A Simple Guide To Picking The Best Journaling Style For You

Aug 06, 2022

A simple guide to picking the best journaling style for you

(Photo by Mike Jones)

The simple act of journaling daily can make a very positive impact on your life.[238] [239] But journaling is an extremely personal experience and everyone is different. So what's the best way to figure out the right style of journaling for you? Here are a few ways that have worked for our team.

Find your place in time and space

Past

Are you sentimental and like reflecting on good times? Do you want to look back to understand and work through hurts? Do you want to figure out how to better understand your feelings and reactions? Whatever the reason, examining your past can be very helpful for your present. And it can be done in many different ways: self-discovery journaling, reflection journaling, healing journaling, just to name a few.

When you're looking at good times, just enjoy the memory. Try to not wish for it to come back, but rather look forward to more good times in the future. When looking at bad times, try not to dwell or beat yourself up. Instead think about what you would do differently if it happened again. Look back on times of missteps or mistakes and see what you can learn. What can you do to help yourself feel your best and fully have your own back?

It can be difficult to look back on painful times without feeling the same feelings you felt at the time. You may need positive reframing strategies or self-affirmations so that you can process, understand, and overcome the past.[241] [243] The intensity of those feelings will dull over time. The longer you work on looking back, the easier it gets to think about. All that said, keep your mental health in mind and lean on self care. When you feel like you've had enough, put it down and come back to it when your strength is back. This can be painful, but it shouldn't be torture. 

Present

Are you mindful and focused on the present? Are you trying to live more in the moment and less by an itinerary? Do you wonder why some things make you react the way that they do? If you're trying to stay present, mindfulness journaling can be very helpful. This is when you try to step back, as if you're observing yourself, and ask yourself questions. It can be helpful in times of stress, anger, or sadness. But you don't have to be feeling strong feelings to pay attention to them.

How are you feeling right now? What are you thinking about? What's weighing on you or exciting you? What part of your life seems to need more attention? Questions like these and many more can give you insights into how you truly are at this very moment. And what you can do to get back to 100%, if you aren't. 

Gratitude journaling can also be a helpful tool to keep you in the moment. Finding reasons to be grateful can make them appear more often. Kind of like what happens when you learn a new word, then you hear it everywhere afterwards. This is part of the frequency illusion, also called the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon. The word was probably used around you before, you just didn't notice it because it wasn't familiar to you.

Write down what you're grateful about. With your life, your family, your friends, learning opportunities, challenges overcome, chance encounters, anything at all. Try to find at least one thing a day.

Future

Are you looking towards goals in the future? Do you want to write a journal for your future self or later generations? Are you documenting your life as a time capsule of sorts? Thinking about other people reading about your life years from now can be exciting! And working towards or thinking about the future can be highly motivating. 

Journal to give descendants or those in the future a snapshot into your life. Write to your future self or to strangers who maybe aren't even born yet. Write about the future you want or imagine what achieving your goals will get you. 

This method can also be helpful for finding your goals as well. Try imagining different futures and seeing which one you would be happiest with. Then work backwards from there to find the steps you'll need to take to get there.

Flowing in the stream of consciousness

Are you feeling really strong emotions, good or bad? Do you want to see if your subconscious knows something your conscious mind isn't aware of? Are you just trying to vent or get some stuff off of your mind? Stream of consciousness may be able to help with these. 

This is a method of writing everything that comes to mind without thinking about it too much. The key here is suspend judgment of yourself and just go with the flow. Don't worry about how it looks, how it sounds, if it even makes sense, any of that. Just write.

These may not always be the best passages to go back to read in the future, but that's not what this is really for. It's more for help with the past or in the present. For shaking off thoughts that might be taking up more room that they need to be. For insights into your true thoughts and feelings, if you think your brain is "hiding" them.

Turning lemons into lemonade

You've likely heard the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Well life has been handing out an excess of lemons lately... 

With this method, you acknowledge the bad but try to focus on the good. For example, you might've heard someone have a small inconvenience early in the morning and they say, "This is going to ruin my whole day." They may focus on the one bad part of a day, then not notice any of the good because of it. You find what you look for.

Use one side of a journal or notebook to be realistic and factual about your day and your feelings. Try not to be too negative, but if something bad happened, include it. Being positive doesn't mean ignoring the negative, it just means you don't allow it to drag you down. 

The other side of the journal is for you to find the good parts and highlight them. Or the best parts if it was a really good day. Ask yourself questions like: What went well for me? What was I grateful for? What were some wins? What did I learn?

Breaking out the magnifying glass

It may be helpful to pick something specific to journal about. Something like a habit or a goalbuilding self care routinesbeing more empathetic, or more mindful. Whatever is most important to you right now. 

This can be helpful for beginners, or those looking to change or improve a lot. It can make the process a little less overwhelming. It can seem counterintuitive to focus on just one thing when you have a lot of goals. But actually, it can have a really interesting cascading effect that can make other things easier.

Let's say you want to improve your sleep, nutrition, and exercise habits. If you focus on sleep first, then after a while you will have more energy and motivation to work out. Then after exercising more regularly, you may notice changes in your eating habits. Such as certain meals making you feel more energized for and after your workout. This is just one example, but so many self care habits connect and help each other.

Trial and error, then mix and match

When it comes to journaling, there is no right answer. What works for you might not work for someone else. A method you tried yesterday might've worked then, but isn't working well today. Try lots of different methods in different situations to see what works and when.

Whatever you land on, try your best to stay realistic and look for the positives. Journaling should be about healing, reflecting, growing, and moving forward. About helping yourself to become the best and happiest version of yourself.

We only touched on the different methods and styles, there are so many more. Have you found a style (or a few) that work, but you're still having trouble getting started? Click here to read about how to get past some common journaling roadblocks.

Continue Your Journey