How can I use journaling to help me?

Krista Jean Bringley, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

You may have heard about the benefits of journaling:  it can help you reduce stress, process feelings, better understand yourself, and even help your immune system!  But, if you’re anything like me, maybe you’ve had trouble finding a way of journaling you actually like enough to keep going.  Or maybe you’re journaling already, but you’re not sure if you’re “doing it right”!  Have no fear, let’s look at some common questions about journaling!
What does journaling even mean?
Really, journaling can be any form of recording information, events, thoughts, or feelings.  The main point is to give you a place to let things out and to ponder, which often leads to making connections you might not otherwise make.  People sometimes think journaling means writing and doing it every day.  While it certainly can mean that, there are plenty of different types of journals, and you can get benefits even if you don’t use it every day (though consistency does help!).  Some people write in paragraphs, others write lists or random disconnected thoughts, others record certain types of information (like their mood at different times of day, what they ate, or when they had certain cravings), others use their journal to focus on what they’re grateful for that day, others create art (doodling, stick figures, and multi-media all count!), and still others mix a lot of these things together!  There are even couples journals and family journals!  The simplest of journals involve just one sentence or one adjective, and there’s a number of specific techniques like Morning Pages (stream of consciousness), and Bullet Journaling.
Is there a right way to journal?  
In short, no!  There’s no one right way to journal!  The evidence seems to say that many different forms of journaling have benefits.  Whether you write about your day, a specific event, just allow your thoughts to come out in a stream of consciousness, or track specific information, there’s a good chance you’re helping yourself!  The evidence seems to say that what’s more important than the type of journaling is that you do it consistently, and to me that means using whatever style of journaling works best for you, because that’s what you’ll use consistently!  As a matter of fact, it’s even ok to combine a bunch of different ideas into a style that will be all yours!  Consistency is also helped by making your journaling time into a habit.  Whether that means journaling right before bed, on your lunch break, as soon as you wake up, or on certain days, having a routinewill make it easier to keep your new project going.
One thing we know for sure is that incorporating feelings into your journaling helps with goals of self-growth and processing!  So whatever you do, consider including not just the who, what, where, and when, but also focusing on what it meant to you.
Should I handwrite?  
There’s some evidence that handwriting is slightly more effective, but other evidence suggests that handwriting, typing, and even recording as you talk out loud (voice notes) all have similar benefits.  Here again, what seems to be most important of all is consistency, so if using an app or recording yourself talking while you drive helps you be consistent, then great, you’ve found your way of journaling!
The overarching point is that journaling can be a great tool for personal growthchange, and understanding, and the most important thing is choosing (or creating) a way of journaling that is right for you!  If your way involves you regularly recording thoughts, feelings, or information, you’re doing it!  I hope that you enjoy the process of discovering what journaling can do for you.  If you’d like a partner in figuring out journaling or issues you’re beginning to understand through your journaling, give us a call at 407-355-7378!  Our Orlando counselors are looking forward to walking with you.