If you don’t keep a journal, you should! There are many benefits to journaling. The act of writing your thoughts on paper can often help you think about things in new ways, or help make connections you had not made before. If you are anxious about something, writing it down can help release some of that stress in your body. If you are planning for the future, the very act of writing your goals down makes it more likely that you will achieve them. The more you write, the easier it is to write. And it doesn’t all have to be awesome—but you might find that the act of getting your thoughts on paper helps you come up with some great ideas or thoughts! 

Journaling is something that allows you to focus purely on yourself and your thoughts, which is harder and harder to come by in a world of increasing technology. It can be beneficial for mental health because if you are writing about positive things in your life or things you are grateful for, in a sense you are experiencing and enjoying these events for a second time. I encourage many clients to keep a gratitude journal because when you are thinking about what went well, you spend more time focusing on the good.

Journaling has some amazing benefits at the time you are doing it—but its also a gift to your future self. You are preserving your thoughts and emotions that you can come back and see again at a later time. You can decide later if you want to keep it for future generations or if you never want anyone to see it. If you decide to keep it, I think you will see so much change in yourself over time. 

As for how long you should spend journaling, I think it’s helpful to set attainable expectations so you don’t get overwhelmed or feel guilty if you don’t keep up. Many writers suggest setting aside 10 minutes per day at a regular time to get into the routine of writing. It helps to write at the same time or in the same place to develop a routine. Gretchen Rubin discussed journaling in her book The Happiness Project  and suggested writing at least one sentence per day—it’s a small enough increment that you can always find time, but once you start, you often continue and do more. Personally, I started doing that 8 years ago, and while some days I just do one sentence, those days are rare and I often write much more! By setting a manageable minimum goal, it gives you permission to do what you need that day.