Self-development

20 Types of Journals to Keep

by Intelligent Change — 16 min read

20 Types of Journals to Keep

Could you call journaling a hobby?

While most might say “no”, treat it like it is!

Now with a countless number of different journals to keep, you can spend the time sifting through all your options to find the right one for you. Or, if you’re a hobbyist journaler (we know there are a few out there), then maybe try a few on for fit.

Journaling has been going for a long time, originating in ancient China, when Ma Dubo (马笃伯) wrote about his traveling adventures to Mount Tai to perform a ritualistic offering to the emperor. This helps us get a perspective of how journaling can be historically important, as it uncovers the daily truths of people in different eras and corners of the world.

But why would journaling be important for you, personally?

And among all the different types of journals to keep, which one should you choose?


The Importance of Being a Journaler

20 Types of Journals to Keep

As Nataly Goldberg once put it:

"Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is that you’re having a relationship with your mind."

This answers the second question we posed before: all types of personal journals are great for you, as long as you spend the time to self-reflect and look inwards.

It’s not just the romanticized quotes of famous authors telling us that journaling has immense benefits for our overall well-being, science has something to say as well.

To sum it up shortly, science has shown that journaling can be highly beneficial for people suffering from any psychological conditions (ADHD, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD…), as tracking thoughts, conditions, and maybe creating daily structures helps self-reflection.

Psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes that journaling can help us strengthen our immune system by acting as a stress management tool. According to Pennebaker, it reduces the impact of stressors on our T-lymphocyte cells (a fancy name for white blood cells, or immune system cells). Moreover, science shows that writing activates the left brain hemisphere, our rational headquarters, simultaneously deliberating the creative right brain to just feel.

So, now you’re thinking—if it’s all about health, why don’t I just eat my beans and salad, exercise, and not waste my time on journaling?

Well, here’s a short list of the reasons science has to offer:

  • Emotional well-being: journaling helps you understand yourself better and liberate daily stress and confusion;
  • Mental and emotional clarification: we live busy lives and sometimes need to take a few minutes to get in touch with ourselves by writing it all down;
  • Stress reduction: as we mentioned already, a journal is an excellent anti-stress tool that helps you feel calmer and better-organized, consequently boosts your immune system;
  • Problem-solving: what do you think, is solving equations easier in your head, or on paper? Different types of journals can help you with solving different problems in life.

Perhaps you should also know that there is a type of psychotherapy called Journal Therapy, and many psychotherapists from different schools of thought practice journaling with their patients. After everything we said already, it’s needless to explain why.

Let’s move forward and see what types of journals are out there, and how you can benefit from keeping each of them.


1. The Blank Notebook Journal

If you genuinely feel inspired to write, a blank notebook journal is perfect! It’s like a small safe space that fits in your bag and you can enter it whenever you want and share what’s on your mind. If you happen to have more serious aspirations with your writing (like publishing), then leave that to your computer or another book, as your blank journal should specifically serve just one purpose: journaling!

As Oscar Wilde nicely put it:

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train."

The benefits of keeping a blank notebook journal:

  • It’s your blank canvas that can fulfill every journaling need;
  • Among all the types of journals to keep, this one gives you unmatched creative freedom;

Who’s it best for?

  • People who can’t find a curated journal with the aesthetics they like;
  • People who don’t want to follow a certain structure;
  • Writers: various types of journals to keep can be essential for writers and other creatives;

2. The Dream Journal

What we basically do while dreaming is processing all the events that happened during that day, or over a longer period, in a symbolic and completely subjective manner. It’s like a movie that reflects our perception of the world, which is why it’s always good to reflect on our dreams. In case you’re seeing a therapist, it can be of double importance.

Unfortunately, we tend to forget dreams, as they are usually long and detailed (though seconds to minutes short in real-time). Dream retention depends on our brain wave activities, REM phase timing, the logical consistency of a dream, emotional tone, etc.

A great way to prevent your dream from disappearing into oblivion is journaling. If you keep your dream journal by the bed and write down your dream the moment you open your eyes, it’s much more likely that you’ll retain more details. Also, after a certain period of writing down those dreams, you may notice how your overall dream memory enhances.

If you’re not sure which one to choose among all the types of journals to keep, perhaps the dream journal is a good way to start.

Dream Journaling Benefits

  • Better dream retention and analysis;

Who’s It Best For?

