10 powerful ways to journal (and why you should)

Forget putting pen to paper. From gratitude journalling to dream analysis, these new ways to journal can transform your self-care routine.

Journalling doesn’t have to mean putting pen to paper to divulge your innermost thoughts.

It can be a creative doodle, a bullet list, a photo scrapbook, or even a collage of songs and emojis on your phone — whatever form tickles your fancy, journalling encourages self-reflection.

“It’s really about getting in tune with your thoughts, feelings and experiences,” behaviour scientist Dr Kirsty Seward says.

“I see it as a form of self-love and a way to deepen the relationship you have with yourself.”

Whether you are a seasoned journaller or just getting started, here are 10 different ways to weave this enjoyable and therapeutic practice into your life.

What are the benefits of journalling?

The simple act of writing down your thoughts can support your mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Journalling can help you to clarify your thoughts, opinions and feelings about things in your life,” counselling psychologist Zenobia Domingo, of Domingo Psychology, says.

“It provides an opportunity to stop and reflect on your experiences.”

Mindset mentor and meditation teacher Fioana Redding says traditional forms of journalling in particular can become a form of counselling.

“The true power of journalling is helping you develop a more honest relationship with yourself,” Fiona, who also founded The Happiness Hunter, says.

“It’s like going to counselling and talking to someone, except it’s writing — it’s like having a conversation with yourself.”

10 different ways to journal

#1 Gratitude journalling

Gratitude journalling involves writing down what you are grateful for.

“List the things you are grateful for, the skills you are grateful to have, the experiences and memories that you have been lucky to be part of, the people (or animals!) that you are grateful to know, or the life lessons you are grateful for receiving,” Zenobia says.

It can be a great habit for shifting your mindset.

“You can do it daily or weekly, and it enhances your mood and can shift your perspective from scarcity to an abundance mindset,” Dr Seward says.

“It can be at any time of the day, and it’s a really good practice if you feel ungrounded or anxious; you can come back to the present moment through this.”

#2 Photo journalling

For a more creative approach to gratitude journalling, Dr Seward suggests keeping a photo gratitude journal.

“Everyday I took a polaroid of something that I was grateful for or something that lit me up that day, then I would put it in a book and write a little message about that moment,” she says.

By pairing a picture with a message, you’re capturing special moments and the feelings that came with them.

“Then you can flick back through and you’ve got photos, thoughts and feelings documented from all these experiences,” Dr Seward says.

#3 Digital journalling

Not a fan of the classic “pen and paper” method? Thanks to cool apps and tech features, journal entries can become a multimedia collage on your smartphone.

Apps such as Day One and Apple’s Journal let you combine text, photos, music and even location tags in an entry.

Digital journalling is not only a creative goldmine, but also a convenient way to deepen self-discovery.

#4 Meditative journalling

Combining journalling and meditation practices can foster a more insightful experience.

While journalling, Fiona suggests taking regular breaks to pause, breathe and reflect before returning to it.

“Here you’re leveraging the two practices to help you understand and know yourself better,” she says.

“Meditation is pausing and being still and focused and present — and from that space, you’re going to discover more in your journalling practice.”

#5 Future self journalling

Have a big goal you are working towards? Future self journalling could be for you.

“It’s like writing from the perspective of your future self, so you envision the goals as if they’ve already been achieved,” Dr Seward says.

This practice puts you in the shoes of your future (and successful!) self, so you’re in the mindset to make those dreams a reality.

“You get into the emotion and feeling that you’ve already achieved your goals,” Dr Seward explains.

“It really helps you identify long-term goals and identify the actionable steps you need to get there.”

#6 Self-reflection prompts

If an empty page seems daunting, self-reflection prompts help get the ball rolling.

“It’s a really good one to help you identify your values, your patterns of behaviour and any insights into why you show up (in) certain ways and how to change those,” Dr Seward says.

She suggests responding to the following prompts to reflect on your day:

  • What went well today?
  • What challenged me today and how did I grow from this challenge?
  • What would I do differently tomorrow?

#7 Dream journalling

Dream journalling is as simple as it sounds, and requires writing about the dreams you remember.

“The standard practice is to wake up, pause for a moment and ask yourself, ‘What did I last dream about?’ or ‘What was I thinking about last?’” sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo says.

This process can help identify emotions or anxieties that need to be addressed in real life.

“Our dreams are representations of our subconscious mind so when we learn to interpret them correctly, we have insights into what’s happening within us,” Olivia says.

#8 Bullet point journalling

A bullet journal combines features of a planner, journal, calendar and to-do list in one organised brain dump.

According to Zenobia, it is a great way to get creative and add some visual appeal to your journalling.

“A grid of dots instead of lined paper forms the background for you to create lists, tables or diagrams to help organise your ideas and thoughts in a visually appealing and fun way,” she says.

“You can use different coloured pens and pencils, decorative tape, stickers or whatever you like to create a visual map instead of just writing things down.”

#9 Travel journalling

A scrapbook-style journal can be the perfect travel companion.

Collect all the tickets, tokens and keepsakes from your trip and make a collage, Dr Seward suggests.

There is plenty of inspiration on social media that can help you get creative in arranging photos, text and mementoes.

#10 Stream of consciousness journalling

Simply write your thoughts and ideas as they come to mind, no filter allowed.

To start, Zenobia says, just pick up a pen and start writing or doodling — you don’t need a clear idea of what you are going to draw or write.

This journalling practice is both chaotic and insightful.

“You open yourself up to any possibility and allow whatever thoughts to come to you without resistance or direction,” Zenobia says.

According to Dr Seward, three pages of writing is a reasonable goal, and doing it in the morning is best.

“You start with one page and you just keep writing three pages straight without stopping or editing,” Dr Seward says.

More ways to practise self-care:

Written by Hayley Hinze.