Journaling: Definition, Benefits and FAQs

Katie Koschalk
Katie Koschalk

Katie Koschalk is a California-based health and wellness writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and certified personal trainer, with a deep understanding of mindfulness and mind-body practices.

October 1, 2023

Did you know that one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement is right at your fingertips? No, it isn’t the newest fitness trend or a green smoothie (though both are undeniably beneficial). It’s something even simpler—the practice of journaling. 

While the concept of putting pen to paper to express your thoughts and feelings has been around for millennia, journaling has been thrust into the spotlight in recent years. Wellness gurus, renowned authors, and everyday individuals alike are singing its praises, emphasizing its transformative potential. 

If you’re interested in journaling, you likely have several questions. What’s all the hoopla about? How do you do it? What are the different types? We’ll be answering those fundamental questions and many others in this article. Here’s what you need to know. 

Key Takeaways icon

Key Takeaways

  • Journaling is the practice of writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences either on paper or digitally.
  • The benefits of journaling extend from mental and emotional well-being to potential physical advantages.
  • There are various types of journaling, including daily, expressive, stream of consciousness, gratitude, dream, and structured approaches.
  • Regular journaling requires commitment but offers cumulative benefits over time.
  • Different groups, ranging from students to professionals, can harness the benefits of journaling tailored to their needs.

What Is Journaling? 

Journaling is the act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and observations on paper or through digital means. It’s a window into the internal landscapes of the mind, providing a tangible snapshot of one’s inner world at any given point in time. 

Historically, journaling was often used to meticulously document daily events. Over time, as societies advanced and individualism blossomed, it transformed into a more introspective practice, focusing on emotions and inner dialogues.  

Today, journaling transcends its role as a mere record-keeping tool and stands as a potent tool for personal growth, mental well-being, and heightened self-awareness.

Benefits of Journaling 

While the practice of journaling is very simple and straightforward, its effects on the mind and body can be profound. Here are some of the key advantages of integrating journaling into your routine:

#1: Can Enhance Self-Awareness 

Journaling provides a window into your inner self. Over time, patterns emerge, granting insights into your behaviors, triggers, and inclinations. 

This heightened self-awareness not only offers clarity, but can also empower you to identify and modify undesirable habits, fostering personal growth and transformation.

#2: Can Encourage Emotional Processing 

Journaling serves as a safe outlet for your emotions. Whether it’s excitement, sorrow, anger, or joy, expressing and accepting difficult emotions in this way has been shown to reduce their strength, making them easier to manage[1].

How? A 2019 study found that writing about a past failure, especially a profoundly stressful one, influenced neural activity in the mid-cingulate cortex. This brain region plays a pivotal role in processing negative emotions[2].

#3: Can Help Manage Anxiety and Stress 

Journaling offers varied approaches to emotional processing. While some forms encourage writing about challenging experiences, others emphasize capturing positive moments and reflections. This practice of focusing on the positive has shown particularly promising results in managing anxiety.

One study found that individuals who spent just 15 minutes a day writing positive journal entries experienced significant reductions in stress and anxiety[3]. These entries, geared towards focusing on positive aspects of their lives, shifted their attention from stressors and worries, resulting in marked improvements in their overall well-being over several weeks. 

#4: Can Improve Mental Clarity 

The act of writing organizes chaotic thoughts, aiding in problem-solving and decision-making. By seeing your thoughts on paper, it becomes easier to weigh the pros and cons, dissect problems, and arrive at clear solutions.

#5: Can Support Goal Setting and Achievement 

Journaling can be a tool for setting, tracking, and achieving goals. By documenting aspirations, progress, and roadblocks, one is more likely to stay committed and motivated and make adjustments where needed. 

#6: Can Enhance Creativity 

The unbridled nature of journaling, especially when done without rigid structures, can unleash creativity. It provides a space for brainstorming, ideation, and free expression.

#7: Can Help Manage Depression 

Engaging in regular journaling, especially with a focus on gratitude, can play a pivotal role in managing and mitigating symptoms of depression. Studies have highlighted a significant link between expressions of gratitude and lower levels of depression[4].