  • Those seeing a therapist that may need to reflect on dreams during sessions;
  • Those interested in self-analysis who would like to include dream analysis into their reflective process;

3. Artistic Journal

Hold it right there! Don’t skip this section: it’s not an artists-only.

Yes, that’s right, you don’t need to be an artist to keep an art journal, but if you are, it can be highly beneficial for preserving your creative ideas and spontaneous art pieces.

"But, how do I keep an art journal if I’m not an artist?", you may ask.

Well, you don’t need to be an artist to release your creative potential. Anyone can take a pencil, crayon, or whatever they like, and experiment on paper. There’s an old Russian saying: paper suffers everything—even ‘bad’ art!

Another cool thing to do is writing down your impressions after visiting museums, exhibitions, concerts, theatre plays, and other art shows. You can also clip a ticket or a photo to a page, to make it more interesting. Fun, right?

We also should mention that people suffering from psychotic illnesses can benefit from releasing their creativity and keeping an art journal immensely, as it helps them achieve a sense of freedom, see different perspectives, express their thoughts and emotions through drawing (when it’s hard to do with words), and much more.

Among all the types of journals on this list, this one is one of our personal favorites!

Art Journal Benefits

  • Releasing your creative energy;
  • Preserving creative artistic ideas;
  • Preserving your memories from cultural events;

Who’s It Best For?

  • Artists;
  • Anyone who wants to express their creative potential;
  • Those who want to express their feelings and emotions without words;
  • Those who want to preserve memories of artsy events they attended;
  • People suffering from anxiety or depression;
  • Those who want to focus on psychological well-being.

4. Food Journal

You like trying out different recipes, but never keep them in one place?

You traveled to Spain last summer and loved that paella your Couchsurfing host made you, and want to prepare it at home?

Keeping a food journal can get really creative and go beyond collecting recipes. For example, you can add a photo of that paella, and that selfie you took with your Spanish host.

Also, when you’re on your way to grocery shopping, you can always bring your food journal and find the exact ingredients for that new dish you wanted to try.

However, there is another side to keeping a food journal—if you’re trying to make smarter food choices, it’s good to plan your meals ahead, track your daily water intake, and measure progress.

Food Journal Benefits

  • Meal-planning;
  • Collecting recipes and photos of great meals;
  • Making grocery shopping easier;

Who’s It Best For?

  • Those who want to make more conscious food choices;
  • Those who simply want to plan and improve their nutrition;
  • Food enthusiasts who enjoy collecting recipes and food memoirs;

5. Gratitude Journal

Here’s a positive little something you can do to improve your overall attitude towards life.

Many successful people, including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, keep a gratitude journal. Tim Ferris admitted that journaling and note-taking are the two activities that inspire his brainstorming sessions, improve his focus, and help him reduce anxiety. He specifically uses The Five Minute Journal—a curated gratitude journal designed for anyone who simply wants to become happier.

If you’re not a fan of extensive journaling, you will love this structured notebook with exercises designed to lead you towards becoming the best possible version of yourself. It only takes 5 minutes of your day to write down what you’re truly grateful for in your life.

The bottom line is—keep it positive, as the main goal of gratitude journaling is to cultivate a spirit of positivity and appreciation.

Gratitude journaling is also suitable for kids, so it can be a fun activity for the whole family. There are curated kids journals as well, such as The Five Minute Journal For Kids, where they can reflect on their happy moments during each day and learn to become grateful and fulfilled adults.

Find out everything you need to know about keeping a gratitude journal in this detailed guide on our blog.

Gratitude Journaling Benefits

  • Improves mental health;
  • Helps you keep your focus on what’s positive (even when you’re going through a rough period);
  • Reduces stress and anxiety as it helps you shift your attention to the good things;
  • Helps you improve relationships, as it helps you become more empathetic;

Who’s It Best For?

  • Those who want to feel better, be happier, and have a positive attitude;
  • Those who’d like to keep a journal, but don’t have time for extensive writing.
The Five Minute Journal
The Five Minute Journal $24.95 USD

6. Reading Journal

Are you a bookworm? Do you simply prefer spending most weekends in a cozy armchair with a novel in your hand, over going out? Perhaps you’re also a book club member. If the answer is yes and yes, we have one thing to ask: how do you even live without a reading journal?

Keeping a reading journal is an excellent way to analyze the book you’re reading. You can use it to write down thoughts about the chapters that resonated with you or to keep quotes you’d like to remember.

When you’re in a book club session, a reading diary is a must-have. When we read, we have a lot of thoughts and emotions running through our minds, and to be frank, we forget most of them. This is why writing them down in your diary and having them ready whenever you want to discuss your opinions with the group is a great idea.

