Journaling does not sound like a “proper hobby”, or at least it didn’t use to for me. It was just something I did, without putting much thought into it. And indeed, on the surface journaling does not seem to be much. If you look up the definition of journaling, it is “a personal record of occurrences, experiences and reflections kept on a regular basis”. All you need to journal is just a pen and some paper, and sometimes not even that.
However, there is much more to journaling that lies on the surface. If you go deeper, you will find out that it is a powerful instrument to increase creativity, improve mental health, and really grow as a person. And this hobby can help you improve your other hobbies as well – how wonderfully meta. (If you want more details on the benefits of journaling, tell me in the comments, I’ll make a post all about them).
Have you tried a “dear diary” style journal and decided that journaling is boring and is not for you? Have you thought that this is the only possible type of journal? Let me share some great types of journals with you and maybe even prove you wrong, or at least inspire you to try one of them out.
These journal types come in no particular order (some may overlap a bit, but can are also distinct types of journals), and they do not each require a separate notebook. In fact, they can all be parts of one great journal – see the last point in the list for that.
Cooking / food / diet journal
How is this different from a simple recipe / cookbook and why do I even need to journal about something like this?, you may ask. Well, recipes aren’t the only thing you can write down. You can track and journal about all sorts of things: food you eat in a day, diet plans, restaurants you visit and new dishes you try, allergies and any other ways the food may affect your health, recipes you create, meal plans for your family, etc. etc.
Such a journal will help you be more aware of what you eat and may prove to be more interesting than it seems, even if you are not on any special diet or aren’t looking to change your eating habits.
A travel journal is not just a simple record of what you did and saw on a particular journey. It can be, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are many more things that you can include: photos and sketches you make on your journey (try it, even if you don’t consider yourself an artist!), various ephemera, like transport or museum tickets, notes for future trips or advice to other travelers – you can publish that later on related forums or your personal blog.
You can even start a travel journal before the trip, including itinerary, packing lists, maps, booking details, useful phone numbers, to do lists, shopping lists, and many more – whatever you find useful or just feel like including.
This is one I haven’t tried yet, but it is definitely on my to-do list.
The idea is simple: you write down (or draw, if that’s more of your thing) your dreams, preferably first thing in the morning before you forget them. You can also include sleep pattern details or any comments and memories that were awoken by the dream.
It can be a powerful instrument of self-analysis and insight, quite different from a regular journal. And it can be a way of developing your creativity as well. What do you think of turning a particularly crazy dream into a short story or a series of paintings?
Reading / film journal
Writing a review about a film or book that you have particularly enjoyed helps others, but it also helps you remember the film / book better, provokes some thinking and can be an interesting way to journal.
If you are writing it in a private notebook (as compared to writing reviews online), you can make it as personal as you like, write down any thoughts that arise in association with the book / film, and, if you feel like it, dive deep into memories or self-analysis. There can be some surprising results!
There are apps that help you exercise, suggest new routines and track your progress, but if you need something extra, an exercise journal may be just what you need.
Similar to a food journal, you can include all things sports here: the exercise you do, how you feel, how it affects your body, new routines, equipment or sports that you want to try, your goals, etc.
Being more aware can help you achieve better or faster results.
Writing things down is better than trying to keep all the things you need to do in your head. Whenever I try to do that I feel like I’ve forgotten something or am about to, and even if I don’t end up forgetting anything important, it is still quite stressful.
Planning can be as detailed as you need: from just the most important must-do stuff to a full daily itinerary (can be useful in some situations). It will help you avoid missing crucial deadlines and may make you feel a little less stressed.
Quotes / poetry journal
If you are a reader you probably regularly come across some words and ideas that you like. So why not keep them? Then you can easily find them whenever you need or just re-read them regularly for inspiration.
I keep a very simple one, just writing down some selected quotations, but you can add your comments and thoughts on the quotes as well (to be honest, you can add whatever you want in any type of journal, but I’m here to give some basic general guidelines : )
Family / couple / children’s journal
Your family life or relationships can benefit from journaling, too – and I don’t mean that you need to have some problems in this area of your life to start journaling about it.