This practice serves as a reminder of the good in life, even during challenging times. Over time, the consistent act of recognizing and appreciating positive moments can foster a more balanced and resilient emotional state.

#8: Can Help Reduce PTSD Symptoms 

Research suggests that structured journaling can be a valuable tool for individuals struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One study highlighted that individuals with PTSD experienced marked improvements in their mental health when they adopted a narrative journaling approach, which entails recounting a traumatic event in writing[5].

#9: Can Strengthen the Immune System 

It may seem surprising, but the mind-body connection is powerful. Journaling, a mental and emotional activity, can have tangible physical benefits. 

A 2018 study affirmed the therapeutic power of expressive writing[6]. In this study, participants wrote about “the most traumatic or upsetting experiences of their lives” for 15-20 minutes on four consecutive days. Four months later, the participants who engaged in expressive writing reported fewer doctor visits and sick days than those who didn’t.

Another compelling study found that older adults who engaged in expressive writing exhibited faster wound healing than those who didn’t[7].

#10: Can Support Other Aspects of Physical Health 

In addition to improved immune system functioning, a 2018 research review suggested that expressively writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings may contribute to the following health benefits[8]:

  • Improved liver function 
  • Improved lung function 
  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor 
  • Fewer days in the hospital 

Different Types of Journaling 

The practice of journaling is versatile, adapting to each individual’s unique needs and inclinations. Here’s a look at some of the most common journaling techniques: 

Daily Journaling

Daily journaling is perhaps the most traditional form, where you chronicle the events of your day. This can range from mundane activities to more profound experiences or reflections. 

Over time, a daily journal becomes a detailed record of your life, capturing emotions, encounters, challenges, and joys. Beyond mere record-keeping, revisiting old entries can offer insights into personal growth and changes over time, reminding you of past challenges overcome and lessons learned.

Expressive Journaling 

Expressive journaling, often referred to as therapeutic or reflective journaling, centers on the act of diving deep into your feelings, thoughts, and personal experiences. As individuals consistently engage with this practice, they often discover avenues for personal growth and emotional healing.

Free Writing/Stream of Consciousness Journaling

Free writing, or stream of consciousness journaling, is a liberating exercise where you write down your thoughts and feelings without any self-imposed constraints or edits. The goal isn’t coherence or structure but pure expression. It’s akin to opening a faucet and letting one’s internal monologue pour out. 

This form of journaling can be incredibly therapeutic, often bringing to the surface feelings or thoughts you might not have been consciously aware of. It’s a way to declutter the mind and can lead to surprising realizations and epiphanies.

Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude journaling involves consciously recognizing and writing down things in your life you’re thankful for. This could be as monumental as a significant life event or as simple as a comforting cup of tea. 

By focusing on positive aspects, gratitude journaling cultivates a positive mindset, combating tendencies towards negativity or rumination. Over time, this practice can significantly improve one’s overall outlook on life, fostering feelings of contentment, happiness, and well-being. 

Bullet Journaling

Bullet journaling combines to-do lists, calendars, and journaling using quick notations and symbols for efficient organization and reflection. This approach is as much about productivity as it is about mindfulness, allowing you to keep track of tasks, appointments, and ideas.

Dream Journaling

Dream journals are dedicated spaces for recording your dreams upon waking. Over time, these records can provide fascinating insights into your subconscious, as dreams often contain symbolic elements that reflect inner feelings, desires, fears, or unresolved issues. 

Structured Journaling 

Structured journaling provides a more organized approach to capturing thoughts and reflections, typically guided by specific prompts or questions. By offering a clear framework, it eliminates the intimidation of the blank page and ensures that individuals stay focused on particular themes or topics.

One easy way to utilize this method is with Rosebud—the #1 AI-powered journaling app for mental health and personal growth. Leveraging its curated journaling prompts, users can dive deep into introspection while enjoying the guidance this structured approach provides.

