in our life where we need healing, and help us get in touch with what really matters to us. Interpreting them honestly can lead us to having a much deeper understanding of ourselves.
Improved Creativity- Some of the most creative experiences we have in life occur during our dreams. The "dream world", so to speak, is not physical like the world during our waking state. For that reason among others, dreams can be the source of many creative ideas we may want to express after we wake up. Writing down these creative inspirations is one way we can inject more creativity into our lives easily and effectively! It is fascinating to note that there have been many famous songs (along with many other forms of art) that were originally inspired dreams of the artists who wrote them. Some songs on this list include; "Yesterday" by The Beatles, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones, "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix, and "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.
Tips getting started:
Write down your dreams immediately! If you wait, the dreams become more fuzzy as the day goes on. The best way to assure you will be able to record the maximum amount of your dreams is to not delay in writing them down.
Keep a dream journal on your nightstand. Keeping a journal just an arms length away from your bed is the best place for it to ensure you will be able to record dreams as soon as possible.
Have a light source available. If you often wake up when it is still dark outside or not quite bright enough yet to see the journal's pages, it is important to have a reading light near your bed so that you don't need to strain your eyes. Comfortability is important to help you focus and concentrate on remembering the details.
Write any and all details you remember. Colors, sounds, people, places, feelings, thoughts, objects, and anything else you can remember are worth recording in a dream journal. It is also a good idea to draw pictures in your dream journal, due to the fact that many dreams include details that are difficult to put into words. When you include even small details in your dream journal, it boosts the effectiveness that this practice has at improving your memory.
Take it easy! Don't get down on yourself if at first you struggle to remember your dreams. As mentioned earlier, memory is like a muscle. The more you work out with consistency the more you will see improvement in how much you can recall about your dreams.
Listen to "Soul Inspiring Dreams and Visions" on the OIC Podcast for more insight into the profound subject of dreams!
3. Daily Planner Journal
One of the best ways to organize and structure your life is to keep a daily planner. This can be as simple or as detailed as you are comfortable with. You may be inspired to write down everything you plan on doing hour by hour, or you may just want to start out by writing a list of what you'd like to get accomplished at any point throughout the day. It's completely up to you which way you prefer to organize your day. This simple technique works as often as you work it, so refer to it often in order to stay on track with your goals for the day. At the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back for what you were able to get accomplished, and add to the next day's planner what you weren't able to get to!
Organization- The most obvious benefit is organization. With a daily journal you can see your days before they happen, and it programs your mind prior to the events of the day to think of better ways that you can build your schedule.
Productivity- When you are aware of the day's goals before the day starts, you are more hardwired to get things done! Seeing the day before it happens allows you to have more mental preparation to get all the tasks of the day done. Writing down your goals is known to improve the chances of them getting accomplished.
Identify Your Priorities- When you write down the goals you have in life, it helps you to be honest with yourself about your true priorities in life. Which goals do work on most throughout your days? When you notice trends in certain goals being accomplished or worked on over others, you can clearly see what you are prioritizing most.
Tips Getting Started:
Start small. Baby steps are important when introducing new levels of productivity into our lives. If you include too many goals and events in your daily planner, you may get overwhelmed and down on yourself for not accomplishing more of the daily tasks.
Plan your days in advance. Whatever you can write down for certain days in advance, make sure to do so. By writing down your planner in advance you provide yourself with more of a heads-up for your day. Then you won't be hit with unexpected events you had planned but forgotten about, which would otherwise cause you to not be able to accomplish the other items in your daily planner.
Include more than just what you want to get done. It can be helpful to write down reminders in your daily journal of things that you want to avoid. If you want to spend less time on your phone, write it down in your planner as a reminder when you refer to your journal later on throughout the day.
Divide big goals into smaller tasks. By making big goals into smaller tasks, it becomes easier to plan out how much time it will take and what all is required in order for you to reach that big goal.
Listen to "SMARTER Goal Setting" on the OIC Podcast to learn a powerful strategy that helps you in setting goals more effectively for the day and for your life as a whole!
4. Daily Reflection Journal
The daily reflection journal is basically just writing down events you experienced and how you feel about them at the end of the day. This is a great way to unwind at the end of the day, with the added benefit of producing your own book of life at the same time! You can include anything that you remember from the time you woke up until the very moment you started writing in your reflection journal at the end of the night.
Improved memory- When you reflect on your day, you work the memory parts of your brain and grow that muscle just like when remembering your dreams with your dream journal!
Create a Book of Life- Your book of life tells the story of who you are and what you experienced. In looking back on past entries, you may gain valuable insight into how you've grown or what you can do differently to improve the quality of your life. On top of that, you will have stored up information about your life that your family and loved ones may want to read someday, giving them the same valuable insights that you've recorded about your own life!
Store Memories- When you write a reflection journal, you are storing up memories that may be looked back on fondly as you grow older. It is helpful to record meaningful memories so that you always refer to the journal in order to remember more clearly the events that took place in the past.
Tips Getting Started:
Be specific! Record what happened during your day that made you happy, sad, frustrated, etc. You can record things that made you smile, thoughts that crossed your mind, conversations you had with others... don't be afraid to get creative!
