There have been many studies done that shown the benefits of journaling and from a personal experience I can say that journaling was an amazing way for me to deal with stress, overwhelm, grief and help my productivity and advance my goals.
With all that in mind it seems that journaling is a perfect tool to use for everyone and at all times. But, like with everything, there are pros and cons to journaling that you should consider if you want to give journaling a try.
PROS OF JOURNALING
Helps you offload worries from your mind
One of the things I love about journaling the most is that it lets you offload worries of your mind.
As a habitual overthinker, I can be in my head a lot and go down the rabbit holes that become exhausting, can cause sleep troubles and just really throw off my day.
By journaling, I take the thoughts and worries out of my mind and onto paper.
If you have a persistent concern that bothers you and distracts you from your day, try to write it out. Write what it is, why it bothers you, what is the worse thing that can happen if this worry becomes true and so on.
Writing it out lets you mind let go of it and often, the whole thing seems smaller if not silly once it’s on paper, in black and white.
Allows you to see where your time/money go and make helpful changes
Another journaling practice that is very beneficial is writing down what you spend your time on and how long each thing takes. Same can go for noting your money spending habits.
We have an incredible talent to remember some things that make us feel good and ignore or block out certain things we don’t want to acknowledge.
By journaling on where we spend time and money we can, often with surprise, find out about ungodly amounts of time and money we waste on unproductive things and tasks.
Journaling on these things lets us realize our spending habits and make changes for the better, where needed.
In my personal life, I found out that I was spending 10x more money on books than I thought/perceived I did. Since, at that time, every penny counted in my life, I made a change and switched to digital books which also helped with storage in my apartment.
It helped with spending as I began to support indie writers whose books were generally 2-3 times less expensive than paper books I used to buy (and often didn’t read!).
Makes you become more mindful about what you eat
Let me tell you, nothing makes you more aware of what you eat than the need to write Every. Single. Thing. down.
Food journaling helps you realize all the times when you reach out for a “small snack” that often is not in your best interest.
Journaling about the food you eat keeps you aware, accountable and helps you make the changes for the best.
It is also a great thing to have on hand if you are trying to figure out if a particular food aggravates your heartburn, allergies or stomach aches, etc.
Journaling about the food you eat already or plan to eat can help you start planning in advance and make your health journey easier, helping you track your improvements and successes.
Helps you think through important decisions
Making important decisions is hard and exhausting. Holding all the moving pieces in your mind is challenging and trying to make a well-balanced decision in your head can be quite a task.
Journaling your decision-making process out is very helpful.
Being able to make your decision on paper, makes it that much more thought out, planned out and puts your mind at ease.
By breaking down all the steps involved into smaller ones, writing down items involved, along with pros and cons, costs and benefits, gets them outside of your mind and on paper where you can see them, sort them, deal with them in a peaceful, organized manner.
You can create a task list, assign priorities and timelines to each, see if you are missing anything and if something needs to go.
It also guarantees that you won’t forget important points or details and is helpful when needed to involve others.
Helps you work through difficult times in your life
I often think of where I would’ve been if not for my daily journaling practice during some challenging times in my life. I was never a journaling teen or one of those people who journaled ever since they could write.
But, when my life presented me with a heartbreaking task of carrying for my husband and then my mom who both battled cancer at the same time, I turned to journaling to keep me sane.
Small or big, two lines a day or three pages, journaling can be that outlet you need to reconcile with all the things that go on in your life.
I started my morning with a gratitude journal and positive affirmations. I finished my day with a look back on my day, focusing on good things that happened. And if during the day I felt like I couldn’t handle things anymore, I would pour onto paper whatever troubled my mind, writing good and bad, light and dark and letting the paper handle what my heart couldn’t.
I can’t overstate how important the journaling was in my life at that time and ever since. Journaling can help you in the same way.
Creates record of your life you can look back on and see how far you have come
Journaling is an incredible way to record your life. You are your own biographer and your journal is a trusty friend to keep it all for later day or future generations.
