In an effort to make sense of the emotional turbulence that is adolescence, many young girls retreat to their rooms to scribble pages and pages in a journal. Flooding our emotions onto the page is how many of us arrive at the practice to begin with.
I journaled from a very young age—especially during family vacations—but the peak of my childhood journaling began around the age of thirteen. (I also decoupaged the covers of my notebooks with inspiring phrases I cut out of magazines.)
I had more time on my hands then. Didn’t we all? Even between theater rehearsals and cross-country practice, plus all the homework I had, journaling was easy to prioritize and the most reliable method to sort out my feelings.
As I came to learn, the furious journaling I embraced as a teenager wasn’t sustainable in adulthood. A new stage of life demanded a new approach to the reckless and uninhibited journaling I enjoyed as a girl.
Most likely, the real reason you’re having hard timing sticking to your journaling habit has less to do with your commitment to the practice, and more with not embracing the best kind of journaling style for what your life looks like at the moment.
How to Keep a Journal as an Adult
Adulthood mandates new rules when it comes to journaling. With more responsibility on our shoulders, less flexibility with our schedule, and myriad appointments, family commitments, and the rest of it, our time becomes our most precious commodity.
So, what’s a writer to do?
@@Choose the best journaling method for your lifestyle.@@
If you simply want a record of what your day to day life looks like, no need to spend thirty minutes journaling before bed. If you’re sorting through difficult circumstances, pay attention to your dreams.
Honor where you are. Honor what you need.
Like all habits, change takes time. According to Zen Habits, the absolute best way to begin forming a new habit is this: Make it so easy you can’t say no.
To this end, now’s not the time to revert back to the journaling you may have enjoyed in the past. If you feel any resistance to the old method you once enjoyed, take notice. The whole idea is to find something you’re both excited about and serves the needs you have at this moment in time.
5 Types of Journals (Plus the Pros and Cons of Each)
Classic journaling characteristics include long-form paragraphs, stream of conscious writing, and giving in to the impulse of putting pen to paper whenever you feel compelled.
Ultimate freedom of expression lies within these pages. One day, you might analyze a relationship with a family member. The next day, you scribble in a poem. The day after that, you ponder life’s mysteries inspired by a long walk you took. Here, the mind can unwind. A classic journal is whatever you want it to be, and whatever you need it to be, often serving as a stress-reliever by helping you remain the present, releasing feelings of anger, sadness, or other intense emotions.
This method lack parameters and doesn’t provide a lot of structure. Classic journaling has the potential to make you feel as though you need to write a lot in order to make it count. Self-inflicted pressure to write something insightful or meaningful is a common affliction, especially for folks who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to journaling.
One Line A Day Journal
If classic journaling feels overwhelming, consider a one-line-a-day journal where the only requirement is to, well, write one line.
From three words to three sentences, the line length is up to you. One Line a Day journals effortlessly serve as a basic recorder of daily life, and as time passes you can easily look up past entries to see how things have changed year to year, or what you were thinking about on a specific day. For anyone who hasn’t journaled in years and needs a low barrier to entry, these journals are also easy to maintain and form habits around.
Writing down the basics might become so habitual (“Nice day, walked the dog” or “Met Sarah for lunch; had kale salad with creamy dressing”), you might miss adding true feelings or special moments. You’ll be best served by watching the patterns of your entries and trying to find the balance between simplicity and insight.
Created in 2012, one of the newest styles of journaling is the Bullet Journal—an analog system for a digital age meant to be a to-do list, diary, notebook,and sketchbook all in one.
Bullet journaling is all about efficiency. Its “rapid logging method—consisting of topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets—allows you to quickly take notes, while modules allow you to organize notes in a variety of different ways. At the end of the month, you transfer over only the most relevant ideas, helping you spend time on what’s truly important.
Naysayers report the Bullet requires too much discipline, causing the ensure system to crumble at the first sign of stress. It can also feel like a lot of work to set up (and very neatly write) pages and indexes. Perhaps the most polarizing of journaling methods, some people adore it, while others struggle to make it work for them.
You might be familiar with a vision statement, which provides an organization's strategic direction, but a vision journal takes this idea one step further, helping you clarify your brand, passion projects, and where you want your life to head.
Creative entrepreneur and coach Kayla Hollatz explains how vision journaling “helps you set intentions and keep track of your goals so you can break them down into daily action steps.” While the journal focuses on outcomes, it does so in a nurturing way to help you work through the necessary steps to help you achieve your dreams, like using creative prompts and ‘yes or no’ lists.
From the way Kayla describes it, a vision journal might require some trial and error in order to develop a beautiful, creative system that supports you—ideal in the long-run, but only if you’re willing to go on the journey.
Even after decades of sleep research, there’s still no definitive answer to the question of why we dream. Still, many researchers believe dreams serve a primary purpose to our cognitive functioning, including our creativity.
In a dream state, your mind creates new neural pathways and connects ideas in different ways, handy for enhancing creativity and problem-solving skills. Writing down your dreams provides a record of the creative insights your subconscious is spending time working through. You might discover clarity on a difficult situation, or see patterns for dream symbols when you’re stressed, happy, or going through periods of transition.
The benefit of uncovering messages from your subconscious can also be a drawback, purely from a logistical standpoint. If you’re unable to recall your dreams within the first 90 seconds after waking up, the memory will likely be gone after breakfast. One tip: Keep your body in the exact same position while you remember as much as you can, then shift to a journal.
Next, once you have some themes and symbols to work with, you need to go through the process of looking up dream meanings, then interpreting them based on your own circumstances. So, it can take some effort for the full benefits to kick in.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to journal, and your needs will likely change over the years. So, which method are you excited about trying now? Share your journaling stories in the comments!