“I don’t want to live in a hand-me-down world of others’ experiences. I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings, about me.” – Helen Keller
The journal. It’s a commonality among the people we read about in history books.
That’s probably why so many people write about it, and about the importance of it.
“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter. And lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” – Jack London
Think about it. The Bible is here today, because people wrote. I doubt they blogged about their life (computers were much slower 2000+ years ago), but they definitely transcribed it somehow.
Just read through the Bible. If I had a shekel for every time the Lord told someone to “write it down”, I would be able to buy a lot of sheep and oxen. And I would journal about it.
Journaling has a history that’s likely longer than known human history.
So let’s talk about what journaling can do for you, and what you can do by journaling. Then I’ll give you all the tools you need to create a new journaling habit or to refresh your current one.
Journaling is a keystone habit for countless people.
Journaling often leads to more self-awareness, which means:
- A happier life
- A better prayer life
- A better relationship with your spouse
- A better relationship with your children
- And finally, developing more keystone habits
Journaling is a great way to get your emotions out of your head and down on paper. It can help you see the bigger picture of a situation. I’ve used journaling as a way to: brain dump, improve my writing, connect with God, remember my life and as something extremely special to leave to my children.
Overall, it’s emotionally healthy to journal, especially if you’re consistent and make a daily habit out of it.
You have plenty of reasons to journal, but Psych Central showed some scientific evidence that journaling may be able to do even more than we thought. Journaling can help you:
- Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside, unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
- Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.
- Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
- Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
- Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them will help you to understand another’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.
For Christians, there are plenty of reasons to keep a journal. If you’re not convinced by now, you may just not like writing, and that’s fine. How do you feel about typing? That’s how I do it. We’ll talk more on that in a moment.
Assuming you’re ready to get started journaling, let’s talk about how to do it.
How to Start Journaling
If you’re reading this, you probably already know how to write, and that’s all journaling is.
It’s the practice of getting what’s in your head down on paper or typed on the computer screen.
However, starting can be the most difficult part. If you want to make this a habit, you must be intentional.
You just have to answer three questions, and then you’re on your way to making this a daily habit:
- What time of the day do you want to journal?
- What type of journal do you plan to keep?
- Digital or physical?
The Time of Day
It’s not important when you journal, but it is significant that you try to stick to the same time each day, whether morning, on lunch, early evening or right before bed.
You’re more likely to stick with the habit by doing it at the same time everyday.
I prefer to journal in the mornings before anyone else is awake. I find that I can write a lot more in 10 or 15 minutes in the morning, than I can in 30 minutes in the evening. For some reason, I also tend to view journaling more as a burden when I schedule it at night, and more as something I look forward to when I do it in the morning. But that’s just me, you do you.
The “Type” of Journal
“What does ‘type’ of journal mean? I thought you said I was just writing words on a page.” -You
Well, you are. Kind of.
To get the most benefit out of journaling, you may want to pick a theme. And that theme can even be “I journal about whatever happened that day, or write random poetry, or whatever I want…”
We’ll call that the “random” theme. And that works, if that’s what you want to do. Have a clear goal in mind, because it will be easier to sit down and do it when you know exactly what you’re doing.
Here are five ideas to pick from, or of course, you can create your own idea:
- Prayer Journaling – Talk to God, in words.
- Day Journaling – Reflect upon the day, in words.
- Goal Journaling – Review your goal progress, in words.
- Habit Journaling – Reflect on new habits you’re building, in words.
- Parent Journaling – Write to your kids, and leave the journals to your children in 50 or 100 years.
Feel free to mix some of these or randomly do any of these, as long as that’s what you decide up front.
Now you’ve got a type of journal in mind. So which form of journal is right for you? Let’s compare:
The Physical Journal
The classic physical journal. It’s a great option.
There are so many benefits of writing in a physical journal. You can completely disconnect from technology and just write. It’s soothing, and it’s a great way to write and connect with God, without getting distracted. A physical journal can go anywhere with you (unless you’re a deep sea diver), and you don’t need to worry about an internet connection to access it.