How to Get Started with Journaling  

Embarking on a journaling journey can be both exciting and slightly daunting. For many, the initial hurdle is often the blank page staring back at them. But with some guidance and dedication, establishing a journaling practice can become a joyous and transformative journey. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you begin:

  1. Choose Your Medium: Start by deciding whether you want to go traditional with a physical journal and pen or modern with a digital platform, such as Rosebud. The best choice is one that feels comfortable and aligns with your lifestyle.
  2. Set Aside Time: Like any new habit, consistency is key. Dedicate a specific time of day to write, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Many find mornings or bedtime ideal, but choose a slot that fits your rhythm.
  3. Create a Conducive Environment: Find a quiet space where you can write without interruptions. It could be a cozy corner in your home, a local cafe, or even a park bench. The ambiance can greatly influence your willingness to express yourself freely.
  4. Begin with Prompts: Writing prompts can be a godsend if you’re a beginner or unsure of where to start. They serve as initial catalysts, sparking thoughts and feelings. Questions like “What am I grateful for today?” or “What challenged me this week?” can be great kick-starters. Rosebud delivers new personalized prompts to users daily, making it easy to dive into the journaling process and consistently explore varied facets of your emotions and experiences.
  5. Stay Kind and Open: Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay if you miss a day or some journaling sessions don’t feel as cathartic or impactful as others. The objective is to establish a genuine connection with yourself, not to achieve perfection.

Tips for Maintaining a Regular Journaling Practice 

Like any practice, journaling offers the most benefits when done consistently. Here are some actionable tips to help you maintain momentum and make journaling a regular part of your routine:

  • Set a Morning Intention: Every day, Rosebud invites you to focus on the day ahead by asking you a question, such as, “What’s your top priority today?” or “What’s one positive thing you can do for yourself today?” This practice centers your mind, providing clarity and purpose as you navigate the day’s challenges and opportunities.
  • Set a Reminder: Use your phone or an alarm clock to remind you of your journaling time. It can serve as a nudge, especially in the initial phase when you’re trying to cement the habit.
  • Dedicate a Space: Just as you might have a specific place to read or meditate, establish a special spot for journaling. This dedicated space will psychologically prime you for the activity.
  • Integrate with Existing Routines: Couple journaling with another daily activity, like your morning coffee or bedtime routine. This pairing can make the habit more ingrained and intuitive.
  • Start Small: Don’t overwhelm yourself by setting an expectation of writing multiple pages daily. Even writing a few sentences to express your feelings can make a difference. 
  • Mix It Up: If you feel you’re getting into a writing rut, change your journaling style or prompts. Rosebud offers several different writing prompts and types of guided journaling, including reframing negative thoughts, gratitude journaling, and dream journaling. Experimenting can reignite your passion for the practice. 
  • Review Regularly: With each entry you make in Rosebud, you receive a summarized version highlighting key takeaways. Additionally, Rosebud analyzes your weekly entries every Sunday and provides an insightful summary of your week’s reflections. Observing your growth, shifts, and revelations not only serves as a potent motivator, but also aids in deepening your understanding of yourself.

What Groups of People Can Benefit from Journaling?

Regardless of age, profession, background, or life phase, anyone looking for an avenue for introspection, emotional expression, and personal documentation can benefit immensely from journaling. 

However, certain groups of people might find it especially advantageous due to their unique circumstances or challenges. Here are some specific demographics and situations where journaling can be particularly beneficial:

  • Students: From high school students to college attendees, journaling can aid in understanding complex subjects and managing the pressures of academic life.  
  • Professionals: Business professionals, especially in high-stress environments, can use journaling to brainstorm, track their professional growth, set and monitor goals, and manage work-related anxieties.
  • Therapy patients: Individuals undergoing therapy can use journaling as a supplementary tool to document their feelings, track their emotional progress, and gain insights that can be shared with their therapists.
  • People in transition: Those undergoing significant transitions, such as marriage, becoming parents, career shifts, or retirement, can utilize journaling to navigate their feelings and document their day-to-day experiences.
  • Grieving individuals: Journaling provides a therapeutic outlet for those dealing with loss. It can serve as a means to remember loved ones, process grief, and find a path to healing.
  • Creative individuals: Artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives can harness journaling to brainstorm ideas, combat creative blocks, and track their artistic evolution.
  • Personal development enthusiasts: Anyone on a journey of self-improvement and growth can benefit from journaling to track their progress, set goals, and reflect on their personal evolution.

