I'm writing to share something with you that has drastically helped me to improve my life and continues to do so. I've been journaling mostly consistently for the past three years and since then I've gotten to know myself better, made a big job change, and created this blog and YouTube channel. The habit has helped me to create more of what I'm wanting in this life. I hope that you try it and it helps you as well!
I'm going to share with you the types of journaling I'm familiar with, the scientifically-proven benefits of journaling, the kind of journaling I do most often, and my thoughts on this new-ish "journal culture."
What does journaling mean?
To me, journaling is just the act of personal writing. There are different types of journaling.
1. free form - write down your thoughts, feelings, experiences, desires, etc.
2. morning pages - free form stream of consciousness for a few pages to get it all out of your head and onto paper
3. structured journaling - working with writing prompts or writing about a specific topic
Why is journaling a positive habit?
I have noticed that after taking some time to journal, I’m in a clearer headspace, I understand why I’m feeling how I’m feeling, I feel more motivated, I feel more organized, and I feel happier.
Based on an article at psychcentral.com, research shows that journaling can help you to:
“Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside, unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.”
What kind of journaling do I do?
I have a few free form journal entries from college that just detail what I was thinking and what was going on at the time.
I didn't start consistently journaling until January 3rd, 2015 - so just about 3 years ago. I was teaching preschool at the time and mostly wrote about how I was feeling, how my newly formed meditation practice went that morning, intentions for the day, and what I’ve been learning on my favorite podcasts. The goal was to write about things that were helping me to live a happier life and to make observations of what I could improve.
My journaling evolved into a mix of free form, writing my daily schedule, and listing 5 or so intentions for the day.
Then I began using “The 5-Minute Journal.” I used it on and off for four months. This is a great tool because it prompts you to write down three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make the day great, and an affirmation. In the evening, it prompts you to reflect on the day and asks for three amazing things that happened that day as well as how you could have made the day better. I found this to be helpful although I simultaneously would free form journal in a different notebook, feeling like I needed that too.
I needed organization and I needed it on paper. I’m a very visual learner. I created a life-planning binder in which I incorporated calendars, a budget, wardrobe planning, and goals.
Somewhere down the line I put all the information I had been learning about together and created what I thought would help me most each day. I incorporated gratitude, intentions for each life category that day, to-dos, free form journaling, and evening reflections.
Rather than use the binder, “The 5-Minute Journal” and a notebook for free form writing, I created one book that would incorporate all of these elements. This is what has become “The Daily Intent Journal & Planner.” I’ve been working on creating a physical version for all to enjoy for the past two years.
If you didn’t know already, you can get a free digital copy of the early version of this journal & planner by clicking here to get it emailed to you. The download is for one month’s worth of pages that can be printed as many times as you’d like. The beginning of the planner prompts you to write about your ideal life and create goals and intentions to get there. The rest of the pages are there for daily use; setting intentions, writing out thoughts of gratitude, and taking notes, listing to-dos, and free form journaling.
I am currently in the process of finding an ethical and sustainable printer for the new and improved journal & planner. If you want to be the first to know when it’s up and running, make sure you’re on the email list, which you can sign up for by entering your email in the box that pops up when you visit likeminimal.com or clicking the above link.
So now I journal with some prompts as well as free form. The goal for me is to organize my thoughts and desires in a way that helps me to make the most out of each day as I build the life I am most wanting.
My thoughts on "journal culture"
There are so many structured journals and planners out there today, which I think is the best thing ever. There are planners for business owners, planners for those with a health and fitness goal, planners to help you accomplish a specific life goal, planners for those who only want to look at it a few minutes a day, planners for those who feel like they need life guidance, etc.
It’s so great that we have so many options, as two years ago this wasn’t the case. I like to try different journals and planners to see how they help me to maximize my days and create the life I’m most wanting. Right now I’m trying the “Law of Attraction Planner,” which is very detailed as far as goals go.
There are no daily pages and no space for daily freeform journaling or setting daily intentions for each life category. I do appreciate the structure of this planner aside from that so far and how it prompts you to break down all of your goals. It is recommended to use this planner for 20 minutes each morning and 20 minutes each evening. I like the ritual of this so far.
While I like this planner so far, I’m super excited to get back to Daily Intent Journal & Planner once they’re printed.