If you don’t like keeping a physical diary, you can always rely on Goodreads, where you can publish your reviews, plan your future reads, and read others’. However, if you do like keeping a diary, here’s a video that shows you how to do it, and what it should look like:

Reading Journaling Benefits

  • Keeping all the quotes you find important and useful in one place;
  • Keeping a log of all the books you read for quick reference;
  • You’re always ready for the book club session;

Who’s it best for

  • Reading enthusiasts;
  • Book-club members;
  • Quotes-lovers.

7. Travel Journal

We believe you can’t imagine going on a trip without taking any photos. And where do these photos end up? Facebook? Instagram? Somewhere on the cloud?

You know how in olden times (like 19th-century-old), people used to write travel memoirs as they didn’t have portable cameras to carry around? Don’t you think there’s something romantic in visiting a place and writing about the impressions it made on you? Like going camping in the woods with your loved one and preserving that memory in a travel journal?

Travel journaling is so much more than a plain recording of what you saw, ate, or visited. It’s more about how it made you feel, the emotions you experienced, and how it engaged all your five senses to result in the final imprint the destination had on you. To enhance your travel entries, you may also include photos or sketches that you captured. Even if you’re not an artist, you can still get inspired by something you saw on your trip. You can also include tickets, packing lists, important numbers and addresses, go-to lists, or even short dictionaries with words and phrases you learned in other countries.

Travel Journaling Benefits

  • It’s a fun and creative way of preserving memories from a journey;
  • Helps you reduce packing anxiety, as everything you need to check is in one place: numbers, addresses, packing lists, shopping lists, etc;
  • You don’t depend on your mobile phone’s battery for that kind of information if you have it all written down;

Who’s It Best For?

  • Everyone! Even if you don’t travel so often, or so far from home, it’s still great to give your journeys this note of special importance.

8. Plant Journal

Regardless of the type of garden you have (yard or balcony), if you’re a gardening enthusiast, this kind of journal can enrich your experience and enhance your green thumb.

It’s very simple. Use any type of notebook and simply keep a written record of your plants.

There are no specific rules on how to do this. You can sketch out your garden plan, make a herbarium, make note of your watering schedule, take photos of your garden, write down experiences with different plants so you know what to avoid in the future—whatever pops into your mind.

You can also add your daily, weekly, or monthly observations about your plants and follow up on their progress from season to season.

Gardening Journaling Benefits

  • Keeping track of your garden throughout seasons;
  • Keeping track of your plants’ progress;

Who’s It Best For

  • Gardening enthusiasts;
  • Those who want to start growing more of their own produce.

9. Project Journal

If you feel like you’d like to track your success and keep a record of all the amazing stuff you’ve done, consider keeping a project journal.

If there’s a work-related project you’d like to be successful at, a project journal can help you divide it into steps, set proper goals and time boundaries, and write about your achievements and caveats.

Also, if you’re a DIY type of person, you can use your project journal to keep a record of all the cool stuff that you’ve made happen: fixed the sink, sewn a shirt, reused old wooden plates, etc.

There are no special rules on how to do it, but here are some tips:

  • Add photos;
  • Indicate which materials you used;
  • How big was the budget;
  • Describe the procedure;
  • Mention potential problems that you had to resolve and how you solved them;
  • Write down ideas for your future DIY projects;

Project Journaling Benefits

  • Keeping track of your work or home-related projects;
  • Great for planning ahead and structuring project-related activities;

Who’s It Best For

  • DIY project heads;
  • Those whose job consists of projects.

10. Fitness Journal

If you’re into having a strong and healthy body, a fitness journal goes hand in hand with your food journal.

You can plan your fitness activities by type:

  • Long and slow distance training;
  • Tempo training;
  • Strength training;
  • Stretching sessions, and so on.

You can also track the amount of weight you lift, how many reps of a certain exercise you complete, how long your training lasts, and whatever else can help you measure your progress.

Fitness Journaling Benefits

  • Keeping track of your progress by writing down your accomplishments after every training session;
  • Can be highly motivational (especially when hard days come, you wouldn’t want to break the chain of success in your fitness journal);

Who’s It Best For

  • True fitness enthusiasts;
  • Those who actually have a hard time exercising continuously;
  • Those who’ve only just began working out, and need some guidance and additional motivation;
  • Those who have a clear goal they want to achieve through training (e.g. weight loss/half a marathon/lifting 220 pounds/etc).