When you reflect on your day, think about ways in which you may be able to improve in different areas of your life. When you think of something you want to improve on, write down a reminder in your daily planner!
If you skip a day, don't worry! Just write about that previous day along with the day you are currently on next time. If you allow yourself to get discouraged, that does nothing to help you get started again. The more consistent you are the easier it will feel to keep going!
5. Communication Journal
A communication journal is very similar to a daily reflection journal, but more specific! This journal is one where it is most effective to make entrees throughout your day instead of just at night time. In this journal you are intended to write down what you remember from important conversations you had. After that, you can write down ways in which you succeeded and ways that you failed in communication. The most important step is writing down ways that you can improve and gain mastery over your communication with others.
Improved Communication Skills- The most obvious benefit is exactly what this type of journaling is designed for! When you think about the conversations you had and the ways that you can improve what you say to others on a daily basis, your communication skills are sure to grow!
Improved Relationships- When you learn to communicate effectively by writing down what fails and what works, you will also naturally be able to reflect on and learn about the ways that other people communicate. Having a better understanding of the loved ones and people around you means more opportunity to say the right things at the right times that make positive impacts in their lives. The ultimate result of this will be improved relationships to enjoy all the days of your life!
Self-Awareness- Reflecting on your own success and failure in communication can quickly bring you up to speed on why you communicate the way you do. Growing in awareness of your "why's" in life will help you realize what needs to be applied more and what mannerisms or words need to be done away with in order to be a more effective communicator.
Tips Getting Started:
Include everything! You don't need to just write about verbal communication. Include body language and other non-verbal communication experiences such as text messages, phone calls, video calls and more!
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this journal is designed to improve your communication skills. If you do not apply what you write down about how you can improve, it will not have much of any benefit to your life or other people's lives, either. Always do your best to remember how you can improve communication and apply that on a daily basis. Set reminders in your phone or daily planner to help stay on track.
Listen to "The Power of Spoken Word" on the OIC Podcast to learn about the effective power of communication that you can harness today!
6. Reading Journal/Field Notes
A reading journal and field notes are designed for study and reflection on things you want to remember later on. When you are reading a book, keep a notebook nearby and write down details from the book that you'd like to remember. You may want to include quotes from certain characters, reference material for study, character overviews, or sources from the bibliography. Whether for fun, for study or for both, a reading journal will help you retain what you read and learn valuable lessons contained in the material. Field notes are a similar idea but applied to anything you may want to take notes on throughout the day. If you are watching a movie and hear a quote or see something you'd like to remember, write it down. Field notes can also be paired up as a communication journal. Keep a small journal with you wherever you go in case you have a conversation wherein something was said that you would like to remember later on.
Retention- Remember more specifically material you read, watched, heard or experienced throughout your days.
Study Help- It's just like taking notes in college or high school, but now applied to the real world and books that you actually WANT to read!
Improve other Journaling Techniques- In keeping a reading journal and field notes, you can store valuable information that can be expanded upon later in the day while writing in your reflection journal or your communication journal. If you think of anything throughout the day that you would like to add to your daily planner, you can add that to your field notes as well!
Tips Getting Started:
Don't limit yourself. With field notes you can write anything and everything that you'd like to remember later. This can include the thoughts you have, words spoken to and by you, things you saw or experienced with any of your senses, ways something such as a book you read had an effect on you, and much much more!
When you keep this type of journal, sometimes it is important to include the times, places, names, and dates relevant to what you are writing down. Make sure you include these details when necessary.
Keep your field notes in a smaller journal that is easy to take with you everywhere. You may also prefer to use your smartphone to record notes.
Organize your notes with topical headlines. When you add a title to the note you are about ready to write, it is much easier later on to navigate your notes and find the specific note you are looking for.
7. Unsent Letter
The unsent letter is a powerful journaling technique that involves writing a letter without intending to ever send it out in the mail. This may seem funny at first, but it is a powerful act of purgation for many people of all ages when done correctly! Write a letter to a family member, a friend, or you could even write a personal letter to yourself. The point is to get out any pent up feelings that you are not able to express through actual contact with a person or, in writing to yourself, to help clarify anything you may be feeling or thinking about yourself or your life.
Emotional Relief- In this form of expression, it is possible to experience the same amount of emotional healing as would have if you actually sent a letter. Even if directly contacting the person the letter is being written to is not an option, sometimes the act of expressing words left unsaid is what we really need in order to heal.
Improve Relationships- Sometimes when we are holding something against someone (or against ourselves), venting those feelings out, even if just on paper for your eyes only, can help you find the strength needed for you to forgive. Writing letters to people who are currently in your life can also help you clarify what you want to say to them next time you come in contact with them.
Self-Awareness- In writing unsent letters to ourselves or to others, we can often surprise ourselves. Sometimes the words that come out of the pens we hold can bring such brutal self honesty that we say things we were not able to face on a strictly mental level. This self-honesty and expression of one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions gets us more in touch with who we truly are.
