e see little kids write and doodle in their diaries and say aww. But usually we grow out of  keeping our diaries updated, which makes us want to know who made diaries kiddish. Journals are actually great to keep as as adult, as they help with self-reflection and maintaining important memories. You can start a journal anytime -- it’s for all times of the year, and for all ages.

This article covers:

  • Why you should keep a journal as an adult
  • How to journal
  • Prompts to get you started

Health Benefits of Journaling

Who knew writing could be so helpful to one’s health? Today we are most used to writing that is meant to be read and interacted with by others. Think about the reading and writing you do with social media, blogs, books and short stories. These are pieces of writing with an intended audience. But have you thought of the benefit of journaling, where the only intended audience is yourself? There’s more benefits than you might think.

Reduce Stress

Life is simply stressful. There’s a lot going on. If you don’t manage your stress your health will be negatively impacted, so why not try a few methods that are proven to reduce stress? Journaling is one strategy for managing stress. If you journal for 15 to 20 minutes a day for four months, studies have shown the result is lowered blood pressure and better liver functionality. In general expressive writing draws out the process of self-reflection about personal experiences, which allows you to deal with stress in a more healthy fashion than for example overeating or loss of sleep.  

Improve Immune Functions

Journaling actually has physical health benefits. Something about journaling boosts immunity and decreases risk of illness. Immune system functionality increases with strengthened immune cells, and symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis are reduced. The liver and lung are also proven to function better with regular practice of expressive writing. Journaling has the power to combat certain diseases, and even improves your healing speed of wounds. When put that way, journaling sounds sort of mystical.

Improve Memory

You might find it obvious how journaling can improve your memory. Write something down and if you forget it, all you need to do is read back on it. But the improvement of memory doesn’t stop there. Studies show writing certain things down helps with retaining memory, so to write your personal feelings and experiences down might mean you won’t have to look back on your writing to remember. Put simply, memories are better remembered when they’re written down. Memory and comprehension improves with journaling, which might mean journaling actually improves cognitive processing.

Improve Emotional Functions

Journaling has been proven to improve physical and mental health, and now it’s also emotionally beneficial? Yup! Journaling has a social and behavioral impact, improving your general mood and giving you a broader sense of emotional well-being and happiness in life. And you haven’t even heard about the long-term benefits yet. Keeping the practice of a diary allows the writer time for self-reflection. Through their writing one can understand their deeper desires and needs, and develop a better understanding of their self-identity. Expressive writing boosts confidence, gives the writer perspective, and ultimately serves as an opportunity for emotional catharsis as the brain can better regulate emotions.

a group of adults gathered together in a park
Expressive writing can help you realize your emotional well-being and who you feel best around. Makes it all the easier to make plans with them!

Writing things out helps to organize and understand the messier parts of life that are difficult to untangle. We all go through change and great obstacles, and writing can help one approach these experiences, and learn something about your pattern of growth along the way. You have clearer vision about yourself, others, and the world when you write it out. With the better vision, you also open up the doors to creativity. Studies show journaling engages right-brain creativity, giving you fuller access to your brain power. In short, journaling pushes for personal growth, making you stronger and healthier. How can you not be convinced to journal now?

How to Journal

You’re convinced to start journaling, but the blank page has proven itself as too intimidating. Then comes the terrifying question: do I even know how to journal? We are not all writers, and even if we are, the blank page is still a worthy adversary. So how to journal is a reasonable question, and the answers are right here.

Make The Page Less Blank

To start off, you need to cut away the edge of intimidation that is starting on a new page. Learn the first rule: nothing has to be perfect. Let it be messy and confusing and stupid. Let it be the first thing that comes out of your head. First make the page less blank. Write your name at the top. Add the date. Maybe write Dear Diary. And if this isn’t enough to get you started, doodle in the margins. Let your mind wander and draw odd shapes and creatures along the sides of your page. Doodling will help you relax and perhaps sharpen your focus, and a topic will come in mind for you to start writing about. But whatever you do to mess up the page, don’t let the getting started take too much time. At some point you have to simply start writing, and don’t read back on it. Keep going forward.

a notebook and pen that an adult has placed beside their laptop while learning how to journal
That blank page can make you mad with the hope of writing something perfect. You have to let go of that and mess up the page a bit so you can do your best writing.

Write About Activities

So what topics can you start with? First try writing about what you’ve been up to. What did you do yesterday, what did you do today? It doesn’t have to be interesting. Talk about when you are productive, inspired, upset, tired. If your journal to self-improve, you can decide to record what time you wake up, time you go to sleep, what work you did, who you talked to, etc. If you ever want to recreate a feeling such as inspiration, you have the option of looking back on your last recorded day of inspiration and mimic the activities you did that led up to that.

Write About Decisions

Life is a maze of decision making, and the decisions you make are important. They’ve led you to this very moment. I know that sounds a bit overwhelming, as well as overly dramatic, but it’s relevant as a topic to journal. Write about the decisions you’ve made in the last 24 hours. Are there any big decisions you’ve made that you need to reflect on? Write about how you made a decision, how you feel about its result. Make yourself more comfortable with your decision, and confidence will ensue for the next big decision you need to make.

You can also ask yourself questions in the journal that will help you make future decisions. Questions like, “Should I look for a new job?” or “Should I stay home to work late tonight, or go out to relax with friends?” Writing out your thought process will likely lead you to the decision you need to make.

Write About What Scares You

Life has stresses, worries, and fears. Use the page before you and write about them. Discover what you think about these scary topics. Can you identify a cause, and the effects it has over you? Can you map out a solution or come to a realization that it’s actually not as big of a deal as you made it out to be? Writing about stress and worries can help you navigate these difficult situations with more ease.

a stressed woman leans against the back of a sofa, her arms covering her face
Everyone has their stresses and worries. If you need help managing them, try writing them out.


Sometimes it can be difficult to get started. It takes a bit of practice to get a feeling for your style of journal keeping. Nothing has to be consistent, this is all for you! Experiment with where you start, topics to discuss, the voice you use. If you need a little more help starting up, try a few of these journal prompts. They may get you started on a topic you hadn’t realized you needed to write through so badly.

  • What can you learn from your biggest mistake?
  • Describe yourself with ten words
  • Write about your first love (can be a person, place, etc.)
  • Where do you want to be in five years? Ten years?
  • Write a list of what most inspires you (for example, books, art, quotes, people, experiences, etc.)
  • Write a list of questions you urgently need the answers to
  • What do you love about life?
  • I couldn’t live without…
  • Words I’d like to live by are…

Journals and diaries -- whatever you call them, it turns out they’re your best friend. They have mental, physical, and emotional benefits, and can help you self-improve in a matter of months. So try out these helpful tips on how to get started, and find a pen and paper.

Apr 3, 2020

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