Benefits of Journaling— Improve Your Life and Achieve Your Goals

How a journaling practice can help you become your best self.

Man sitting on couch, holding gratitude journal and looking away

Journaling is the practice of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If you don’t already love journaling like we do, you may not know what it can do for you. In this article we go over some of the benefits of journaling, so you can decide whether it’s a habit you’d like to try and build. (Spoiler: we think it’s worth it.) We’ll also talk about what type of journaling to try if you’re looking to grow in a specific area—since there are so many different types of journaling, as well as different benefits you can focus on.

Journaling Can Increase Your Self-Knowledge.

woman looking at her reflection in a mirror

Journaling can help you to get to know yourself better. It can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, your goals and dreams, and your values and beliefs. When you put pen to paper, you can sometimes express things you didn’t even know were there in your brain. Or, you find the words to describe something about yourself that you previously hadn’t voiced. Journaling fosters introspection, allowing you to identify recurring thoughts, patterns, and triggers that influence your emotional state. This self-knowledge will help you in many aspects of your life—from interpersonal relationships to career growth.

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To increase your self-knowledge, try a guided journal or use prompts that you find online. If you want, you can use a guided journal specific to the area you want to grow in. Guided journals will pose questions about yourself you may not immediately know the answer to—which is what you want. They will also give you space to journal to figure out what the answers are.

Journaling Can Help You Make Better Decisions.

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

–Flannery O’Connor, Author

Journaling can help you to clarify your thoughts in times of stress or uncertainty. It can also help you to identify your priorities and stick with your resolutions. When you journal, you’re your own coach.

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When you have a big decision to make or feel that you’re at a crossroads, take the time to sit down and journal about it. Let yourself explore the feelings and fears you have about the decision ahead. Identify if your decision-making is based by fear, and talk yourself through it. Look at the decision logically. Look at the decision emotionally. Write a pros and cons list. No matter what you choose, journaling will help you gain clarity on both the choice you make and why you’re making that choice.

Journaling Can Boost Your Creativity.

yellow orange pink and blue coloring pens on white notebook

Creativity is the ability to produce or use original or unusual ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. We all have creativity within us—we just need the tools to unlock it. Creativity can feel elusive, but journaling can help you to tap into your creativity. It can help you clear out all the gunk in your brain that’s blocking you from new ideas. It can help you make new connections between different areas of knowledge and different parts of your life. Journaling itself can be creative, or it can aid you in creativity in a different area of your life.

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If you’d like to feel more creative, there are several different types of journaling you can try. If you’re a visual artist, you can keep an art journal. If you’re a musician, a music journal; if you’re a writer—you get the idea. Try keeping a notebook where you write down everything related to your work—inspiration, random thoughts and doodles, notes from books you’ve read, first drafts and ideas. If you’re looking for a more traditional journaling style, we especially love morning pages for enriching creativity. It’s recommended by many successful creatives.

Journaling Can Improve Your Mental Health.

You too can be frolicking amongst the leaves with your journal.

Journaling offers a powerful and accessible tool for bolstering mental well-being, as evidenced by research and personal experiences. Studies suggest that journaling can:

  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression: A 2016 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that expressive writing, a specific form of journaling focusing on emotions, led to significant reductions in anxiety and depression symptoms compared to a control group.
  • Improve emotional regulation: By giving voice to emotions on paper, individuals can gain greater clarity and distance from overwhelming feelings, promoting emotional regulation as shown in a 2018 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy.
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Keep a mood journal where you track how you feel throughout different parts of the day or week. Write down if you notice any triggers for strong emotions, both positive and negative. If something upsets you or throws you off course, let it all out onto the page.

Journaling Can Improve Your Memory.

photo of person holding cup

Journaling can help you to improve your memory. The act of journaling has been shown to improve memory and cognition. When you write down your thoughts and experiences, you are essentially creating a record of your life, as well as exercising the part of the brain involved in memory. This can help you to remember things more easily, both in the short term and in the long term.

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Keep a memory journal. When something happens in your life that you’d like to remember—whether it’s as small as a kind compliment from a stranger or as big as the birth of your first child—write down what happened and how you feel. You can also think of memories from your past and try to write down what you can remember. When you try to remember a memory, you’re actively exercising your brain’s cognitive recall system.

Plus, it will be nice to go back and look through your memory journal in the future.

Journaling Can Reduce Your Stress.

Seeking inspiration - Writers. Young woman journaling while seated on a rooftop

Journaling can help you to reduce stress by providing a safe space for you to express your feelings. When you write down your thoughts and emotions, you can release them from your mind and body. This can help to reduce tension and anxiety. This can be helpful especially if you don’t have someone you can talk to about your stresses. You can also let out your anger on the page.

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Think about what you do when you feel stressed. Are you an emotional eater? A video-game-playing avoider? Do you call your best friend to rant? As an exercise, try replacing that with journaling. (It can be easier said than done to break your habit—you can also try doing it alongside your regular stress-relief.) Write down what’s stressing you out. You don’t have to try to convince yourself not to be stressed—just state what you’re feeling.

