10 types of journaling for sound mental health and self-care

Journaling need not be restricted to just maintaining a simple diary. From gratitude journaling to travel journaling, explore the different types of journaling.
A woman practices journaling
Pick your favourite type of journaling! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Purvi Kalra Published: 1 Jul 2024, 22:51 pm IST
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Remember how, as little kids, we loved doodling and penning down our favourite quotes on the back of our notebooks? From maintaining dairies as kids to our go-to-Notes app, journaling has never been a new concept. Journaling helps us vent our emotions, as well as keep track of our day-to-day experiences, learn about the functioning of our minds, and even helps us plan for the future. It can be used as an effective tool to let out our feelings unfiltered on a page, and it may feel like a load lifted off the chest. There are many types of journaling you may practice to express yourself.

What is journaling?

Journaling, in layman terms, means writing in a journal or a diary. What makes this practice peaceful and beautiful is that your way of journaling rests entirely on you. You can jot down your feelings, use affirmations, write a paragraph about your day, 10 pages, or anything else that suits you.

The purpose of journaling is to unleash the your true self, which may get hidden under many emotional layers. It simply means having an honest conversation with yourself. Most importantly, you do not have to be conscious about your writing because it will cause you to censor yourself and that will defeat the purpose of journaling.

Depending on which type of journal practice you prefer, you should stick to a particular routine. For example, if you indulge in gratitude journaling, you will need to write things you are grateful about every day before you sleep or as soon as you wake up. But if freeform writing is your thing, you can take creative liberty as and when you like!

Different types of journaling
Journaling is good for your mental health. Image courtesy: Freepik

What are the common types of journaling?

Journaling is an easy-to-do practice which may reap many long-term mental health benefits like reduced stress and anxiety, more clarity about our emotions, and better ability to deal with life. Here are some very common types of journaling that you might want to try, as explained by psychologist Priyanka Kapoor.

1. Daily journaling or freeform journaling

Freeform journaling is the most basic form of journaling. It is that kind of dairy-style writing the image of which usually comes to our mind when we think about journaling. This type gives us deep insight into ourselves and benefits our mental health and personal growth. This is just like writing our personal dairy, noting down our experiences and articulating our thoughts in words.

2. Mindfulness journaling

Mindfulness journaling, as the name suggests, is an amalgamation of both mindfulness and journaling. We can bring an increased sense of awareness about our current surroundings or emotional experiences in detail by writing them down immediately. You can write about the happenings around you, things you can feel, touch or smell with your senses. This style of journaling is a great way to escape from your inner chatter and become more aware of the present moment. This practice can strengthen your mindfulness practice, calm you down and can help to regulate your emotions.

3. Gratitude journaling

Gratitude journaling, as the name implies, involves jotting down things you are grateful for every single day. It does not have to be something really big. It can be something as simple as being alive or being able to breathe and wake up to a new day. A study published in the Frontiers in Psychology Journal found that feelings related to gratitude are associated with the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex- regions of our brain that influence our decision-making abilities, motivation, willpower, and mood. By reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for daily, you will tend to feel more content and peaceful throughout the rest of the day.

4. Bullet journaling

If you are less gravitated towards jotting down your feelings and experiences, but love having a daily planner, bullet journaling can be just your thing. This method helps you keep a to-do list, your goals, and milestones alongside helping you organise personal aspects of your life. This comes very handy if you are a busy working individual who has his or her hands full at all times. This journal will help you remember the essential details while helping you track your long or short-term goals. You may find ready bullet journals with formats out there, and you can also opt to create your own style.

5. Morning pages

This type of journaling is similar to freeform journaling. The only difference is that this type demands a routine that involves writing at least a few pages of thoughts in the morning. The method is meant to eliminate all the clutter in your mind in order to unlock your creativity first thing in the morning.