I keep a journal with me when I travel to write about the experiences. My travel journal is my only physical journal.
Here are some awesome physical journals to get you started:
Blank Journals – Fill Up the Page With Whatever You Want
- Moleskine – The classic Moleskine journal has been used for years. A go-to for many.
- Rhodia – Very high quality journals, but also a little more expensive. I think it’s worth it.
- Leuchtturm1917 – This company makes all kinds of journals, in different shapes and sizes.
- Christian Art Gifts – Not sure about the quality, but Christian-themed Journals. I love the idea.
Guided Journals – Answer Some Questions About Your Day
- The Sunrise Manifesto – A 16-week gratitude journal. Answer some questions about your day.
- The Five-Minute Journal – Similar to the above, and about the same price, just different questions.
- Five-Minute Gratitude Journal – A similar, but cheaper version. It’s not quite as detailed and pretty.
- 5-Minute Gratitude Journal – Also a cheaper option. For both of these gratitude journals, there is only a prompt to write what you’re grateful for.
It’s worth spending a little more to get a higher quality journal. Your journals are a great thing to leave as part of your legacy to your children, but in order to do that, you can’t buy junk that falls apart. In 50 years, you won’t miss that extra $10 or $20 (you probably won’t miss it now), but you will remember the quality you bought, because you’ll still be holding it, in one piece.
The old paper and pen can be a form of therapy. It’s nice to unwind and write, especially considering how much time we spend on technology in today’s world. Like I said, I have a paper and pen journal, but I only use it when I travel, and occasionally during my prayer time. My daily journal is digital.
The Digital Journal
This is my preferred method. I’ll show you what I do, and your options — you have a million.
Digital journals are great, because they can go anywhere with you; however, you do need an internet connection in some cases, or at minimum, a power source. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep a paper journal around for those times when digital journaling may not be an option. Mission trips, anyone?
When journaling digitally, you have two decisions to make up front:
- Do you want your journal to be online or offline?
- Do you want your journal to be public or private?
If your journal is offline, it’s automatically going to be private, so we’ll start there.
Offline Journaling – Private
- Word Docs – Open a Word Doc (or other word processor), and start typing. It’s that easy. Use the date for the title and sort them into folders by month, to keep track of all your entries.
- Gmail – This is a unique idea, but one thing you could do is use Gmail drafts as a private journal. Or you could email the entries to yourself and file them by month and year.
- LifeJournal – This is a Windows-based journaling software. It costs around 50 bucks to get the private, offline version, but it’s pretty and functional.
- The Journal – Also a Windows-based software and about 50 bucks, this is a great, organized journal tool. There are even special versions to use for devotionals. Free 45-day trial.
Online Journaling – Private
- Journalate – My favorite private online journal. Beautiful interface, update from any device and free.
- Penzu – Another online option. Customizable and it looks great. A free version and a paid version.
- 750 Words – This website is geared towards writers, but journalers are writers too! Free and private.
- GoodNight Journal – Use this for a private or public journal. Just giving you one more option. It’s free.
Online Journaling – Public
There are plenty of options for a public journal — that’s what a blog is. Here are a few options:
You can make any of these platforms private if you choose.
Personally, I use a private WordPress blog to do all of my journaling. I do it that way for a few reasons, but mostly because I want to be able to blog in an interface I’m used to, and because I also have pages that list my current habits, goals, daily recaps, musical interests and my personal vision statement. I like to keep everything in one place. If I was only using it as a journal, I’d probably use Journalate.
The thing about journaling is that everyone can do it differently and that’s ok. I love it because it belongs to you, so you can do whatever you want. There are no specifications or constraints to what you use your journal for, where you keep it or how often you do it.
Journaling will definitely help you grow, as a Christian, but also just as a person.
Writing is good for the soul and spirit.
Find a platform and start writing.