FAQs About Journaling 

While a straightforward concept, journaling often raises many questions, especially for those new to the practice. Below are some frequently asked questions to shed light on this transformative habit:

Journaling is the act of writing down thoughts, feelings, experiences, or ideas on a regular basis. It can be structured or free-form, with the primary goals being self-reflection and exploration of one’s mind.

Journaling offers a myriad of benefits. It promotes mental clarity, helps in processing emotions, aids in stress reduction, fosters self-awareness, and may even support the health of the body. Furthermore, it can be a tool for goal setting, tracking personal growth, and serving as a record of one’s life and experiences.

There are various forms of journaling, each catering to different needs and purposes. Some popular types include daily journaling, stream of consciousness or free writing journaling, gratitude journaling, bullet journaling, and dream journaling. The type you choose often depends on your objectives and what you feel most comfortable with.

While the terms “journaling” and “keeping a diary” are sometimes used interchangeably, they can be distinct. A diary typically involves recording daily events or happenings in one’s life. Journaling, on the other hand, often delves deeper into feelings, thoughts, and self-reflection, although it can also include daily accounts.

When journaling, you start by setting aside dedicated time and finding a quiet space. You can then begin writing about your day, your feelings, thoughts, ideas, or even responses to specific prompts. The process is flexible, allowing you to tailor it to your needs—whether that’s jotting down bullet points or writing long-form narratives.

While journaling and meditation are distinct practices, they share similarities in promoting mindfulness, self-awareness, and present-moment attention. For some, the act of writing can be meditative as it helps quiet the mind and encourages a deep connection with one’s inner self. So, while not a traditional form of meditation, journaling can be a contemplative and introspective practice that complements meditation.

Embark on a Journey of Self-Discovery 

Journaling is more than just putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)—it’s a journey of self-discovery, a therapeutic outlet, a form of self-care, and a testament to the enduring power of written expression.  

Ready to embark on the transformative journey of journaling? Dive in and try Rosebud for free! This AI-powered, web-based journal is designed to fast-track your personal growth and self-discovery, guiding you every step of the way as you explore the landscapes of your mind. 

Start your journey with Rosebud and unlock the door to a more enlightened and empowered self!


  1. Ford, B. Q., Lam, P., John, O. P., & Mauss, I. B. (2018). The psychological health benefits of accepting negative emotions and thoughts: Laboratory, diary, and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(6), 1075–1092.
  2. DiMenichi, B. C., Ceceli, A. O., Bhanji, J. P., & Tricomi, E. (2019). Effects of expressive writing on neural processing during learning. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 13.
  3. Smyth, J. M., Johnson, J. A., Auer, B. J., Lehman, E., Talamo, G., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2018). Online positive affect journaling in the improvement of mental distress and well-being in general medical patients with elevated anxiety symptoms: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. JMIR Mental Health, 5(4).
  4. Jo A, I., John M, M., & Nicola S, S. (2021). The association between gratitude and depression: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Depression and Anxiety, 4(1).
  5. Sloan, D. M., Sawyer, A. T., Lowmaster, S. E., Wernick, J., & Marx, B. P. (2015). Efficacy of narrative writing as an intervention for PTSD: Does the evidence support its use? Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 45(4), 215–225.
  6. Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2018, January 2). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing: Advances in psychiatric treatment. Cambridge Core.
  7. Koschwanez, H. E., Kerse, N., Darragh, M., Jarrett, P., Booth, R. J., & Broadbent, E. (2013a). Expressive writing and wound healing in older adults. Psychosomatic Medicine, 75(6), 581–590.
  8. Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2018, January 2). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing: Advances in psychiatric treatment. Cambridge Core.

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