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Journaling brings order to your thoughts and feelings

Reading time 10 minutes
Journaling brings order to your thoughts and feelings

You have the feeling that you can't really process all the impressions that come at you day after day? Your head is just so full that your thoughts are almost whirling around and it's hard for you to keep things in order up there?

Or is there something that keeps bothering you, but you don't want to confide in anyone because you want to become the master of the situation first? Then journaling is exactly your thing!

What is journaling?

You can think of journaling as being similar to writing a diary, because translated, "journal" really means nothing more than "diary". Writing down the experiences, feelings and thoughts that occupy you helps you to better process and classify them. It gives you clarity about what really matters to you in life and gives you valuable insights into your inner self.

Whether you journal on your phone, laptop or handwritten is up to you. But it is recommended to take pen and paper in hand. When we write something down these days, we usually do it in digital form. So it's all the more special to handwrite more than just your grocery list or a little note for once. But nostalgia is not the only reason why so many journal writers prefer writing by hand.

You direct the entire attention of your left brain hemisphere to the process of writing and thus keep the analytical part of your brain busy. In this way, the intuitive, creative left side has free rein and you can freely express your thoughts and feelings in words. Many people find it much easier to reflect on their experiences.

The development of journaling

Numerous psychologists rely on journaling and have done so since the early 1960s. In expert circles, it is even considered a possible form of self-coaching. One of the pioneers is the New York psychologist Ira Progoff.

He had traumatized patients go through his "Intensive Journal Program" in which they processed their experiences and ultimately overcame them. Since then, journaling has undergone an impressive development and now comes in many different forms. There is idea journaling, art journaling, bullet journaling, dream journaling, pregnancy journaling, even food journaling, scapbooks, and more.

What is the difference between a diary and a journal?

Journaling is fondly referred to as the modern form or adult version of diary writing. A classic journal entry is all about what you experienced today. With journaling, on the other hand, you focus primarily on what's going on inside you. You write down what happened to you today, but you link it to your thoughts and emotions.

How did that make you feel? What reflections did the experience set in motion? Did it perhaps even cause you to have doubts? You note what effect certain situations had on you and reflect on it all. Another important difference is the frequency.

Most people fill a page in their diary almost every day, after all, they experience something every day. Journaling, on the other hand, is more need-oriented. Everyday experiences are less likely to find a place in the journal. You don't just write something down to fill the next page, but there is an intention behind it. You write down the things that occupy you mentally and that you want to get off your chest in order to be able to better classify and process them.

What does journaling do? 5 good reasons to start.

Yes, you could almost say journaling is trending. And for good reason! More and more people are finally giving their mental health the attention it deserves.

Writing a journal is an important tool for this. We've put together five good reasons why it's well worth jumping on the bandwagon.

1. create clarity in the confusion of thoughts

You probably know this too: Your thoughts are running around like crazy, because so much information and events keep pelting at you that you never fully complete and classify one thing mentally. You are mentally overloaded.

The view for the big picture gets lost and initially clearly defined goals slowly blur. Journaling helps you to bring order and structure to your mind. You are free again to break out of the tunnel and open your view in all directions.

2. focus on your own goals

The clarity that journaling gives you helps you to focus fully on your goals again. It is therefore also worthwhile to write about how you are currently doing. Keep directing your attention to what you want to achieve.

Write down what you did today and how good it felt to get one step closer to the finish line. This is incredibly motivating. It also helps you figure out exactly what you need to do to move forward and what's holding you back.

3. self-reflection and exploration of emotions

Have you ever asked yourself how well you know yourself? "Inside and out, of course!" is probably your answer. But is that really true? Self-knowledge isn't something you gain overnight. This is a process in which journaling supports you.

Your regular notes make it easier for you to really dig into yourself and understand what actually makes up your personality and define your values. Self-reflection is the key word. It drives your personal growth.

An important aspect of this is that you write down your emotions without holding back. Then it will be easier for you to look at them objectively. In this way, you can also find out whether you often worry unnecessarily or fuel unfounded fears. Journaling helps you to understand your feelings better and to become more balanced inside.

4. go through life with a positive attitude and appreciate things.

A positive attitude simply makes you happy. Those who tackle everyday life in an optimistic mood are more motivated and thus often even more successful. And that's where journaling comes in. It's not only there to help you work through issues that are weighing you down, but also to focus your attention on the positive things.

What were you especially grateful for today? What did you do that was great? What made you really happy today? These don't have to be outstanding things, appreciate the little things too!

A nice chat with colleagues, your favourite snack on special offer or the lunch break in the sunshine are also worth mentioning. Focus on what brings you joy, no matter how trivial it may seem to others, and write it down. After all, you're writing in your journal for you and no one else.

5. reduce stress

Journaling gives you moments of peace again and again. It's all about you and you can fully concentrate on your own thoughts. The very process of writing lowers your stress level. Once you've gotten everything off your chest that's been bothering you, you'll gradually free yourself from mental ballast and feel more balanced.

A great side effect: Ordered thoughts improve your sleep! No unprocessed worries hinder your nightly rest and you can recharge your batteries. If you're well-rested, you'll be in a better mood and more productive. This way you kill several birds with one stone when journaling.

