What is Journaling
Journaling is writing down ideas, thoughts, feelings, or experiences in a journal. It is an excellent tool for expressing both positive and negative emotions. It helps you organize thoughts, express emotions, cope with stress, reflect on experiences, and improve your writing.
A journal can be a diary, log, notebook, or blank book.
Journaling can take place in different forms.
It can be structured with specific topics and objectives. Some people journal to document their daily events or upsetting feelings. Others use journaling to keep track of thoughts and ideas in daily life.
It can also be unstructured and open-ended to process thoughts, explore issues, or record creative self-expression.
Themes can be used as part of journaling – a gratitude journal, nature journal, art journal, math journal, bullet journal, and travel journal, for example.
There are different ways to keep a personal journal.
Some people prefer to write in long-hand, while others prefer to type on a computer or tablet.
Some like to add photos or drawings to their journals, while others prefer to keep it simple with just words.
There is no wrong way to journal.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is a great activity for adults and kids of all ages. Young children can get a lot out of it, in particular, if they start in the early years.
Here are some life-changing benefits of journaling for children.
Strengthen learning in school
Journaling is writing to learn. It is a powerful tool for children to reinforce what they’ve learned in school.
Articulating an idea forces the mind to process and clarify its meaning.
In school, students make connections between new and previous knowledge when they journal. It encourages deeper understanding rather than surface learning1.
Studies showed that students gained a better understanding of course materials and were able to apply them in more situations2.
Journaling provides a safe space where children can express themselves freely. It allows them to reflect on what they’ve learned from their daily experiences.
They can process stressful events and look for opportunities for learning.
Express emotions and build resilience
Journaling can be a source of comfort for children as emotion suppression is bad for them.
It allows a child’s emotions, especially negative ones, to be expressed safely and confidentially.
Expressive writing helps them process and reflect on difficult emotions, make sense of life events, and understand themselves better3.
They learn from past experiences, as well as build resilience toward future challenges.
Better mental and physical health
There are many great benefits to keeping a journal. It benefits not only mental health but also physical health.
Journaling enhances mental wellbeing4 by improving moods, reducing stress, and increasing self-esteem5.
Over time, stress reduction results in a healthier immune system6 and fewer physical illnesses.
Improve writing and communication
An obvious benefit of journaling is that it enhances one’s writing skills.
Journaling provides children with a regular opportunity to practice and improve their creative writing , reading, and communication skills.
Kids with difficulty writing or communicating in other contexts will benefit from this.
With daily journals, children learn to find their voice, communicate openly, gain confidence, and become more comfortable expressing themselves7.
Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills
They learn how to handle difficult situations in the future by working through problems.
They also learn from their mistakes and develop coping strategies for future challenges8.
As children grow older, journaling promotes self-reflection that helps them develop self-awareness and a deeper connection to themselves.
Self-reflection is looking back on what has occurred with the goal of self-evaluation and personal growth.
Kids discover meaning, make connections between experiences, gain values, and understand perspectives from others through it9.
Journaling is a fun and creative outlet for a child’s imagination.
Children are free to express ideas and unleash their creativityin this private space 10.
Tips on How to Start Journaling
The beauty of journaling is that there is no “right” way.
But parents can guide children to make the most of it with the following tips.
Typing vs. handwriting
Your child can choose from many different types of journals.
Some spiral-bound notebooks contain simple paper, while others are adorned with colorful paper and interesting designs.
Then there is the digital journal.
Some people believe putting pen to paper is better than typing, primarily because research shows that handwritten words are retained better in memory than typewritten ones11.
Handwriting training helps preschoolers recognize letters better than typing12.
However, no conclusive studies have concluded that handwritten journals are better than digital ones.
Some children may prefer typing to writing in this digital age. Choosing what your child likes and feels most comfortable with will help them make journaling an enjoyable, healthy habit.
Choose a place
Find a quiet space that is also comfortable for your child so they can write without distractions.
Establish a daily routine
Children benefit most from journaling when they do it consistently.
Encourage them to journal on a daily basis.
Do it at the same location around the same time every day to create a regular journaling habit.
