I bet you didn’t know there were multiple journaling techniques—that you can do so much more than use your journal to recount your day or plan ahead. Journaling alone is a powerful tool.
As Psychology Today explains, a few of the many benefits of journaling include providing emotional release, building self-awareness, increasing gratitude, and discovering your inspiration to change.
Take it one step further with one or many of these journaling techniques and you may find it becomes even more powerful. Grab your journal and get ready to level up in life and business, step into your highest self, and empower your journey to greatness.
1. Visual Journaling
Use it: when words are escaping you
Visual journaling is focused more on drawing and illustrating than writing words. You can express your thoughts and feelings in creative illustrations and still reap the same benefits of stress relief and self-expression. If you’re a visual person, this may be even more supportive than if you were writing down your thoughts and feelings with words.
When using this journaling technique, allow yourself to be bold and creative. Practice using different art mediums to find what works for you. If you need inspiration to get started, buy the Don’t Ask How Bold Journal.
2. Gratitude Journaling
Use it: each morning
Gratitude journaling is exactly what it sounds like: journaling about what you’re grateful for. Start by writing down a list of at least five things you’re grateful for each day. To dive deeper into this practice, write down why you’re grateful for those things, people, and experiences and feel your body swell with gratitude.
When you express gratitude for all that you have, you start to notice that you have a lot more to be grateful for than you might realize. Even better, when you focus on the good, you see more of the good, which also improves your mood. That’s why this is a key journaling technique to use daily.
3. Intuition Journaling
Use it: to find answers that are escaping you
Everything you need is already within you, but it can be hard to hear your intuition over the noise of other people’s opinions. Intuition journaling helps you get quiet with yourself, focus on you, and let your intuition or inner knowing speak through your writing. To use this journaling practice, write down a question that you’re struggling to answer. Take a deep breath and let your intuition speak as you write potential answers or solutions.
The right one may not come right away, but keep writing and tuning in, and it will. You already know it, you just have to listen for it to bubble to the surface. The more you practice this, the stronger your intuition will become and the easier it will be to hear over the noise.
4. Stream-of-Consciousness Journaling
Use it: to empty your mind before bed
This journaling technique is a great way to “brain dump” and get all of your thoughts out onto the paper. It’s particularly helpful when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Grab your favorite journal and just write. That’s it. Write down whatever pops into your mind, has been hanging over your head, or what you’re feeling or thinking—write it all, without judgement.
Write until you feel ready to stop. Notice the lightness and sense of relief you feel after using this journaling technique. It’s as if you had literally dumped all of your worries onto the paper. Once everything is out, you can look at everything objectively and make sense of it with a clear mind.
5. Dream journaling
Use it: immediately upon waking
Keeping a record of your dreams can deepen your emotional understanding, and self-knowledge making this a key practice for self-discovery. Start by writing down everything you recall from your dreams immediately upon waking in the morning. If you don’t remember everything, start with what you do. The more you write the more will come back to you.
Read back over your dreams to find patterns and interpret their meaning. You can even buy a dream dictionary (physical or as an app) or use an online dictionary to get even deeper. This practice can be both fun and enlightening, making it a fun journaling technique to try.
6. Mentor Journaling
Use it: when you’re in a period of growth
Mentor journaling can help you step into your next level self by writing about the qualities you admire in the people that inspire you. Think about specific people you look up to and list out the qualities they have that you desire to have yourself. Ask yourself questions like:
- What about them inspires me?
- What habits do they have that I want to adopt?
- How can I emulate something(s) that they do daily?
Another way to dive into mentor journaling is to write a letter to these people telling them how they’ve inspired you and what you’ve accomplished as a result. This is a future-oriented type of journaling that helps you step into your future self, speaking and thinking as her.
Write these mentor letters in the Don’t Ask How Small Steps journal to remind you that you will get where you want to be, just like they did, one small step at a time.
7. Plan Your Day Journaling
Use it: when you’re struggling to feel organized
Using journaling to plan for your day can help you prepare for tasks, set goals, and anticipate challenges. Instead of using your journal as another to-do list, use this time to write down three goals for the day, how you’ll achieve those goals, and how you want to feel as you do it.
To make the most of this journaling technique, do it the night before. If you plan your day the night before, you’re more likely to get a better night's sleep. Work this into your nighttime routine to wake feeling ready for the day.
8. Free-Write Journaling
Use it: for emotional release
Free-write journaling is a technique that allows for an emotional release and self-discovery without judgement or censors. Set a timer or determine a set number of pages you want to write and start writing.
Similar to stream-of-consciousness writing, he goal is to write whatever thoughts you’re having without judgement. When you let your thoughts and emotions come out freely without criticism, you’re practicing self-acceptance.
This is one of the journaling techniques meant to push you to fill up so many pages or write as much as you can within an allotted time. This is beneficial because it keeps you focused on writing and reaching your goal rather than trying to perfect the writing.
9. Future Scripting
Use it: to dream bigger
Future scripting is one of many future-self journaling techniques. The focus is on writing down your goals and desires as if they’ve already happened for you. According to the National Institute of Health, your brain is unable to tell the difference between a memory and a projection of the future. Use this technique as a way to train your brain to recognize your future projections as reality, allowing you to make them come true faster and with greater ease.
Grab the Dream Journal from the Don’t Ask How shop to do your future scripting. Ready. Set. Dream.
10. Reflection Journaling
Use it: to look back on a regular basis
Reflection journaling is a technique that allows you to look back on your day, week, month, or year and reflect on all that has happened. Victor Yocco, researcher, speaker and author of Design for the Mind, explains the power of this:
“Personal reflection enables us to process and make meaning of all of the great (and not so great) learning and working experiences we’ve had.”
If we never look back, how can you learn from all the ups and the downs? Even better, reflection journaling allows you to track your progress on your journey to greatness. You can look back and see how much you’ve grown and changed over time, giving you inspiration to keep going.
Ultimately, this is one of the key journaling techniques for getting a real, honest look at your progress. I’m guessing you’ve made more progress than you think.
Find the Best Journaling Techniques For You
Use these journaling techniques to do more than write words on a page. Become your future self, look back on all you’ve accomplished or simply write what’s on your mind right then and there. To make the most of your journaling, commit to making it part of your daily and weekly routine. Be consistent and watch as the magic happens.
Jessica Thiefels is a published author, host of Mindset Reset Radio, CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, and co-founder of Don’t Ask How. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. Jessica is on a mission to empower women to make their own rules and live with intention so they wake up every day excited about the life they get to live. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.