The amazing thing about keeping record of your life is that when you read back on it all, you will be amazed on how much you have accomplished and how far you have come.
It’s like with your friend’s children – to their parents they seem unchanging day to day, but when you see them every other month, or once a year, you are amazed at how much they changed and grown.
Your journal is your own outside look at your own growth. You can read through your records and chuckle at how naïve you were or shake your head at how little you believed in yourself back then and how much more powerful you are now.
Lets you see what things keep on re-occurring in your life and need more attention
In the same way that your journal shows you how much you have grown and how far you have come, it can point out the things that are re-occurring in your life that you’ve been wanting to address for years.
You can notice that, year after year, your resolutions are the same three things and you can decide that, damn it, this year it will be different.
Your journal, being a gentle reminder of the improvements you had in mind but didn’t get around to, can help bring them into light, make you aware of them and give you that nudge you needed to push for the better you.
Can set the right mood for the day and ease your mind before sleep
One of the easiest and useful things you can do in your journal is to set the mood, the direction for your thoughts and for your day.
Just write a sentence or two first thing in the morning to start your day on a right foot. Nothing fancy, just something that is meaningful to you. “Today is going to be peaceful, today is going to be light.” “I look forward to all the smiles I will see today.” “I will remember to breathe and drink water today and that is enough.”
Writing a statement that sets your mood helps you begin the day on your terms, makes you feel more in control and lessens your anxiety.
I used a Five Minute Journal on a daily basis, writing my affirmations and things I wanted to accomplish that day.
Those statements were like beacons of hope that day, something to go forward to, something to hold on to. Then, when the evening came, I wrote about things I was able to accomplish, the good things that happened that day even if they were tiny.
Looking back on my day and finding the good helped to ease my mind at night, put a smile on my face and help me sleep.
Lets you let off steam
We have all been in situations where we really wanted to say something to the other person but couldn’t for a variety of reasons.
We didn’t want to lose a friendship, a relation or even a job. Or we were surprised and simply didn’t know what to say in that moment and then spent hours talking to ourselves, imagining all the clever way we could have put that person in place.
At times, these conversations can rattle around our brains for hours, sucking away our energy, occupying mental space and continuously upsetting us.
Putting things on paper has a magical quality of getting those things out of our head. When stuck in a situation where you wish you could have said something but didn’t, sit down and journal out the whole thing.
Journal out what happened, who said what, what got you upset, what surprised you, what you wished you would have said and so on.
Running through these scenarios will hopefully give you some relief from all the chatter in your mind, help your mind feel like it had the final say and maybe even prepare you for the next time a similar situation happens.
Gives you a way to forgive someone without having to talk to them
Along the same lines as the previous point, journaling can help you sort out your feelings towards someone you had a falling out with and begin the process of forgiveness.
Remember, you forgive to give yourself a break, to release yourself from suffering.
Use your journal to write a letter to the ones who hurt you, talking about what it was that upset you and how you wish they would have acted.
Let it all out and forgive them, let that hurt go. You don’t have to send or show that letter to them, even. This is for your own peace of mind.
CONS OF JOURNALING
Might become another chore
When we first get into journaling, we are very excited – the sky is blue and the future is bright. Like all new beginnings, it promises great things.
But, if you are struggling with journaling and simply trying repeat what other people do, journaling might stop being a benefit and become another thing to do.
Journaling in a very flexible versatile tool and can be many things to many people. That’s why sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to use a journal for your own purposes.
Some people use it to write pages of thoughts, some write just a phrase a day. Some do calligraphy and elaborate art, others decorate it with things found around the house.
Some journals are minimalistic, black and white, and some as colorful as a rainbow, with pages layered with art and ephemera.
When figuring out in which way of journaling works for you, try different ways and methods, but don’t get stuck on them only cause “someone else is doing them”.
If you feel like a certain way of journaling becomes boring, or feels like a chore, try something else. Journaling is here to bring you a benefit, not to add more work to your plate.
