Person journaling through longhand writing with memorable pictures and personal effects around.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Have you been meaning to journal but can’t seem to know how? Don’t fret because I’m very much delighted to share with you a master post on journaling. My fourth grade English class introduced me to the habit of journaling. It turned out really well for me because it was then that I started to love it. As I’ve written on the about page, writing and journaling has been one of the ways I manage my depression and anxiety. More than 10 years later, journaling has been my go-to activity. So let’s go ahead and talk about journaling!

What is journaling?

Writing accomplishes the communicative and expressive goals of journaling. This activity may serve as an outlet for thought and emotional expression, tool for planning and organizing, compilation of reminders, or for keeping a record of one’s life and day-to-day events. Because journaling is usually private and personal, it’s up to you whether you’d like to share your journal entries with someone you consider safe or keep your writings to yourself. Personally, I like keeping my journal entries to myself because it helps me understand myself better without getting influenced by what others would think about me. It’s something that is completely mine.

Does it have to be just writing and in narrative form?

No, journaling doesn’t have to be just in narrative form nor in written form. This is the fun thing about journaling, you can mix and match! It’s a personalized and versatile activity that if you like to draw, you can absolutely draw your journal entries. If you like to make collages or print out photos, you most definitely can do them as your journal entries. There’s also a type of journaling known as bullet journaling wherein your journal entries are in bullet form. This would be best for those who like listing things down.

How is journaling different from scrapbooking?

Although both activities are done to compile memories, journaling is more straightforward and more about the content. On the other hand, scrapbooking takes into account visual aesthetic. I have a post mainly on the differences of journaling and scrapbooking, so feel free to look into it.

What do I need to start journaling?

The three basic things you’ll need to start journaling are a pen, a notebook, and most importantly, your mind. Some are fonder of using pencils to write with than with pens, but personally, I like using pens because over time, they don’t get smudged by friction from other pages. Pens also add to the effect of making your statements official, but when you need to maybe cross out a misspelled word, you’re still leaving a mark on the journal.

It’s also a way for you to record your thought process while creating the content of your journal entry. For the notebook, we know there are countless types of notebooks. There are those that have hardcovers, leather covers, paper covers, and etc. The pages are also different because there are some with lines, without lines, and graphing paper. As I’ve mentioned previously, journaling is versatile so you’re the boss. Choose a writing instrument and type of notebook according to your comfort, budget, and preference.

There is also the option of going digital. If you prefer to type out, superimpose pictures, or draw digitally, you can always turn to your trusty computer for journaling. You can look for apps that support the way you’d like to journal, but make sure that your entries can’t be breached by the apps. Using word processors can also be a convenient option because almost everybody has word processors in their computers. Plus, they also have the option for password-protecting your documents, so only the person who knows the password can access the document.

What are the benefits of journaling?

Since you can journal can by longhand writing and by digital/shorthand means, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of both longhand journaling and digital/shorthand journaling.

Longhand Journaling

PROS

  • You’re connected to the medium of expression – your thoughts are directly translated into words or images on paper.
  • You feel the effort it takes to communicate your thoughts and emotions.
  • You put your humanness into the journal entry through your penmanship and/or artistic style.
  • You’re able to focus intently on what you wish to write because writing each letter takes some time.
  • There isn’t bluelight emitted from your journal, so it doesn’t strain your eye and affect your sleep.
  • You don’t see any applications, tabs, and etc. in your journal that might distract you in your writing process.

CONS

  • Your hand and wrist might become tired from writing a lot.
  • When you finish all the pages of your journal, you have to buy another one.
  • It might be an addition to your ecological footprint.
  • Your journal is material and physical – if not hidden and secured properly, someone might violate your privacy.

Digital / Shorthand Journaling

PROS

CONS

  • It’s quick to jot down or draw your journal entries.
  • It’s easy to organize because you use minimal material items (in fact, it’s just your computer that’s material).
  • You don’t have to worry about writing or modifying the dates of your journal entries.
  • Your writing or images may seem “clean-cut” because it’s easy to delete characters and you write with generic fonts.
  • Your journal entries will not take up anything of your physical space and only takes up a fraction of your digital space.
  • If in case your device breaks or gets a virus or malware and ruins all of your files, your journal entries might be almost impossible to recover.
  • You’re not as connected as you are with the medium and your thoughts and emotions when writing longhand.
  • There are constant distractions, such as, applications, menu bars, format bars, and etc.

With the pros and cons enumerated, it’s up to you to decide which method would work best for you.

Regardless of whether you’re going for longhand or shorthand journaling, this activity enables you to take some time and reflect on your experiences. Although you’re the writer of your entries, looking back on them will allow you to see your situation at that time from somewhat like a third-person perspective. It’s as though you’re reading a book, and you’re observing how your past self was.

You also get to know yourself better because you’re literally thinking and talking to yourself. Your journal entries are the materialized form of your thoughts that the inner conversation you’re having in your mind is no longer contained and no longer knocking at you. It brings you a calmer and quitter mind because you’re unloading all of your thoughts and emotions.

Journaling also helps in improving your skills in writing because you get more and more comfortable with writing. It becomes easier to bring out your thoughts and put them into words when you’re faced with a writing task.

Some Final Tips for You to Consider

  • Write the date when you write the journal entry so that if you decide to look back on your journal entries, you’ll be able to contextualize it based on how you perceived yourself at the time it was written.
  • Be fully honest.
  • Try your best to let yourself write freely to get the most out of journaling.
  • Backup your digital journal entries (maybe using a flash drive or an online cloud / drive)
  • Journal on both your good and bad days.
  • If you travel a lot, bring your journal with you to let out your inner rumblings while in travel or during a change in environment.
  • If certain emotions rise (like maybe you feel like crying) as you journal, let yourself feel while you write. It’s a coordination between your emotions and reason.
  • You can curse or swear in your journal entries. You’re writing a journal entry, not an academic paper.
  • Your journal is the sanctuary of your thoughts and feelings, so sink into every detail of you.
  • Have fun! Write whatever you want because, after all, it’s about you, written by you, and meant for you.

I’m glad you’ve thought of journaling, and I’m here to cheer you on! You can use this post to be your guide as you begin journaling, and I can’t wait for you to reap all the benefits that come with consistent completion of this activity. Happy journaling!

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