How to Choose a Journaling Method

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You hear about the virtues of journaling all the time. It’s good for the mind, the spirit, the soul, and the psyche. In short, it allows you a private space on which to pour your heart out without judgment, without fear, and with complete freedom. There’s a luxury in making journaling a regular part of your routine — you might think of it as a form of self-care. Yet if you don’t have a journaling method in place, it might seem a bit confusing. Should you just put pen to paper and free-write or take a more organized approach? These journaling methods will help ease your confusion.

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Topical Prompts

Think about why you want to keep a journal. If you’re doing it for inspiration and to hold on to those precious moments, use prompts to begin each entry. Focus on creating content that is truly meaningful to you. Write about the memories that triggered an emotion, for example (“Today I remembered…”), or expand on your relationship with someone important (“My relationship with __ is…”), or simply jot down the things you love (“I’m coveting…”). Be honest and forthright in areas where your deepest emotions may come into play. Did your memory bring tears to your eyes? Are you having a difficult time with a specific relationship? Your journal helps you navigate these territories without outside noise. Prompts make it easy to commit to writing about topics that are most important to your life.

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Accountability Tracking

There’s always room for more accountability in life. Ask anyone who’s ever committed to drinking more water every day, losing those last few pounds, or changing a procrastination habit. By writing down your ups and downs, you can easily keep track of your progress. This can be a serious form of motivation, as it provides you with an honest look at how you’re doing. Trying to sleep more and scroll social media less frequently before going to bed at night? Want to add more self-care treatments to your life? (Journaling counts!) Need to simply cut the cord with social media for a while? All of these are challenging, but they can be done. The key: Record your progress daily so you don’t lose track. It’s addictive to create habits — to see that slept for a record seven hours a night for an entire week, for example — and the more you put it down on paper, the better you’ll feel about sticking to it.

List Making

Some people just love making lists! If that’s you, you aren’t alone — and a journal is such a great place to record everything that engages you right now. Looking back on a list-filled journal also gives you a glimpse of your head and heart at any given point in your life. Maybe you went through an indie film phase or an art gallery obsession. Put this all in your journal, from where you went, what you saw, or what you read, to how the experience made you feel. Even better, create a bucket list of everything you want to do by a certain age — but don’t pin unrealistic hopes and expectations and pressure on yourself. That’s not what this is about! Won’t it be interesting to see what made you tick five years from now?

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Practicing gratitude is something of a fine art. Sure, you can be grateful, but this is one of the few journaling methods that challenges you to dig deep and appreciate every little thing. Doing this can put you on the path to a more positive attitude and a healthier sense of self. Focusing on the good in your life forces you to reverse mindsets that might otherwise be negative, about everything from relationships to work. This type of journaling takes work. It’s fine to touch on the simple pleasures — the morning vanilla latte, the beautiful view from your office, the five-minute commute — but as you progress, you might notice that your gratitude grows more deeply for little things you may never have noticed before. Just like you, this is a work in progress — and such a fun one to explore.


If you’ve ever had a dream of any kind, then you know how special and important it is to you. Why reserve it for the reaches of your mind when you can put it down on paper in a dream journal? Maybe you’re a lucid dreamer and want to catalog those mental adventures so you can look back on them in the future. Or maybe you want to bring life to those unfulfilled dreams you’ve harbored for as long as you can remember. This is one of those journaling methods that help you focus and analyze. You never know where your dreams may take you!

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