Tips Getting Started:
Get creative! You can write unsent letters to people you know or have known, to yourself past present or future, to fictional characters, to groups of people, to people who you know but who don't know you, and you can even write a letter to your present self from the perspective of an older, wiser version of yourself. There are many possibilities for this journaling technique when you think outside the box!
Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind. This letter is not going anywhere as long as you don't take it anywhere. Express yourself openly and honestly for the best results in this practice.
Listen to "The Power of Letting Go" parts 1 and 2 on the OIC Podcast to learn more information and tactics that can aid you in what is often the main point of writing unsent letters; letting go!
8. Worst Case Scenario Journal
Anxiety, fear, worry... all these emotions play a role in our lives. How we respond to them can make a humongous difference in the amount of time needed to process them, grow from them, and move past them. Worst case scenario journaling is one technique that can effectively facilitate healing from our fears and other types of negative emotions that often have fear attached to them. The first step in this type of journal is to write about something that's causing fear to rise up within you. This immediately puts us head-to-head with the fear itself. Next, write down what the worst possible case scenario would be from the situation causing the fear, and be specific. Then, with your fear and the worst possible outcome directly in front of you, write down how you would respond if that worst case scenario came true. You may want to include more than just how you think you would react; write down the ways that you feel you should react as well!
Facing Your Fears- Worst case scenario journaling can often make us uncomfortable at first because it puts fear directly in our face when we would rather run and hide from it. This form of journaling therefore forces us to face our fears, and this comes with many self-revealing and life changing possibilities! Facing our fears can boost our confidence, muster our strength, and help us to cope with other fears we may experience in the future. If you ever notice the same fearful thoughts that you've already faced creeping up on you again, you can now immediately identify and rebuke them, because you have already learned how to properly respond to them!
Identify Stinking Thinking- Our minds can often get out of sorts with reality. Worst case scenario journaling can help us identify when our minds are in this state. "Catastrophic thinking" is when someone believes that things are far worse than they actually are. When you write down ways that you can respond correctly to worst case scenarios, and include personal points of strength that would help you in getting through those worse-cases, it can be a wonderful clarifier that brings relief, so our minds can stop overthinking so much.
Tips Getting Started:
Be honest! If you are not honest about both the source of fear in your life and the sources of strength that you can draw from in a worst case scenario, this technique will be less effective.
Include people you can turn to in worst case scenarios for wisdom and guidance. Our relationships with other people who have gone through or are going through similar situations can sometimes be our greatest asset. Now you are less alone if a fearful situation were to occur!
Reflect on past entrees. If you look back on past worst case scenarios you've written about you may find that a lot of the fears you've had turned out completely fine. If you did end up facing a bad situation, write about how you responded when it happened and how you might respond better if it were to happen again. You can also write down any advice you can now give to someone if you discovered that they face a similar situation.
Listen to "Mental Protection & Clarity" on the OIC Podcast to learn more strategies for facing your own fears and harnessing the strength within you to overcome them.
9. Problem/Solution Journal
Very similar to the worst case scenario journal, the problem/solution journal is also about facing various issues in life. The idea of this technique is to think of any problem you may be facing in life, and then brainstorm different solutions or possible ways to find solutions to those problems. It can be applied to problems you are having in communication by writing down conversations you had and what words you could have said better. It can be applied to financial problems, helping you brainstorm ways that you can begin working towards solutions. It can be applied to any and every problem in life that you are facing! Even in the case that there is no solution that immediately comes to mind, you can begin moving towards one by listing resources, relationships, and actions that will help you find a solution.
Replace Fear with Productivity- There is no point worrying about something if it doesn't help you find a solution. When you journal about the problems you face and potential solutions that are available to you, it clears up a lot of time spent worrying and replaces that with productivity in seeking out solutions.
Clarify Both Sides- This technique when done with honesty will help you to be more clear on what the problem is and what the solutions can be. Writing can often bring out ideas that we otherwise would not have thought of. Even if you cannot find a solution right away, you can start to brainstorm the factors that can potentially lead you towards finding one.
Tips Getting Started:
Be 100% honest! In order to get the most out of this technique, self honesty is important! Be honest about the problem, what caused it and what it's future repercussions may be. It is even more important to be honest about possible solutions. Write down which people have already faced and overcome similar problems, and anything else you can think of that is a potential contributor to finding a solution. Also include anything that might be holding you back from a solution, and how you may be able to deal with that blockage.
If you cannot think of any possible solution, you can move from the problem/solution journal to the worst case scenario journal in order to help you face that problem.
You may also combine this technique with the communication journal. Brainstorm new and better ways to communicate when you face problematic conversations in life.
10. Gratitude Journal
The gratitude journal is a powerful yet simple journal that will bring many positive benefits and new perspectives to your life! Keeping a gratitude journal is easy, all you need to do is take any amount of time out of your day to express gratitude on paper. Write about anything and everything that you are grateful for. Include people you are grateful for, future events you are excited for, simple blessings such as a small detail you notice in the environment while you're writing, and anything else you can think of!
Stress relief- Gratitude journaling has been shown in many studies to lower your stress levels significantly!