You may have noticed in the previous examples that journaling can make you more aware and more attentive to the area of your life that you journal about. This leads to better understanding, greater progress and a stronger sense of well-being. If there are any problems in the said area, journaling can facilitate improvements.
In a relationship / family journal you can track various important dates, analyze conflicts that may arise, write down anything important, like what your partner is allergic to or what they may want for a birthday present, track your children’s progress at school or in other activities, plan family events and so on.
And yes, I think it’s OK if you can’t keep ALL information about your loved one in your memory. But if you want to be more attentive and to show that you care, write down the important stuff.
Relationship / friendship journal
Wait, haven’t I just read exactly that? Well, almost. In fact, all the same guidelines apply here. But the truth is, any relationship in your life can benefit from journaling, not just the relationship with your significant other, and I just wanted to highlight that.
What is your earliest memory? One of mine is getting my ears pierced at the age of three. It is, maybe unsurprisingly, still quite vivid. Why should I write it down, though?
Well, the obvious answer is that writing down memories helps you keep them. When you write it down you may even come up with some detail that you didn’t seem to remember before. And it is not just so that you feel nostalgic. You may see how you have changed over the years, get a better outlook on life or even learn some useful lessons for the future.
“Thank you” is truly the magic words.
In our life, we tend to concentrate too much on the negative, on what we don’t have. Doing the opposite, concentrating on what you have and being grateful for it can have a profound influence on your life.
You can make daily entries, noting the small daily things that make you feel grateful, or you can just make a couple of gratitude entries in your regular journal, painting the big picture. It will help you gain some perspective, concentrate on what’s important and maybe even feel a little happier.
Prayers can not only be said, they can be written, too. Or maybe even painted. Whatever the medium, a prayer journal will give you a new way to get in touch with your religious and spiritual side and provide some food for thought.
It is a different way of connecting with God and it can be really worth exploring.
Pray rain journal
It’s an unusual type of journal and, to be honest, it hasn’t really worked for me, but it may be interesting to try, even if just to add some variety to your journaling routine.
In a pray rain journal you don’t describe your life as it is. You describe the life you want – as if you already had it. Imagine that you have achieved your goals and improved whatever you were trying to improve. Imagine what it would feel like, to be “the new you”. What would you do? What would happen?
However, don’t write it in the “I would like to” or “I wish I were” form. Write as if you already are / do / have what you want. And see what comes out of it.
They say it is a way to manifest your dreams and wishes – I am a little skeptical about that, but it can be a fun way to journal and may actually help you get clear about what you really want.
Affirmations don’t work for everyone, and it’s OK. But they can be a powerful tool for improving your life. I do feel better when I say affirmations, but usually I am too lazy to keep doing it regularly J
If you write down your affirmations instead of (or in addition to) saying them, it can give you a different perspective and a better understanding of what you are trying to achieve with them.
And you can also unleash your creative side by adding all sorts of drawings and decorations!
Be it a work-related project or an arts-and-crafts one, keeping a project journal can make it easier and more successful.
You can write down your plans and all sorts of notes, set deadlines, track your progress and keep anything important from getting lost.
My project journal for a big scrapbooking album was just a simple graph ruled notebook and I mostly scribbled my notes with a regular pen without any system to them, but it helped me a lot!
I wrote separately about cooking and exercise journals, but you can actually journal about any hobby you have. As with other examples, it will help you be more attentive and aware, see where and whether you need any improvements and keep track of anything important.
You can: track your progress, write down useful ideas, plan, analyze, note down your achievements, write lists of things to try or equipment to buy, and so on.
Even if you are a healthy person you can benefit from a little extra attention to your health, and if you have some health issues a health journal can help you handle them a bit better.
You can track your vitals, medicine and food intake, pain or fatigue, any other health-related issues. It will help you notice patterns, which may be quite important, help you find out how different factors affect your health and be more health-minded in general.
