There are a lot of journaling techniques out there, and at first glance they can be overwhelming. From dream journaling and bullet journaling to free-writing and “worst case scenario journaling” (yes, that’s a thing), it can be tough to know which type is best for you and your goals.
From improved mental health to a stronger immune system, there are so many benefits of journaling every day—and there’s truly no right or wrong way to do it, except to not do it at all. To help figure out which type is best for you, we broke down the 14 best journaling techniques. Here’s what to know about each.
13 best journaling techniques
Bullet journaling is the journaling technique that most closely aligns with Silk + Sonder. Also called a “BuJo,” a bullet journal uses certain sections to log daily to-dos, keep a monthly or weekly calendar, jot down notes, or track certain things like moods or habits. Bullet journaling is great for anyone who wants an easy way to keep track of long and short-term goals in a fun, creative way.
Some people struggle with free-writing simply because there’s so much, well, freedom that comes with it. The idea is that you open your journal, set a timer for a specified amount of time, whether it’s 5 minutes or 15 minutes, and write anything you want. Struggling to figure out what to write about? Try one of these 35 journaling prompts.
Morning pages are similar to free writing in that you can simply write about whatever you want, but morning pages are done first thing in the morning. The idea with morning pages is to wake up and start writing before you do anything else, like checking email or social media accounts. You might be surprised by what you uncover about yourself when you journal before any other thoughts have a chance to intrude.
What are you thankful for? If nothing specific comes to mind, gratitude journaling can help change that. Essentially, by listing a handful of things you’re thankful for on a daily basis (and by going into as much detail as you have time for), you’ll rewire your brain so you start to naturally focus on gratitude instead of the negative. Whether you list one thing or 10 things, it’s hard to go wrong.
If you’re looking to gain clarity, closure, or you’re working to forgive someone, “unsent letter” can be a great journaling technique. The idea behind an unsent letter is much like what it sounds like: You write a letter to someone that you never send. By knowing that you won’t actually send this letter, you can organize your thoughts in an unfiltered way that doesn’t take their feelings into account. While you can keep your unsent letter in your journal, if you want to gain further closure, you can always rip it up after you write it.
If you’re constantly fascinated by your dreams and want to uncover their deeper meanings, dream journaling might be a good journaling technique for you to try. By recording the dreams you have while you’re asleep, you can begin to identify patterns in your dreams that can help you better understand what your subconscious mind may be trying to tell you.
You don’t have to be an artist to benefit from art journaling. An art journal is both a form of visual therapy and art therapy, and it has a lot of similarities to a written journal, except that it uses colors, images, and patterns to portray your thoughts and feelings—not just words. So if the idea of writing on a regular basis intimidates you, get out the colored pencils and markers and try art journaling.
One line a day journaling
One line a day journaling is a great technique for anyone who has ever said the words “I don’t have time to journal.” With this type of journaling, you write one line a day about anything you want. It can be something you’re grateful for, a positive thing that happened, something you learned, or anything else you can think of. Despite how brief it is, you can collect a lot of feelings and emotions in just one line—and this can be a fun type of journal to look back on, too.
Whether you’re a world traveler or you love a good day trip to a nearby town or city, travel journaling can help you better remember and enjoy your experiences. By writing down things that happened—where you went, how you felt, what you did, what you ate, smelled, saw, and heard—a record of your travels can help you better cement the experience in your brain and give you something to look back on.
When we think about making a vision board, we often think about poster boards and glue sticks. But vision boarding can be a journaling technique, too: You can record a series of words in your journal that mean something to you or you can draw, paint, or write about the vision you see for yourself.
With list journaling, you can write out any kind of list you want. Think places you’ve traveled or want to travel, books you’ve read or want to read, things you’re worried about, meals you want to cook, or anything else that sparks your interest. List journaling can be both fun and therapeutic.
Reflective journaling is the act of reflecting on certain experiences you’ve had to help you better understand them or come up with some kind of resolution around them. Reflecting on a negative or positive experience you had as a kid, thinking back to a time when you were truly happy, or writing about someone who had a positive effect on your life are all examples of this.
Worst case scenario journaling
Worst case scenario journaling can be a great technique for people with anxiety. When you’re anxious about something, take out your journal and write through what would happen if the worst case scenario of the thing you’re worried about actually came true. While it won’t work all the time, most of the time writing out the worst case scenario can be a calming exercise.