Start with a small step
Asking your child to write a 500-word essay or spend 30 minutes writing time on their first day of journalling will ensure that they give up early.
Instead, begin with small steps.
Start small, perhaps with one or two sentences. Make the first journaling session short, 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increase.
Not just emotions
Journaling is often used as a form of therapy by mental health professionals.
To derive a therapeutic effect from writing about frustrating experiences or traumatic events, encourage children to not only express their big emotions but also try to make sense of the experience.
The benefits of journaling come from combining understanding the facts with examining one’s unwanted emotions, not just one or the other13.
Additionally, it helps if the writing includes some positive emotions.
Consider whether your child will share their journal entries with others.
Give them guidelines regarding sharing their writings and keeping their privacy preferences in mind.
Choose topics or formats that interest them
Kids should feel free to write about any topics that interest them.
But to help them get started, give them several journal prompts to choose from.
Journal Writing Prompts for Kids
There are countless journaling prompts around. Start your child’s daily journaling practice with these simple ones.
- List three things you are proud of today and the reasons.
- List three things you had feelings of gratitude for today and the reasons.
- List three things you could improve on today and the reasons.
- List three things you are looking forward to tomorrow and the reasons.
- Write about something fun you did today. Give details, reasons, and feelings.
- Write about a challenge you faced today and how you dealt with the difficult time.
- Write about your dream and how you think you can achieve it.
- Write about something you didn’t like, the reason, and your preferred outcome.
- Write about a decision you made today, the reason, and feel afterward.
- What is your favorite subject in school and why?
- What do you love most about yourself?
- When was the last time something made you laugh?
- What interesting stories have they heard or seen recently around them?
- What is your favorite book, and what is it about?
- What do you want to learn the most in school?
- What was the favorite thing you did during the weekend?
- What is your favorite food and least favorite food, and why?
- What are you grateful for today?
- What are your key strengths?
- List three personal strengths.
- 1.Kerka S. Journal Writing as an Adult Learning Tool. Practice Application Brief. 2002;22.
- 2.King FB, LaRocco D. E-journaling: A strategy to support student reflection and understanding. Current Issues in Education. 2006;9.
- 3.Utley A, Garza Y. The Therapeutic Use of Journaling With Adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. Published online March 18, 2011:29-41. doi:10.1080/15401383.2011.557312
- 4.Lepore SJ. Expressive writing moderates the relation between intrusive thoughts and depressive symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Published online 1997:1030-1037. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.110
- 5.Donnelly DA, Murray EJ. Cognitive and Emotional Changes in Written Essays and Therapy Interviews. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Published online September 1991:334-350. doi:10.1521/jscp.1918.104.22.1684
- 6.Esterling BA, Antoni MH, Fletcher MA, Margulies S, Schneiderman N. Emotional disclosure through writing or speaking modulates latent Epstein-Barr virus antibody titers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Published online 1994:130-140. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.62.1.130
- 7.Loo R. Journaling: A Learning Tool for Project Management Training and Team-building. Project Management Journal. Published online December 2002:61-66. doi:10.1177/875697280203300407
- 8.Fritson KK. Impact of Journaling on Students’ Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control. Insight: A journal of scholarly teaching. 2008;3:75-83.
- 9.Blake TK. Journaling; An Active Learning Technique. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship. Published online January 15, 2005. doi:10.2202/1548-923x.1116
- 10.Dunlap JC. Using guided reflective journaling activities to capture students’ changing perceptions. TechTrends. 2006;50(6):20-26.
- 11.Smoker TJ, Murphy CE, Rockwell AK. Comparing Memory for Handwriting versus Typing. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. Published online October 2009:1744-1747. doi:10.1177/154193120905302218
- 12.Longcamp M, Zerbato-Poudou MT, Velay JL. The influence of writing practice on letter recognition in preschool children: A comparison between handwriting and typing. Acta Psychologica. Published online May 2005:67-79. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2004.10.019
- 13.Ullrich PM, Lutgendorf SK. Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. ann behav med. Published online August 2002:244-250. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm2403_10