While I’ve always had a journaling writing practice, it has changed over the years. I began with a mini diary with a lock where I would write who my best friends were, who I had a crush on and the names of my future children. Now, my journals are a hybrid of brainstorms, ideas and things on my to-do list. It’s less structured than I would like, but it still helps me make sense of my thoughts and figure out what I think.

A basic definition for keeping a journal simply means recording daily events. And yet we tend to make it more complicated than that! So, whatever your journaling practice looks like these days, as long as you’re marking time passing, then you’re doing it right. A grocery list, a few notes from a lecture you heard or a formal reflection practice, whatever.

The act of keeping a journal is not a new thing, and there are many different techniques you can use to help you develop an effective journaling practice.

journaling writing keeping a gratitude journal

5 types of journaling writing

Morning Pages

Here’s what you do: as soon as you get up in the morning, write three stream-of-consciousness pages. Longhand. This is a style of free writing made popular in Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Its intention is to help artists break through their creative blocks.

Those who practice Morning Pages swear by it, and there’s even a 5 a.m. Club on Twitter who gathers around the habit of writing first thing in the morning. People tend to congregate at 5 a.m. Eastern Time, but you’ll find #5AMWritersClub posts throughout the day.

Free writing

This is a similar practice to Morning Pages, except you can write at any time of day. Most people write to a timer rather than a page count and the idea is to allow your thoughts to flow without editing or even thinking too hard about it. Follow your curiosity and see where it leads.

You could start with a writing prompt, a problem you want to solve or even with “I don’t know what to write” over and over until you know what to write next. Allow yourself to write uncensored and without judgment. You’re just looking to get things out and off of your mind.

Bullet journaling

This is a simple and practical system with the end goal of being organized and productive. Keeping a Bullet Journal means adhering to a system of bullets and learning a series of shorthand symbols to help you plan tasks, reminders, meetings and more.

This is a flexible system that you can make your own, and works best when used to plan, reflect and keep track of what matters most to you.

Gratitude journaling

You can transform any type of journal writing technique into gratitude journaling and it can be a tremendous aid in self-care, mental health and contentment.

This can be an extremely powerful journaling practice as it helps you stay positive and acknowledge the things you have to be thankful for. The result of focusing on the good? You become a happier, less stressed-out person.

Reading journaling

This is a fun journaling style for writers and readers. There’s no set formula for keeping a reading journal, but most people use it to keep track of inspiring quotes, ideas to ponder or even a list of books to be read later.

Whether you’re keeping a journal to better remember what you read, or using it as a way to respond and analyze what you’re reading, this can be a great way to engage with words in a new way, and boost your creativity.

Five reasons you should keep a journal or journalling writing practice

Five reasons you should keep a journal

Some people may resist keeping a journal, citing it as self-absorbed or even narcissistic, but as someone who has seen nothing but positive results from years of writing things down I wanted to recount five reasons, from my experience, why you should reconsider the practice.

You become more observant

Being in the habit of writing things down trains you to notice what’s around you. You take in the world as an observer, rather than simply floating along.

You become more organized

Writing things down helps you organize your life and your thoughts. Feeling big feelings? Write about it. Break it down into smaller pieces; manageable chunks.

You become more goal-oriented

When you keep track of events and achievements, you’re more likely to notice when you stop moving forward. Once you are aware, you can take control of your personal development.

You become more self-aware

In most cases, journaling writing is a solo activity. It’s quiet time spent reflecting, thinking and dreaming. It can be an important time of growth in self-awareness and maturity.

You become a better communicator

The more you write, the better you become at articulating your thoughts and feelings. And the better you communicate with yourself, the better you’ll communicate with others.

Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be a basic activity, but it also doesn’t have to be overly complex. Make daily reflections, jot down a few notes, practice something more formal or carve your own path. If you’re looking for ways to be more creative then why not give journaling writing a try?