How to Journal Effectively

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

Perhaps you have occasionally thought about starting a journal but never made the time. Journal writing can serve as a therapeutic experience. You need nothing more than a notebook and a pen or a pencil. If not concerned about privacy issues, you might also consider starting a blog online. Select a time of day when you feel relaxed, collect your thoughts and simply begin. There are no hard and fast rules to writing a personal journal. Write whatever thoughts come to mind. Perhaps light an aromatic candle or play soft music to help set the mood. If you are experiencing a mental block, use some of these suggestions.

Review Your Day

Consider entering a date before beginning each entry in order to provide a point of reference if you decide to review your thoughts over time. Pretend you are sharing your innermost feelings and thoughts with a treasured friend and start writing honestly about events that occurred during the day. Make the entry as long or as short as desired. However, remember this is a golden opportunity to really get in touch with yourself. Feel free to be as descriptive as possible.

Count Your Blessings

On a daily basis, write a simple entry describing anything for which you feel particularly grateful. You might write about a particular person or an event that you had the opportunity to experience. Perhaps you had the chance to enlighten another person's day. Your entire journal might consist of this topic, or you might make a mental effort to start or finish your writings by expressing gratitude for a blessing. During moments when feeling defeated, sad or disappointed, your list of blessings might be just the thing to lighten your mood.

Personal Growth

Perhaps write about future personal goals and how you plan on going about succeeding in your efforts. Begin by listing your strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments to date to get an idea of how to proceed. Follow up entries may include your progression along the way. If you find yourself stagnating or taking a step backwards, use your journal to reassess the situation or the day's events. Determine how you might make improvements or redirect your efforts. After going back and reviewing previous writings, you might also see things from a different point of view.

Stress Relief

Writing in a journal serves as an effective outlet for expressing feelings and thoughts without worrying about suffering blame, judgment or correction. Journals provide the chance to let your vulnerable side surface. The technique is often recommended by therapists as an effective way to work through troubling times. Feel free to vent an injustice with all the anger, passion and frustration that you can muster. Keep writing until you have emptied yourself of all emotions and thoughts.

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