Whether you’re brand new to journaling or an experienced writer, exploring your writing voice is a fantastic way better understand our daily thoughts and goals.
Similar to why we kept diaries as kids—to recall the events of a day, to understand our feelings, or to explore new ideas—journaling as an adult can be the door into a stronger mindfulness practice.
Setting a writing goal doesn’t need to be time-consuming or complicated and doesn’t even require a deep love of writing. It’s simply about expressing your ideas in a manner that is open-ended and unrestricted.
Your ideas kept in a journal are for no one other than yourself, require no particular format, and have no right or wrong outcome.
Explore these five tactics for weaving journaling practice into your daily life.
Daily Journal Idea #1: Morning Dream Journal
At the start of each morning, writing in a dream journal acts as a window into our inner consciousness.
Dream researcher Jane Gackenbach of MacEwen University, explained that making notes of our dream life—no matter how loosely or unstructured—helps us better understand or waking minds throughout the day. The subconscious mind often tries to make sense of significant events from the day prior, and making note of these dream-inspired thoughts recognizes the cleansing process that occurs in our sleep both physically and emotionally.
Whether you have a clear memory of your dreams or not, kicking off your daily routine with a self-reflective activity keeps up from rushing or disconnecting from our morning routine.
So, even if these dream notes or drawings seem random or irrational, the actual act of writing down thoughts that came up overnight is a great way to enter the day with mindfulness and self-awareness.
Daily Journal Idea #2: Self-Growth Wish List
The moment you sit down at your desk, a wave of emails, a growing to-do list and a series of coworker requests come streaming in.
So, before things take off, set aside five minutes of your morning to write a personal to-do list. Doing so can keep these important (yet time consuming) tasks from hijacking your sense of calm first thing in the morning.
For example, write between three and five simple goals that are plausible within your given day. Try to set aside time for a phone-free walk, touch base with a family member or friend you’ve wanted to check in with, or keep it even simpler, and set a goal to be more patient with yourself when work gets frustrating.
These tasks may sound small, but keeping your journal close acts as a reminder will to lay a baseline underneath your day. And at the end of the afternoon, you are less likely to feel that the day has passed without taking care of your own personal growth goals.
Daily Journal Idea #3: Exercise Journaling
A workout is an excellent way to get the mind flowing, whether it brings up frustrations or enthusiasm. On your next run, yoga practice, or hike, take 10 minutes at the end of your workout to reflect on what thoughts arose while exercising.
Not only does exercise benefits the brain’s ability to memorize and focus, but the mind also commonly experiences breakthroughs or realizations while pushing through a difficult workout.
Make a note of these thoughts before the moment passes, even if they seem unimportant at the time. Keeping a journal entry will honor the thoughts that arise when the brain is at its best. If you experience the opposite feelings during your workout—ones of resistance and negativity—write these down as well.
Seeing your growth and noticing patterns in your mental workout state is an excellent tool when moving ahead in your practice.
Daily Journal Idea #4: End-of-Day List and Close Out
As you head to bed, close out the day by taking a moment to check in with yourself. This is especially helpful for those who find themselves waking in the middle of the night or having trouble falling asleep. The thoughts that often swirl around our minds as we go to bed find a home in a journal, allowing us to step away from these tasks and trust that they will be there in the morning if we need them.
This is also a lovely way to take note of your progress of daily goals, and note—again, without judgment—where you found your ambitions difficult or impossible to meet on that particular day. This way, we see each day as complete and respected—each becomes part of the larger process. Include a few hopes for the next day and respect when it’s time to let your goal-oriented mind go for the moment.
And lastly, no matter how demanding the day may have been, try writing a short list of things that brought your joy or gratitude since this morning. They may be small like a great cup of coffee, or much larger like a warm conversation with your sibling on the phone. Make note of what brought you fulfillment and end the day on a moment of gratitude and simplicity.
Daily Journal Idea #5: Cross-Reflection Journaling
One of the most beautiful aspects of journaling is the ability to look back on previous entries months or even years after they’re completed. By either sensing patterns in our thinking or seeing how we’ve changed, we get a greater sense of progression and growth in our daily life—we see the big picture. This way, years are measured by how our view of the world has developed, and not by our income or career choices.
These entries will often also contain answers to reoccurring issues you’ve faced in the past, reminding that there are ways to work through current challenges and daunting question. It’s surprising—we often write wise advice for our future selves without realizing it at the moment.
Journaling is a simple, low-cost way to make our thoughts and goals sacred. Taking this time, ever so little, to give attention to our mind doesn’t require a love of writing or art, just an appreciation for our mind’s thoughts and patterns. Most importantly, it’s always crucial to move forward without judgment. Your journal, after all, is just for you and acts as a space to express your thoughts without editing or pressure.