What is journaling

If you are asking yourself what is journaling then you have a curiosity about what it is and what it can do for you. Well you have come to the right website. Wardrobe Journaling contains a huge variety of blog posts on the subject of journaling. If you are new to the idea of journaling then after reading this post , check out What to Journal and Journaling Ideas.

Journaling is, firstly, the process of getting your thoughts out of your brain and onto paper. Secondly, journaling is the act of regularly writing these thoughts down either onto paper or into a digital format so as to create a body of work of your writing. Thirdly, journaling is a way of personalising your experience of the world.

Journaling does not necessarily track the details of your every day life, like a diary, but addresses certain aspects of your life. Unlike keeping a diary, you do not need to keep a daily entry and are not ruled by the days printed out in the book. It is a freeform exercise where the main purpose is to reflect on your thoughts and feelings rather than simply keep a log of the days.

Red headed women lying on her side, writing in her journal. Accompanies the blog post on what is journaling

The flexible nature of journaling

Because of its free nature, journaling allows you to address both complex problems or problems in your brain that give you high anxiety and help you find solutions as you write as well as areas that give you great joy, like an art journal, or a creative journal or a journal about your particular hobby or field of interest.

Journaling is flexible and personal and there are no rules. It is recommended that journaling should be a regular habit, but this is not vital. You can journal every day for a month and then miss a week. It’s totally up to you.

Dr Pennebaker who has led significant research into journaling for mental health is not “a big fan of journaling every day.” Dr Pennebaker’s research has found that even a one-time 15-to-30 minute session of focused journal writing can be beneficial. The important criteria is that you make it your own.

“One of the interesting problems of writing too much, especially if you’re going through a difficult a time, is that writing becomes more like rumination and that’s the last thing in the world you need,” he said. “My recommendation is to think of expressive writing as a life course correction. As opposed to something you have commit to doing every day for the rest of your life.”

Dr James Pennebaker, New York Times

Journaling and mental space

Above all, journaling is your own personal mental space given a physical presence. So don’t journal as if someone is watching over your shoulder, but use your journal and be totally free to completely express yourself. This is why there are so many different types of journal – to be able to express yourself exactly as you want.

So the difference between keeping a diary and journaling is the range of freedom of expression that is open to you when journaling. Keeping a diary is written and most often kept in a time frame, eg a one year diary or a five year diary, with a section allocated to each day. With journaling there are no rules and you can create your own kind of journal that expresses who you are and how you want to bring your thoughts to the world. More of the different types of journals later and you can also read How to fit different types of journaling into your life.

Flatlay image of a wooden tray, a journal, pencil, candle, pink flowers, bracelet and shells all on a bed. Accompanies the blog post on what is journaling

Journaling is creating a meaningful connection with yourself

The act of journaling is designed to help you connect with your inner thoughts. Connecting with our brain: what we are really thinking, discovering how we really feel about our life experiences can be therapeutically healing for our minds and our bodies.

I first started to notice the relationship I was forming with myself when I started journaling about the clothes I was wearing, which is how I came up with the title Wardrobe Journaling. Then as I started to journal around all sorts of different thoughts and issues and situations I realised how therapeutic the act of writing all those thoughts down really is.

“The art of Journaling is in the process itself”

Sanctus Community

I love this quote from the Sanctus Community, that Journaling is the process itself. As you journal you see for yourself that what you are creating is so much more than just words.

You are forming something concrete outside of your mind that until just recently only existed in your mind.

Journaling is an act of writing and an act of creativity

You create a journal, whereas you keep a diary. With a diary you conform to the rigours of each day. Every day you write in your diary and at the end of the year you have ‘filled’ your diary. Keeping a diary is all about the diary itself.

With journaling, you create your journal as you go along. So you are creating something new, something that hasn’t existed before. Journaling is the process of that creation. It is about both the creation in the writing and of the process of inspiring you in your daily life.

Journaling is an organisational system

As soon as I start writing, I feel better.

You may be the same. The moment I find a pen and some paper and let the words flow, I am more relaxed. I feel more organised, more together.

It feels like life has been given a structure. It feels like there is an order to my world and that is really therapeutic for me.

“Keeping a journal, according to Dr. Pennebaker, helps to organize an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma. When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better.”

New York Times, 25 October 2018

Journaling, trauma and healing

In Dr Pennebaker’s landmark 1988 study, outlined in his book Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotion, students were randomly assigned to write about either traumatic experiences or superficial topics for four days in a row.

Six weeks after the writing sessions, those that had delved into traumatic experiences reported more positive moods and fewer illnesses than those writing about everyday experiences.

Getting started on your journaling journey

If you are ready to get started with your own journaling practice, here are some tips to help you on your way

  • Journaling should be natural and free-flowing so make the experience as free and enjoyable as possible
  • Write from the heart. You are not writing for an audience
  • Unless you have a huge amount to get off your chest start small, don’t overwhelm yourself by expecting to write 1000 words every day.
  • You don’t have to write every day
  • You can write your thoughts down onto paper or onto a digital diary
  • You can write on any topic you like – You don’t need to limit journaling to your thoughts and feelings. You can create an art journal or a healthy eating journal. The secret to your success is to choose a subject that interests you.
  • Start by doing – just get one with it!
Woman lying on her stomach writing in her journal. Accompanies the blog post on what is journaling

Types of journals

You can keep journals for all sorts of different subjects and ideas. Here are a few to inspire you:

  1. Personal Journal: A personal journal is a private space where you can record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It serves as a reflective tool for self-discovery and self-expression.
  2. Travel Journal: A travel journal is perfect for documenting your adventures and experiences while exploring different places. You can write about the places you visit, the people you meet, and the unique aspects of each location.
  3. Gratitude Journal: A gratitude journal focuses on cultivating a positive mindset by recording things you are grateful for each day. It helps you appreciate the small moments, express gratitude, and enhance overall well-being.
  4. Dream Journal: If you’re interested in dreams and their interpretation, a dream journal is ideal for capturing your dreams as soon as you wake up. It can help you identify recurring themes, symbols, and patterns in your dreams.
  5. Fitness Journal: A fitness journal is useful for tracking your exercise routines, diet, and overall health progress. You can record your workouts, set goals, monitor your nutrition, and note any changes in your physical fitness.
  6. Nature Journal: A nature journal allows you to connect with the natural world. You can document your observations of plants, animals, landscapes, and weather conditions. It’s an excellent way to deepen your appreciation for nature.
  7. Art Journal: An art journal combines writing and artistic expression. You can create collages, sketches, paintings, or any other form of visual art alongside your thoughts and reflections.
  8. Reflective Journal: A reflective journal encourages self-reflection and introspection. You can write about your experiences, analyse your emotions and reactions, and explore personal growth and development.
  9. Career Journal: A career journal is focused on your professional life. You can track your career goals, note accomplishments, record challenges, and reflect on your professional development.
  10. Recipe Journal: If you enjoy cooking or baking, a recipe journal is perfect for collecting and organizing your favourite recipes. You can also make notes about modifications, ingredient substitutions, and your overall cooking experiences.

The beauty of journaling lies in its flexibility. You can adapt any type of journal to suit your needs and interests. Feel free to combine different journaling styles or create a journal unique to you.

Ready to move on with your journaling adventure? Why not try:

Releasing your inner creativity with your journal

Using journaling to track your self improvement goals

Being kind to yourself with journal prompts for anxiety

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