Journaling as a Transformative Tool: Types of Journals

July 30, 2020 7 min read No Comments
ARTIST: Monica Choi
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I am obsessed with journaling. Getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper helps me manage stress and anxiety, process my emotions, gain clarity around my goals, and allows me to self-reflect. Writing in my journals is part of my daily practice and has had a profound influence on my personal development. So much so that I dedicated a whole section of this blog to Journal Prompts for mindfulness, goal setting, and self-discovery that have been essential to my own growth.

When you first start a journal it can be hard to know what to write. I decided to create a list of all the different types of journals I use to help those looking for inspiration. I believe that there is a journaling style for everyone so I hope that you find one that resonates and experience all the wonderful benefits that I have!

Personal Development

This is where I do all my personal development work including journal prompts and self-reflection. It is probably the most personal of all my journals as it’s where I write my most personal thoughts.

If I am feeling worried, stressed, anxious, or sad I will usually write about it and try to work through it. This is how I process my emotions and it is the closest thing to therapy I can get. It helps me figure out what I need to work on or if there are any conflicts, challenges, or tests that keep showing up in my life.

I also do all my brain dumps and stream of consciousness writing here. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this style of writing it is basically a method of getting all your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. You start by setting a timer and just start writing whatever comes to your mind until the timer stops. You don’t have to write logically or clearly and it doesn’t have to be coherent. Whatever comes to your mind just write it down. This helps you understand your inner dialogue and reveals thoughts and beliefs you may not have even been consciously aware of.

I use my personal development journal whenever I feel inspired as well. For example, if I’m listening to a podcast or reading a book and it sparks an idea or thought I will usually write about it.

My personal development journal has probably been one of my most valuable journals in terms of healing my anxiety and fostering spiritual growth. 

Manifestation / Goal Setting

I consider manifestation and goal setting to be one in the same. It’s all about deciding what you want to bring into your reality and then making it happen.  

My goal setting / manifestation journal is where I write down all my goals, dreams, and long-term visions. This ranges from small material things to big things like work, career, travel and finances. It helps me narrow down exactly what I want and then allows me to explore how I am going to get it.

There is a lot of research that indicates people who write down their goals on a regular basis are more likely to achieve them. One study in particular found that people who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to accomplish them opposed to the people who just thought about them.

Journaling my goals has helped me achieve some pretty big things like creating this blog, figuring out my career path, and getting into a Masters program by breaking things down into small actionable step. When I write down exactly what I want I am not only more likely to follow through but I am also more open and aware of any opportunities that come up and help me achieve my goals. Most importantly, it helps me stay organized, focused, and avoid overwhelm.

As a firm believer in the law of attraction I also know that on an energetic level the more I think about my goals the more likely I am to attract them into my life. Of course, just writing them down isn’t enough to make them suddenly appear but it gets you thinking about what action you need to take and gets you on the same frequency as your goal.

Gratitude

Keeping a gratitude journal has become part of my daily routine. This practice has helped me adapt a more positive mindset, be more present, less anxious and I have noticed a positive shift in my well-being since I started.

A gratitude journal is pretty simple. It consists of writing down things you are genuinely grateful for. It can include things as basic as having a fridge full of food, a warm bed, clean water and good health but try to dig deeper and find things, people, situations that you are truly thankful for and try to give a reason why.

For example: I am so (happy/grateful/blessed) that _______________ because __________________.

I try and fill an entire page of things I am grateful for first thing in the morning after I write in my dream journal. Then I re-read my list and say the words “thank you”.

If I miss my gratitude practice in the morning I will usually do it in the evening and reflect on a few things I am most grateful for from the day.

It’s hard to be in a bad mood and full of gratitude at the same time so this is a really good practice to help shift your perspective if you are feeling anxious, sad, or negative. If I am feeling particularly anxious I sometimes make a list of all the things going well for me in my life and take a moment to feel thankful for each one.

The more you get into it the more you realize how blessed and abundant you really are and from a law of attraction standpoint the more grateful you are the more you receive! In fact, feeling grateful for the things I desire (before I actually receive them) has helped me in my manifestation practice as well.

It’s important to try and actually tap into the feeling of gratitude instead of just going through the motions. An article in the Greater Good Magazine, published by UC Berkeley suggests going through your list and reflecting on what your life would look like without these things if you need some help reaching for that feeling.

DREAM LOG

I started getting nightmares and night terrors from a really young age. My parents eventually took me to see a psychologist who suggested I write down my dreams every morning so that I could learn how to lucid dream – a practice where you become aware that you are dreaming so you can control it in some way.

Since then I have kept a dream journal and write in it when my dreams are especially vivid.

I keep this journal for fun. Although Freud believed that we process our thoughts and emotions in our sleep and used dream analysis as a therapeutic technique to interpret the subconscious mind, there is no research that supports this and it is no longer considered a valid technique in psychoanalysis. However, I still like to look for meaningful patterns in my dreams and being able to lucid dream is pretty cool!

To keep a dream journal, keep a notebook and pen beside your bed and write down your dream when you wake up or as soon as possible. Read your journal regularly to familiarize your brain with your dreams.

‘Everything’ Journal

For a long time I had just one journal and I called it my ‘everything journal’. This is where I wrote (you guessed it) everything including all my journal prompts, brain dumps, to-do lists, meal plans, finance trackers, gratitude lists, and goals. Within the last year or so I started keeping other journals for specific things because I was filling my everything journal so fast and it was hard to look back and find something if I needed.

Even though I have all these different journals now I still keep an “everything journal” that I write in everyday to keep notes, write to-do lists, prioritize my day, organize my thoughts, and do any planning.

This is perfect for those of you who are trying out journaling for the first time and want to explore what kind of writing works best for you. The most important thing is to not worry about how it looks. Don’t be afraid of scribbling, crossing things out, and making it messy!

Bullet journal

If you enjoy mindfulness colouring, drawing and have an eye for detail then a bullet journal might be a great addition to your journal practice.

You basically start with a completely blank journal and design a template yourself. You can create weekly schedules and have it be more like an agenda/planner, you can incorporate monthly goals, habit trackers, mood trackers, income and expenses log, health and fitness planning, gratitude lists, etc. You can make it anything you want it to be!

I started a bullet journal when I was looking for a creative outlet but wasn’t comfortable writing anything too personal. Although this is a beautiful creative outlet I recommend having another journal you can scribble in without worrying how it looks as a bullet journal can be quite meticulous.

Check out my bullet journal Pinterest board for more inspiration on how to start!  

Agenda or Planner

What would a journal collection be without a good ol’ agenda?

I create my own planner in my bullet journal but if that’s not you’re thing having a separate agenda to keep track of plans, appointments, classes, school work, commitments, etc. is a great way to stay organized.

I recommend having another kind of journal that has room for you to do journal prompts and stream of consciousness writing.

What kind of journaling is your favourite? Are there any other types of journals you have that are not listed above? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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