While you might equate journaling to a high school summer assignment, there have been studies that show multiple benefits beyond improved writing skills. Research indicates that daily journaling promotes stress relief, managing anxiety, increased productivity and more.
One specific trend is gratitude journaling. In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington talks about how gratitude exercises have many benefits.
“According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day – and why the events made them happy – lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”
Starting and maintaining a journal might seem overwhelming at first because it is another thing to add to your to-do list. However, an entry doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy. It can be as little as adding a photo. You can also jot down your thoughts or record what happened during the day.
The traditional way of journaling with a pen and paper still works. If you go this route, find a beautiful journal with lovely paper and a pen that is a delight to hold.
But, technology can make the process a bit lighter and more fun, too. There are great journaling apps that will entice you to use them, especially because we all have phones or tablets in our hands at some point during the day.
When considering an app to use, there are a few essential elements you want to look for.
A simple, intuitive interface that makes it enjoyable and effortless to use is vital. If it’s confusing, you are going to be less likely to use it.
Using photos is a great way to help express and document your thoughts and events in your life. Many of the top apps give you the ability to add pictures with your daily entries, although some limit the number of photos without upgrading to the premium version.
Sometimes you don’t want to write a long journal entry, you just have a quick thought you want to jot down. Look for apps that have the option to create an entry with one click.
One of the hardest parts of establishing a journaling habit is remembering to do it. The ability to add reminders at a time – or times – during the day that you will be most likely to comply with will help you be successful in creating a daily ritual of journaling.
Sometimes it is helpful to peruse your diary to see how far you have come or remind yourself of a happier time.
With a paper journal, you would have to potentially scan hundreds of pages to find a single thought or event. With digital diaries, you can quickly search out a specific event, date or topic. Study the apps’ searching capabilities when deciding on which one to go with.
Keeping your thoughts private is a crucial aspect of journaling. Even if you have a passcode on your device, it is helpful to have an app that can add a passcode to lock out any snooping eyes.
There may be times when your tablet is handy for a daily journal entry and other times where the phone is more convenient. Look for apps that can sync between your devices, so you have everything in one place. This feature may be a premium upgrade for some journaling apps, though.
Many of the best journal or diary apps have free versions with add-on features for premium versions. Here are a couple to check out.
Day One Journal is one of the most highly recommended journaling apps, and it has been Apple’s Editor’s Choice in the App Store multiple times. This is a favorite app because it is quick and easy to use, it works on Mac, iOS and Android platforms, and you can add multiple reminders.
The free version offers a lot of features, but for syncing across devices and unlimited journals and photos you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium subscription for $24.99/year.
Journey provides many of the same advantages as Day One. The free version has a friendly interface, can be used across different devices and allows you to sync your journal via Google Drive. The premium version for a one-time charge of $4.99 allows you to use up to 10 photos, 1 audio and 1 video per entry.
The Journey app also allows you to integrate your Apple Healthkit to track your fitness. A cloud subscription option is available for $29.99/year that provides email integration and the ability to unlock premium on any Mac, iPhone, iPad, PC or other phones or tablets.
For most people, the free versions will provide what they need to get started. I would suggest that you choose an app, see how you do with the process and then decide if it is worth it for you to upgrade.
Taking the time to write down a little something each day can increase self-awareness, help you to focus on the positive aspects of your day, provide a launching pad for changing habits, and more.
It takes time to get into the groove of making it a daily practice, though. You won’t be perfect when you start. Find the best way for you to capture your thoughts and establish a time each day to write in your journal for 10-15 minutes.
Do you journal? If so, do you prefer the traditional paper journal, or have you transitioned to a digital format? We would love to hear what has worked for you and any helpful tips you have learned along the way.
(This article was originally posted on Sixty and Me)