Can become another thing you criticize or judge yourself on
We often use journaling as a way to work out our issues, things we are dealing with, things we are trying to figure out in life.
Often, journal serves as our friend, our confidant, a place where we can really let out how we feel.
But it is possible to also criticize yourself in your journal, get down on yourself for something that didn’t go right that day.
We can try to make our journal “just like that other pretty journal” you saw on social media and then become unhappy that your pages are not as artsy, or creative or clean or impressive.
Journaling is meant to be a tool of help. Be mindful that it doesn’t become a tool of self-judgment and criticism.
Know that the journal is for your eyes only first and foremost and not meant to impress anyone. It doesn’t have to pretty, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just need to work for you.
Can become a money suck or clutter source in your house
If you could look at my shelves, you’ll see that they are packed with journals. A lot of those journals are empty or barely used.
Journaling, especially on social media, often portrayed as this magical glamourous thing with its calligraphy, decorated artsy pages and super organized trackers.
And then we try it and our journals are nothing alike. And we get discouraged and drop it.
Then we think – oh, that must have been the wrong journal for me, and when another cool-looking journal comes along, we think: That’s the ticket!
We buy it, try it, and the cycle repeats. Before you know it, there are stacks of journals on the shelf collecting dust, but none of them do it for you.
In the end of the day we need to remember that journal is just a tool and won’t work until you work it.
If you not careful, you might turn your journaling obsession into waste of money and space.
Can create a false impression that it’s the journal that will solve your problems
As I mentioned above, a journal will only work if you work it.
Just buying a journal, no matter how cool or advance or how well it works for other, won’t make a difference in your life unless you actually use it and use it consistently.
It is you, not the journal, who is the magic here.
Buying a journal can create an impression that once it arrives things will start getting better and different and when they don’t, it might be upsetting. Make sure you understand that journal is just a tool and needs to be use in an order for it to work.
Can become a source of upsetting thoughts
The beauty of a journal is that it creates a record of our lives.
The downside of a journal is that it creates a record of our lives.
You might one day review your journals for the past few years and discover that every year you set same goal over and over, you complain about same thing over and over and promise yourself you will go stop doing that same thing over and over, but things still stay the same.
Realizing that you are a passive passenger in your life can be quite upsetting when you notice that you keep on complaining about same things year over year or go after same things but never make any progress.
Journals are beneficial when we don’t just write in them about our lives as they are, but use them to write a new and different life into existence.
What you focus on, grows
Focus is a wonderful thing when it’s pointed on something positive and exciting. However, focus can turn on us when pointed on negativity and self-deprecation.
Journaling about negative things in your life might bring more attention to them than it would otherwise, magnifying them in your mind.
Writing something on paper often makes it more real and journaling about it might make it seem bigger than it actually is.
The thing with journaling is not to use it just as a tool of documenting negative events of our lives, turning them this way and another, but to work through them, understanding the meaning behind them, the lessons learnt from them and the ways of moving on from them.
Your life might seem boring
Another thing about journaling and social media, is that you see everyone journaling about all the cool events in their lives, taping photos and plane tickets onto their pages.
As you decide to journal about your life in a same manner, looking for something “cool and exciting” in your every single day, you might start feeling like your life is boring and nothing cool ever happens in it. You might even become upset about your life and feel like it needs to be “fixed”.
That is of course completely untrue. What we see on social media is condensed, enhanced and magnified.
Life is not just a string of endless exciting events the way it gets portrayed online.
Life is a journey, slow, thoughtful, will meaningful pauses, peaceful moments and sparks of excitement.
Enjoy life as it is, don’t seek out flashy moment just so you can write about them in a journal. Enjoy every second, seek beauty and gratitude and reflect on every precious minute in your journal record.
Like an tool, journaling has its pros and cons. It’s all about how you use it, about the expectations you have for it and how mindful you are about your journaling habit. Take the good things about journaling and be mindful of the things that don’t serve you.