Why everyone should keep a journal — 7 surprising benefits
What do Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Frederick Douglass all have in common? Each of these famous figures kept a journal or diary to record their experiences, thoughts, or feelings. Kahlo and da Vinci even used illustrations to express emotions and sketch out ideas.
From scientific geniuses to thoughtful artists — and everyone in between — keeping a journal can be a beneficial self-care practice. In fact, journaling can help you:
1. Achieve goals
When you use your journal to write down your goals, you can keep better track of your intentions. This will help you stay accountable and serve as a reminder of what you need to do to accomplish them. Be sure to get specific.
2. Track progress and growth
If you make journaling a regular habit, you can see how much progress or growth you’ve made by revisiting previous entries.
3. Gain self-confidence
Seeing your progress can also give you a serious confidence boost. You can feel proud looking back at the challenges you faced and seeing how far you’ve come.
4. Improve writing and communication skills
Writing, like anything, improves with practice. When you journal every day, you’re practicing the art of writing. And if you use a journal to express your thoughts and ideas, it’ll help improve your overall communication skills.
5. Reduce stress and anxiety
Sometimes negative thoughts and emotions can run on a loop in our heads. This can be stressful when you’re dealing with a challenging situation — it can even make your present situation feel worse. But if you stop and put your emotions down on paper, it can help you release negative thoughts from your mind. As you write, you may even come up with a solution you hadn’t thought of before.
6. Find inspiration
Leonardo da Vinci drew some incredible invention ideas in his journals. Like him, you can also use your journaling time to brainstorm or let your imagination run wild. The inspiration that may pop up while you’re writing or sketching might even surprise you.
7. Strengthen memory
The Journal of Experimental Psychology published research that shows how writing your thoughts down can reduce intrusive thoughts about negative events and improve working memory.* Even the simple act of writing something down lets your brain know you want to remember it. That’s why note-taking is such an effective practice when learning something new.
Explore the many different types of journaling
Ready to start but not sure how? Here are a few different types of journaling options to consider:
- Stream of consciousness: Write down your thoughts as they happen. The words and thoughts don’t need to make sense, you’re simply capturing your thoughts in action.
- Dream journal: Take note of your dreams each night as a way of getting in touch with your subconscious. Remember to make your journal entries right when you wake up.
- Food journal: Make a note of what you’ve eaten each day. This will help you be more mindful about the foods you choose to eat. If you’re struggling with a healthy weight-loss journey, documenting what you ate can offer insight into areas you may need to change.
- Fitness journal: Keep track of your workouts so you can stay committed to an active lifestyle. The best part of keeping this type of journal is seeing the progress you made over time.
- Gratitude journal: Before going to sleep, make a list of everything you were thankful for that day, week, or month.
- Sketch journal: Express your feelings, thoughts, and ideas through illustrations, doodles, or sketches.
- Day’s events journal: Keep track of your experiences throughout the day. Whether it’s making note of a funny conversation or describing a new lunch spot you enjoyed.
- To-do list: Instead of keeping a running tally of to-do items in your head, write them down. You can cross things off as you complete them and get a great sense of accomplishment.
No matter which type of journal you decide to keep, remember there is no right or wrong approach. It’s all up to you. The simple act of taking the time to get in touch with your mind, body, and spirit is what’s truly important.
*“Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity,” Journal of Experimental Psychology, September 2001, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11561925.