Do I need to explain this one? ))))
Be aware of how you spend and waste your money. Track your savings. Keep reminders of bills to pay. Write down various financial plans.
Of course, there are apps for most of that now, but doing all that in the form of a journal allows for more freedom which you may benefit from.
Big ideas. Small ideas. Crazy ideas. Beautiful ideas. Important ideas. Money-making ideas. Nonsense ideas.
Write them all down. Sketch them. Make collages about them. Make lists of ideas or describe each one in detail.
Why? It helps free up some “space” in your head, keeps great ideas from being lost and promotes creativity, among other things.
Julia Cameron came up with this one, and let me just quote a description from her site:
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.
This is another type that I haven’t tried yet, but really want to! Have you?
Free writing journal
Free writing is writing continuously, often stream-of-consciousness style, for a set period of time, disregarding the topic, or grammar, or spelling rules – switching off your inner critic completely.
It is a tool sometimes used by writers to overcome writer’s block and search for ideas, but you don’t have to be a writer to give it a try – you may make some unexpected discoveries.
So, get a pen and some paper, set a timer and see what comes out.
Sketch. Paint. Make collages. Write prose or poetry. Combine multiple art forms. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative.
Keeping an art journal is not just a way to keep your works in one place or to practice. It can open your mind, inspire, awaken your creativity – and whatever way you do it, it will probably also look really cool.
When I started writing letters to my penpals I noticed that writing a letter is not just a way to communicate with another person – it involves a lot of self-reflection as well: what do I want to write, why do I want to write it, in what tone should I write about it, etc, etc.
You can do that even if you don’t have a penpal – just journal in the form of writing a letter. To yourself. Your parents. A long lost friend. To God. Choosing who to address your letter to can put a unique angle on what you are going to write and provide some profound results.
Time capsule journal
Do you know what a time capsule is? If you don’t, have a look at this example. Basically, it is a collection of objects that represent a certain time period, put together in a container and put aside or buried for someone to find later.
I have a small time capsule with some Polaroid photos and ephemera hidden somewhere in my closet. I made it a couple of years ago and I have almost forgotten what is in it, so maybe in a couple of years I’ll open it and surprise myself.
You can do something similar with a journal. Actually, every ordinary “dear diary” journal is basically a time capsule: you record what your life is like at a certain point and then in a few years you may reread it and surprise yourself.
But in fact, you can go further. Apart from daily events and your typical musings you can record what you usually don’t find very journal-worthy. Where do you live? How do you get to school or work? What clothes do you usually wear? What do you have for breakfast? How much does a carton of milk cost? You can also put in some photos. Not so long ago I discovered a photo of my desk in high school. I looked at it for a while and couldn’t understand what’s wrong with it. Until I did. There was no computer on my desk then.
You can go bigger and write about your city or country or the whole world. Put in news clippings and some ephemera. On the cover, you can put an “open on” date and surprise your future self – or your ancestors.
“Omni” means “all” in Latin, and an omni journal is exactly what it sounds like. For some of the above-mentioned journals, you do not always need a separate journal – just a few pages will suffice. So why not put it all into one journal?
Don’t worry, you will still get an opportunity to use lots of cool journals. An omni journal tends to fill up faster because you put more into it. But also not fast enough to blow all your money on journals.
If you try this type of journal, be sure to set aside a page or two for a table of contents. You can also use bookmarks. It will make finding information much easier and make your omni journal not just fun, but also very convenient.
To sum things up, a journal can truly be anything that you want it to be, and there may be some tremendous benefits to your life from this quite simple activity, so why not give it a try? (It is also relatively cheap, it won’t burn a hole in your budget, and you probably won’t regret it even if you eventually give it up)
If you would like a more detailed post on any particular type of journal, tell me and I’ll do my best.
If you already journal, but want to add some variety to the way you do it, don’t miss my posts about journaling styles and journaling resources – you may discover something new or rediscover some forgotten gem.
Do you journal? What type of journals do you keep? What do you think of my examples? Share in the comments!