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6. Manifestation journaling

We all have goals or dreams that are yet to be achieved. Here is where the manifestation journal comes into the picture. It is essentially a journal maintained for manifesting. Manifestation works on the principle of the law of attraction to attract things by investing all your energy into believing that it has come true for you. The idea behind maintaining a manifestation journal is to have an intention to achieve something. You write down about goals and then work your way towards the actions required to achieve those goals. The idea behind the manifestation journal is to lower your resistance and dismantle those fences in your mind that keep you from acting the right way.

different types of journaling
Setting clear goals, making a list and even journalling helps in manifestation. Image courtesy: Freepik

7. Dream journaling

If you are someone who gets the weirdest and wildest form of dreams, dream journaling might be the right pick for you. Our dreams are an inner reflection of our inner subconscious. Dream journaling helps us keep a record of our dreams and can help us comprehend our true selves. The key to dream journaling is to place a journal right next to you when you are sleeping so that you can write down your dreams the moment you wake up.

Also read: How journaling changed my life: A life strategist shares her journey

8. Food journaling

Foodies, this journal is just for you! If you are someone who loves trying out new dishes or even loves cooking new recipes, food journaling is the right pick for you. By documenting your experience at a restaurant or by recounting memories of trying a recipe, this journal is a combination of writing therapy that helps you relive those memorable dining experiences at a new café or restaurant. You can also carry a food journal on a trip as you are more likely to tickle your taste buds by trying out new dishes or local cuisines that you might want to document.

9. Travel journaling

Travel enthusiasts have just found the perfect journal for themselves! If you love travelling, this journal can be a practical tool for documenting your experiences while you are on a trip. Traveling helps open up your mind develop respect for new cultures and unveil unique environments and experiences. We all love clicking pictures of every detail on a trip, but try this type of journaling to document those little details as you feel them. You can even keep track of details like things to pack. With a travel journal in hand, you can soak in the travel experiences again. You can also add some aesthetic touch to your journal by adding plane tickets, brochures, stickers, postcards, bills, pictures and entry tickets.

10. Nature journaling

Nature journaling helps you record discoveries you make outdoors, through writing. This type of practice will help deepen your bond with nature, and you will start respecting nature’s bounty more as nature journaling involves writing about landscapes, textures, greenery, and creatures. You can also add a dash of creativity by combining it with art journaling because using illustrations to document exciting discoveries may be helpful. This journal will be even more useful when you are on a hike, or if you reside in a remote area.

How to start the habit of journaling?

Here are a few tips to help start journaling practice:

1. Pick your style

The foremost thing you need to know before starting a journaling habit is to figure out which type of journaling you feel more interested in. If freeform is your pick, then you can go ahead transferring your thoughts from mind to paper. If that is not your pick, then ask yourself what gap is it that you want to fill in. If you are struggling with gratitude, then gratitude journaling is the right way to get started. Similarly, if you wish to feel calmer and more centered, mindfulness journaling is your style. Also, there is no restriction as to keeping a journal. If you feel like having three journals for three different purposes, then more power to you!

2. Make it an everyday thing

Forming a new habit demands consistency. Pick any journal you like, but make sure you have a specific time aside for it every day. Doing it at the same time daily will make it more likely to form a habit. But, you can be flexible. Just make sure you are consistent.

3. Start small

Thinking about forming a new good habit surely tempts you to get overzealous. Under the influence of those feelings, you tend to push yourself to write a few pages daily for a long period. In reality, that will only build up frustration, making you give up too soon. To avoid that, start small. Start with a few minutes maybe and then increase gradually. That way, you will feel less overwhelmed and will stick to it for a long.

4. Give up all expectations or judgment

The idea behind journaling is to enjoy it as your pastime and explore ways to connect with yourself deeply. But if you start any journaling practice by holding on to judgments or expectations for yourself, you will not be able to enjoy it.

5. Hit pause if you need to

You might feel heavy writing about a bad day, breakup, or childhood trauma. When you are journaling with a purpose to work your way through these difficult emotions, it is okay to pause for a while before going on. Also, any hobby in between requires some time and space to get back to its pace again.

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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