Benefits of journal writing

Jill Hodgson-McConnell, MSW, RSW
Counsellor, Employee Assistance Program
May 2, 2021

People work through difficult times and process their feelings in different ways, and journaling is one effective tool to support this work. Journal writing is for anyone at any age. It is a safe space for individuals to express thoughts and feelings without judgment.

The practice of journaling can help:

  • track your mood.
  • gain clarity and understand difficult situations.
  • celebrate strength and resiliency.
  • support a deeper dive into your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a way that feels safe.
  • support creative problem solving.
  • identify the patterns and themes of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which can provide insight and opportunity to do something with that knowledge.
  • imagine your way through a problem.
  • reflect back on what worked and what didn’t when managing a challenge.
  • step back and gain perspective on a situation or your thoughts and feelings.

The purpose of journal writing is unique to every individual. There are no rules to journal writing. Your journal is your own. It is not for others to read, correct or critique, and you don’t need to re-read it unless you want to. It doesn’t matter if there are spelling mistakes, what your journal looks like or what you choose to write with… Just start writing.

Some practical tips to journal writing:

  • Find the journal that fits for you. A journal can take many forms. It could be a coiled notebook, leatherbound diary, sketchbook, or handmade book. It could also take the form of an electronic journal on a computer, tablet or smartphone app.
  • If you intend to make journaling a regular practice, try to maintain a routine for your writing. Choose a time of day and an amount of time to set aside for writing.
  • Find a comfortable place to write and have the things you need handy.
  • Begin each page with a fresh start and note the date and time.
  • Be in the present moment, even when you are reflecting upon past events. Take the time to ground yourself by describing where you are physically in your environment and noticing what is going on in your body as you write.
  • Do not edit or rewrite. Re-read your entries if you want to. Just give your words time to mature between writing and re-reading, and be kind to yourself when writing and re-reading; try not to judge yourself.
  • Write your journal for yourself, not for anyone else.
  • Keep your journals in a safe place. Knowing your written thoughts are safe will promote writing more openly.
  • Turn off any distractions and dedicate yourself to the calm that journal writing can offer for the time you’ve given to it.
  • Record quotes, prayers and sayings that inspire you.
  • Change up your writing tool – pen, pencil, crayon, marker, etc. Be creative. If the day doesn’t feel like a day to write but a day to draw, paint or just doodle, don’t let words get in the way. Do what works for you.
  • If you are connected with a counsellor, try talking with them and discuss how journaling can further enhance the work you are doing together.

Writing through your safe and private outlet, where your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are transformed into words, may be the means you have been looking for to transform how you experience the world around you. It may be the place where you find clarity, discover amazing things about yourself or create a work of art. Whatever it is, it’s your creation and it belongs to you, the writer.