It’s no wonder that so many people have fallen in love with the practice of journaling. Keeping a journal can be an incredibly cathartic activity. To have a written record of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences is useful to reflect on your life and document important moments in your day-to-day.
Journaling is also a neat way to track your habits, analyze things like your love life or creative output, and see patterns that might not jump out otherwise.
But how often should you journal?
As with most things in life, the answer is: it depends.
Table of Contents
- Why You Shouldn’t Feel Obligated To Journal
- Why It’s OK To Skip A Day Of Journaling
- Benefits Of Keeping A Journal
- Bottom Line
Why You Shouldn’t Feel Obligated To Journal
By definition, a journal is something intimate. What happens with those pages is only between you and your journal.
Since journaling is an activity that does not concern the rest of the world, the term “should” does not really apply here.
What “should” implies is that there are certain rules that need to be followed. And in the case of journaling, there really are no rules!
Sure, you could choose to follow a certain schedule. But the only thing you should do when it comes to journaling is not feel pressured into a flow that doesn’t work for you.
There is some evidence that writing in a journal is beneficial. So setting yourself the goal of journaling every day could be a good thing. (Here are 10 Tips To Find Time For Daily Journaling.)
However, if adding additional pressure takes all the joy out of journaling, it may be better to take a more flexible approach.
Why It’s OK To Skip A Day Of Journaling
We all know a smidge of discipline is needed when you want to commit to making anything a habit.
Within the world of personal development, there are a lot of “rules” about how we should live our lives. Whether it be regarding the food we eat, how much we should exercise, how and how much we should sleep, etc.
While these prescriptive guidelines usually have some scientific backing, what makes sense on paper does not always neatly transfer to our busy lives.
Daily journaling undoubtedly has its pros, but if it does you more harm than good to force this, then what’s the point?
Between not journaling at all, or doing so once a week, a month, or in other increments, the better choice is to do what you can. Some occasional writing sure beats passing on the activity altogether.
In the long run, even those few scattered journal entries will be worthwhile. They’ll actually be most valuable compared to having written nothing at all.
It’s all about figuring out what works for you.
Benefits Of Keeping A Journal
Maybe it will motivate you to look at the reasons why you’re keeping a journal. Again – these can be different for everyone.
Habit & Behavior Tracking
One potential reason to write in a journal is that you can track habits and behaviors.
If you’re trying to lose weight, for example, you can keep track of how often you eat certain foods, how much you exercise, and even how you’re feeling when you make those choices.
By logging your habits, you can help identify patterns that you might not have noticed before. This can be incredibly helpful.
Journaling can also be useful if you’re trying to identify triggers that cause poor behavior. If you’re trying to quit smoking, for example, you can use your journal to track when and why you’re most likely to smoke.
Of course, these are all rather practical reasons to keep a journal.
Let’s also look at the mental/psychological front for a minute.
The Paper As A Friend
A notebook in itself isn’t going to replace therapy. But we all know to vent about topics you’re struggling with – whether to a professional or to a friend – generally tends to make us feel better. Lighter, to say the least.
Entrusting your concerns to the paper can fulfill a similar role. If you’ve never tried unburdening to a journal, I highly recommend doing so. It has the potential to help you cope and process basic emotions.
To Learn About Yourself: Moods & Patterns
As well as for tracking your habits, you can use your journal as a way to learn about yourself.
Some people keep a gratitude journal, for example, where they write down three things each day that they’re grateful for. Others use their journals as a way to keep track of certain moods or feelings that they’re experiencing.
This can be insightful if you struggle with mental health issues like anxiety or depression, or if you’re trying to identify triggers that cause certain mood swings.
When you’re in the middle of a bad mood, it is notoriously difficult to be detached and see a situation from various angles.
If you can write about those frustrations, you can revisit your venting later when you’re feeling more calm and collected. In addition to feeling lighter, this may help identify patterns.
Creativity & Self-Reflection
Journaling doesn’t have to always be serious. If you’re someone who likes to play around with creative ideas, you can use your journal as a way to experiment with different writing and artistic styles.
You can go back and read entries again, and they can help you reflect and grow as a person.
Especially when using journaling as a creative outlet, you don’t need to follow a certain format.
You can write a diary entry if you want, or try something like freewriting, where you simply write down whatever thoughts you have for a set period of time.
A brain dump, a random string of words… Who knows, there might even be a poem hiding inside your writing.
Or you can choose to skip the writing altogether. Draw or paint, scribble, doodle, or make a collage… Whichever process helps you express yourself creatively is the right one!
Try creative journaling randomly, when it bubbles up, or commit to creating something every so often, on a set schedule. It is your call.
|Tip: While we all have moments during which we feel more creative than others, remember that creativity is like a muscle that benefits from regular practice and training. |
Feel like you’re in a creative rut? Wanting to, but not knowing where to start? Don’t let too much time pass without creative journaling – give yourself a friendly kick in the hiney to make something, even if it isn’t your best work.
So what is our takeaway, in answer to whether you should journal every day?
As a general rule, keeping a journal is good for you. It’s an activity that helps you reflect on your life, process your thoughts and feelings, and document all the small moments you wouldn’t want to forget.
But when an activity that is supposed to help us adds more stress instead, it’s okay to adjust our approach.
How often you should be journaling depends. It is key to find a balance that works for you.
Be realistic about how often you can make it part of your routine without getting overwhelmed, or it becomes yet another task on your to-do list.
Life is demanding enough already, on so many fronts. Journaling does not need to add to that.
That said – there’s nothing wrong with putting some gentle pressure on yourself, assuming that this is something you strongly wish to make a part of your life.
My aim with the resources about journaling on this website is to give you tips, tools, and inspiration. There are other types of journaling than writing, for example.
The bottom line is that with the right approach, you should be able to keep a journal in a way that brings you joy, without it becoming another source of stress.