Journaling Can Be a Spiritual Practice.

person holding opened book

Journaling can be a powerful tool for spiritual exploration and growth. By quieting the mind and putting pen to paper, we create a sacred space for introspection and reflection. We can delve into our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, uncovering deeper truths about ourselves and our connection to something larger than ourselves. Whether it’s expressing gratitude, grappling with challenges, or simply observing the present moment, journaling fosters a sense of self-awareness and allows us to connect with the divine, however we define it. This introspective process can lead to a deeper understanding of our purpose, values, and place in the world, ultimately enriching our spiritual journey.

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If you express your spirituality through your religion, try a form of journaling specific to your religion and its practices—for example, Bible journaling or Qur’an journaling. (A quick search reveals there’s Jewish journaling and Hindu journaling and Buddhist journaling, too.)

If you’re not religious, one spiritual journaling practice you can try is a gratitude journal. There are many different gratitude journals on the market, but the main gist is this—every day, write down at least 3 things you’re grateful for. They can be things that happened that day, or more general life things.

Journaling Can Help You Improve Your Writing and Communication Skills.

white painted papers

Journaling can act as a hidden gym for your writing and communication skills. By consistently putting pen to paper, you engage in regular practice, strengthening your ability to express yourself clearly and concisely. As you write freely, you experiment with different sentence structures and vocabulary, expanding your repertoire and building confidence in your word choice. Journaling also fosters self-reflection, allowing you to identify areas for improvement in clarity, organization, and overall flow of your writing. This introspective practice translates to your everyday communication, making you a more articulate and effective speaker and writer in all aspects of your life.

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If you’re looking to improve your writing and communication skills specifically, and want to do it through journaling, try diary-writing—but not any regular diary writing. Pretend you’re from the 1800s and paper is scarce—Journals and letters from back then always seem to be so thoughtful and well-written, as well as quite formal. Carefully consider every sentence you put to paper. (This is the opposite of stream-of-consciousness journaling.) Pretend you are trying to make your journal a literary work of art, even if you’re just talking about what you did that day, or how something made you feel. Taking the time to figure out the best way to phrase something or the most succinct way of explaining something will, with repeated practice, help your communication and writing skills.

Journaling Can Help You Achieve Your Goals.

woman wearing red pants and black long sleeved top running

Journaling can be your secret weapon in achieving your goals. By putting pen to paper, you solidify your aspirations, transforming them from fleeting thoughts into concrete plans. This process clarifies your “why,” ensuring your goals are truly aligned with your values. Journaling also becomes your personal brainstorming space, where you explore strategies, overcome roadblocks, and track progress. As you celebrate milestones and reflect on setbacks, journaling fosters resilience and keeps you accountable. Ultimately, it’s a powerful tool for self-discovery, motivation, and achieving the dreams you write down.

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Keep a journal relating to your different goals. Every week, check in with yourself on how you’re doing with your goals. If you slip up or don’t make progress, write down why. The act of checking in with yourself every so often will help keep you on track as you continually revisit whether or not you’re doing what you need to be doing.

Journaling Can Boost Your Emotional Intelligence.

two women sitting on white bench

Journaling can act as a personal emotional intelligence gym, strengthening your ability to understand and manage your emotions effectively. By providing a safe space for self-reflection, journaling allows you to explore the nuances of your feelings, identify triggers, and recognize patterns in your emotional responses. This introspection fosters self-awareness, the foundation of emotional intelligence. As you delve deeper, journaling can also help you develop empathy by encouraging you to consider situations from different perspectives and understand the emotions of others. This practice strengthens your ability to build and maintain healthy relationships, a key aspect of emotional intelligence.

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Keep a traditional journal that focuses on both your internal feelings and your relationships with others (to improve both emotional intelligence relating to yourself and to interacting with others.) This is what most people think of when they think of journaling—time dedicated to self reflection and understanding your inner thoughts and feelings.

Journaling Can Improve Your Sleep.

Woman journaling in bed

Journaling can help you to improve your sleep by calming your mind and body before bed. When you write down your thoughts and feelings before going to sleep, you are essentially clearing your mind of clutter and allowing yourself to relax. This can help you to fall asleep more easily and to sleep more soundly.

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Keep a journal by your nightstand. Before bed, spend fifteen minutes decompressing and writing in your journal. What was the day like? What does tomorrow look like? Is there anything on your mind that might keep you awake? Make a plan for dealing with it—tomorrow. It can also be helpful to plan out your next day during this time if you’re someone that has trouble sleeping due to a feeling of overwhelm. Going to sleep with a plan can prevent you from laying awake and stressing.

Journaling Can Change Your Life.

fashion woman notebook pen

All of these benefits and more—journaling has the possibility of changing your life. Whether you’re looking to improve your relationships, advance in your career, or grow spiritually or via self-improvement, journaling can help you make the changes you wish to make.I hope this blog post has convinced you of the benefits of journaling—you’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

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