11. Pocket Journal

A pocket journal is a very small notebook that, obviously—fits your pocket. It’s there for you anytime you need it.

For example, you get a sudden rush of ideas for your project while riding on the metro. You hear something super-useful in a conference that you’d like to research further later. A colleague at work tells an awesome joke you’d like to remember later. No problem, just reach out to your pocket journal and scribble it all down in a minute.

The pocket journal notebook is usually very small, so it’s not ideal for extensive writing—it’s rather for some short sessions and note-taking.

Benefits of Having a Pocket Journal

  • Write down your thoughts and ideas anywhere, anytime;

Who’s it Best For

  • Those who see themselves as a bit forgetful (maybe due to numerous idea rushes throughout a day);
  • Those who multitask a lot and need to write down their thoughts on the run;
  • Creatives like song writers, comedians, poets, etc.

12. Personal Junk Journal

This journal is kind of opposite to the gratitude journal. As we said already, a gratitude journal is for your happy moments and all the things you’re grateful for. On the other hand, your personal junk journal is for venting your frustrations, bad moods, stressful events—negative energy in general. It can be your cathartic relief source when you’re trying to cope during hard times, so you don’t hold any tensions or negative sentiments inside.

The Benefits of Having a Personal Junk Journal

  • An excellent way to vent your stress and negative energy;
  • A coping tool for challenging times;

Who’s it Best For

  • People going through a rough episode;
  • Those experiencing stress.

13. Pregnancy Journal

Pregnancy is one of the most special journeys in life, for both the woman and her partner. Most people remember it with joy, so why not capture those moments in a pregnancy journal.

If not for emotional reasons, a pregnancy journal comes in handy for a myriad of other reasons. For example, as your hormones start to go wild, you might experience some mood changes. Writing about your symptoms and feelings can help you cope with these changes.

Moreover, your gynecologist might ask you to keep track of your condition day to day, and you might experience the ‘pregnancy brain’ (having a hard time remembering things due to hormonal disbalance). So, writing things down in your pregnancy journal should help you avoid forgetting.

There are many other things you can write about in your pregnancy journal: changes in your self-perception while preparing to become a mother, fantasies about your baby, ideas for the baby’s room and baby shower. You can also record when the baby moves or doesn’t move, has hiccups, turns, records Braxton’s hicks, or contractions when the time comes.

In the end, it’s a great way to close off the journey with your birth story.

Benefits of Keeping a Pregnancy Journal

  • Keeping track of your moods and emotions, food cravings, body changes, baby movements, etc;
  • Having a record of memories from this special time in life that you can later maybe even share with your child.;

Who’s It Best For

  • Pregnant women and couples.

14. Poetry Journal

If you’re passionate about poems and rhymes, why stop at reading them and marking your favorites in books, only to get lost among so many authors and their works? Why not create your personal poetry journal and use it to write down poems that touched you deeply?

If you’re a member of a book club that discusses poetry as well, such notes can especially come in handy.

A poetry journal can be combined with other types of journals, such as the art journal, or the reading journal.

Also, if you’re a passionate poet yourself, it's always good to keep your poems in one place so you can easily find and access them whenever you like!

Benefits of Keeping a Poetry Journal

  • Keeping track of all the amazing poems that affected you, in a neat way;
  • Writing down your thoughts and emotions so you can go back them;
  • Keeping your own poems in one place;

Who’s It Best For

  • Those who are passionate about reading and writing poetry;
  • Book club members.

15. Group Journal

Journaling is not necessarily an individual activity. As you might have gathered, any kind of journaling raises your awareness and attention to the area of your journaling efforts, leading you towards a better understanding of it, and making it easier for you to progress in that area of life.

The same goes for shared journaling. You can significantly improve your relationships with other people if you keep a journal together! Here are some examples:

    Family journal: track important dates, events, conflicts, resolutions, accomplishments; Relationship journal: it can be very beneficial for your relationship to keep a journal with your partner. You can use it to capture memories, analyze conflicts, write about your goals, or post pictures; Friendship journal: the same goes for keeping a journal with your best friend. This can become one of your dearest memories in the future.

Different types of journals can be used as group journals: the project journal, the blank notebook journal, the reading journal, and so on.


16. Productivity Journal

Do you struggle with procrastination or simply find it hard to organize your tasks by priority? Sometimes, we get really enthusiastic about our new projects and set unrealistic expectations that later result in disappointment.

