Journaling for Self-Discovery

For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a thirteen -year -old schoolgirl. Anne Frank

Journaling is one path to self-discovery that anyone can easily take advantage of and that has many benefits beyond increased self knowledge. These are a few:


  • Help you recall events should you need to refer to them in future.
  • Record of achievements, activities (resume, application).
  • Help you accomplish goals (food diary, exercise, etc) by focusing attention, identifying patterns.
  • Recall: short-term memory is fleeting (3 min or less). Save those great ideas/insights!
  • Helps you focus.
  • Records of achievement help you face new challenges.
  • Helps you think 'outside the box'.
  • Holds you accountable.
  • Some research suggests that expressive writing can offer real health benefits: wounds heal faster, reduce stress and fatique of cancer treatment, ease symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and other chronic health problems.

Personal Growth and Healing

  • Clarify thoughts and feelings.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Manage worry, anxiety.
  • Problem solving, weigh pros and cons without outside opinion, influence.
  • Resolve conflict (inner and outer).
  • Cathartic release of negative emotion.
  • Release emotions, stresses of daily life.
  • Self awareness.
  • Self forgiveness.
  • Process event in safe environment.
  • Trauma recovery.
  • Safe place to record your dreams and aspirations without fear of judgment, discounting, discouragement.
  • Helps you track progress toward important personal growth goals.
  • Teaches solitude, self-reflection, how to be present for ourselves.
  • Appreciate the richness of your own deeply personal and unique experience.
  • Discover our truth and engage more fully with our lives.

Harness creativity

  • Regular writing helps you learn to write.
  • Help with memory and recall.
  • Reveals things you may have missed at first glance.
  • Helps you learn to break complex experience into useful bits organized coherently.
  • Helps you learn from mistakes and celebrate and build on successes.
  • Stimulates imagination.

General Guidelines

There is only one rule! Do it.



Paper notebooks: touch, visual, easier to personalize/mix media, highly portable

Digital diary (even blogging): personalize and mix media in different ways

There's even an app for that!


Paint, draw, photos, collages


Daily Reflections: Thoughts, feelings, impressions, rants, raves.

Themed: Gratitude, Ideas, Plans, Wish Lists (Bucket List for example), Child rearing, Puppy rearing, Dreams.

Transitions: Divorce, Becoming a parent, Retirement, Career change.

Structured: Guided journal with questions developed by others often geared to a specific topic (such as grief, trauma, skill development, gratitude).

Time and Place

(Ritual or random). If it's helpful to you, pick a time and place and make journaling a regular activity. If not, don't. Or at least don't let it become something you resent. Use it. Make it work for you. Most people advise do it everyday. I disagree, make your own rules and allow yourself to break them, but do make it a habit.

The personal journal is the place where there are no rules! Grammar errors are irrelevant. Good sentence structure went on vacation. Spelling only counts to the extent that you'll be able to understand it later. It should (oops bad word) be restorative, thought provoking, freeing, open, welcoming, restful or inspirational, but never Correct!

Just keep it safe. Whatever that means for you.


'The journal is not just a receptacle for one's private thoughts,. In the journal, I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. Susan Sontag