What do you write in a journal anyway?

There is no blanket answer to this question. After all, journaling is something very personal. There are no clear rules or prohibitions. Just write down everything that keeps you busy and thus bring order back into your world of thoughts and feelings. This can be experiences, something you read that made you think, or even a dream that you just have to think about again and again.

Can't get started because you don't know where to begin or aren't sure if something is "important" enough to write down? Here's the answer: anything that's on your mind is important enough to put in your journal. If you still need some help getting started, feel free to use these journaling questions we've put together for you!

15 Journaling Questions for Beginners

Of course, you don't have to answer all these questions every time you journal. They are only meant to help you if you don't quite know where to start and how you can work your way forward. You can also use them to create your own personal journaling template. So let's finally take a look at our sample questionnaire!

  1. Have I done anything for myself today?
  2. Did I get enough exercise today and did it help me clear my head?
  3. Have I slept long enough and, above all, restfully enough?
  4. What did I learn new today?
  5. What have I done for my own future?
  6. What motivated me most today?
  7. Was there a situation where I wish I had behaved differently?
  8. Could I be myself today or did I have to pretend and why?
  9. What would do me good right now?
  10. What am I most proud of today?
  11. What was the best moment of the day?
  12. Am I happy with today?
  13. What am I thankful for?
  14. What have I been thinking about for a very long time today and why?
  15. What are my goals for tomorrow?

Pre-made journals or would you rather create your own?

Journals that already have questions in them are great for those who are new to the world of journaling. You're not the type who can just write away, but need a little orientation time first? Then the pre-written copies are just the thing for you. There's just one catch: they're not individual. They contain questions that may not be relevant to you at all and leave out points that are very important to you.

If you're ready to define what you want to accomplish with journaling, create your own template. You can go one step further by simply writing down what's on your mind. This gives you maximum journaling freedom. However, this method is more suitable for experienced writers, because it is easy to lose the thread.

When you venture into free journaling, be careful not to digress too far, but stick to the things that are really relevant. Of course, there are no guidelines on how long an entry can be. Nevertheless, it won't do you much good to get lost in the minutiae if the actual thing you wanted to write down is then completely eclipsed. We will go into more detail about free writing in a moment.

5 ways to get started with journaling

It's hard to get started. Wait a minute, that doesn't have to be hard at all! Anyone who wants to journal can easily get started once they find the right method for them. We're going to introduce you to five of them.

1. free writing

We have already talked briefly about free writing, which is why we are starting here again. So with this method, you just write away without following any guiding questions. You think this is a bad starter tip because you don't know how to get started? That's not bad at all. For example, just start with, "I don't really know what I'm supposed to write, but somehow I just feel the need to do it."

The rest usually comes all by itself. Little by little you free your thoughts and approach topics that you have buried deeper and deeper over time. You can also use free writing as a kind of soliloquy and thus lead yourself deeper and deeper into your emotional world.

2. the five-minute journal

All this takes too long for you? Then the Five-Minute Journal is just the thing for you, because - surprise - it only costs you five minutes. To make sure you can keep to the time limit, it's a good idea to answer questions you've chosen in advance. For example, start with the question of what you were grateful for today and thus start directly with something positive.

Then think about what three things were the best of the day. You got some rays of sunshine, ate your favorite meal, and had a particularly good coffee this morning? That's all it takes! It doesn't always have to be something spectacular. Last but not least, write down what you learned today, how it happened, and your five-minute journaling session is over.

3. the weekly review

You don't have to journal every day by any means. After all, it's supposed to lighten your load, not put more weight on your shoulders. It's perfectly fine to write in your journal only once a week. Then review the past seven days and think about what events stuck out in your mind. That's what you're focusing on.

You can also use the weekly review as a supplement and summarize all your entries again. This makes it easier for you to retrace your development later on. By the way, this also works very well with monthly or annual reviews.

4. the bullet journal

Writing lists is just your thing? Then you've found the perfect method for you with the bullet journal. With it, you bring structure into your everyday life like a bullet point. You can think of the bullet journal as a to-do list. There's room for everything you absolutely have to do, but also for routines that are important to you.

This journaling method helps you find a balance between work life and self-care. You can also integrate gratitude or goal lists, for example. Whatever is good for you and your soul is allowed. By the way, the Bullet-Journal also helps you to Procrastination to get a handle on the situation.

5. the dream diary

Dreams tell you an incredible amount about your desires, needs and fears. Unfortunately, we often forget them far too quickly to be able to evaluate them accordingly. So make a note of them in your dream journal!

Also try to put into words how your dream self felt and what emotions flooded you after waking up. Also note down symbols, special places, people and things that seemed completely strange to you. Perhaps after some time patterns will become apparent or you will even find access to your subconscious.

In dreams you can learn more about yourself and your personality than you probably think. This also helps you with our Personality Test! With all the clues it gives you, it won't just make it easier for you to see patterns in your dreams. You'll be able to make all your journaling even more purposeful, and your Personality Development significantly.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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