If you want to overcome these struggles consider starting a productivity journal, as it can help you prioritize your productivity.

Intelligent Change offers an amazing Productivity Journal, based on the Focused Time Technique and created to help you manage your time in a more productive way. The notebook has a very elegant and simple design, and its content is geared towards focusing your mental energy on the most meaningful tasks ahead.

Many successful business people use the Productivity Planner to improve their daily efficiency. Read more about the use of the Productivity Planner on our blog.

Productivity Planner
Productivity Planner $24.95 USD

Benefits of Keeping a Productivity Journal

  • Helps you focus your energy on the most important tasks for the day;
  • Helps you prioritize your daily tasks;
  • A great way to track your success;

Who’s It Best For

  • Those who struggle with procrastination and want to improve productivity.

17. What I Wish My Life Was: Pray-Rain Journal

Among the different types of journals to keep, you may find this one as quite unusual. Keeping a pray-rain journal might not work out for you, but it’s very interesting to try out.

You know how sometimes you just wander down the lane of thoughts about your life and imagine how it could be? And how sometimes you’re happy with the way things are, but sometimes you want things to be different?

Well, the pray-rain journal is used to describe your life the way you’d like it to be, but as if it already is that way. You can imagine one goal: buying your own apartment, for example, and then you write about your life in it. What’s the first thing you bought for it? What’s the apartment like? How did you paint your walls? How do you feel in it?

Your goal can also be more abstract, like becoming more productive, or learning how to set healthy boundaries. Then, you imagine what that looks like in specific situations. How does the ‘new you’ behave at work? What do you say to people? How do you spend your days?

The important thing is not to use ‘ifs’, but to write as if it’s already happening.

Benefits of Pray Rain Journaling

  • Helps you understand your goals better;
  • Helps you think about the consequences of your actions and your feelings after achieving a certain goal;

Who’s It Best For

  • Those who are unsure of their goals and wishes;
  • Those who don’t think their intentions through.

18. Finance Journal

Do we need to explain what this is?

Among the various types of journals this one is perhaps the most boring one, but at the same time, one of the most useful!

Finance journaling is great for preventing those situations when you feel like your money grew a pair of feet and escaped. Everyone has to face this once in a while, so in order to keep track of your finances and create financial plans, consider keeping a finance journal, as it can really be helpful. Today, many people use apps for that, but maybe you prefer to think about your numbers using pen and paper.

Benefits of Keeping a Financial Journal

  • Tracking your finances;
  • Creating better financial plans/budgeting;

Who’s It Best For

  • Those who have a hard time organizing their money;
  • Those who want to take firmer control over their finances.

19. Ideas Journal

You might think—do I really need a special journal for my ideas? Of course, you can write them down in your diary of everythingness, or the pocket journal, but if you’re more of a creative type and want to keep track of all the crazy, smart, useful, funny, or lucrative ideas that bump into your mind, perhaps a separate journal is not a bad idea.

But you don’t only have to write these ideas down. You can also sketch, post photos, and create lists. By doing so, you create more space in your mind to produce even more ideas, and it helps you become more creative with them.

Benefits of Keeping an Idea Journal

  • Keeping your ideas in one place;
  • Connecting different ideas into one big plan;
  • Boosting your creativity;

Who’s It Best For

  • Creatives;
  • Basically anyone who needs some blank space to organize everything their mind produces.

20. Letter Journal

This type of journal is a sort of therapy in itself. You don’t always have to exchange letters with people, as you can use them to reflect on yourself, your past, present, or future relationships. Use your letter journal to write a letter to your future self, or the fifteen-year-old you. Write a letter to your parents, your best friend, partner, or your children. Maybe someday you’ll show it to them, maybe not, it’s your call. Even if they’re not sent, writing letters to yourself and others promotes mindfulness and self-reflection.

It might seem crazy, but if you try doing it, you may come to some profound insights.

Benefits of Letter Journaling

  • Helps you reflect better on your life and relationships with other people;

Who’s It Best For

  • Anyone who wants to connect with themselves more deeply;
  • Those who are more introspective types.

Over and Out!

20 Types of Journals to Keep

There are surely more than twenty types of journals to keep, as you can write a journal about literally anything. Different types of journals serve different purposes, but what’s important, though, is that you perceive journaling as a relieving and rewarding activity, because that’s what it should be.

Hopefully, you found this guide inspiring and helpful, and you’re on your way to starting your journaling journey. Now, which journal(s) will you start?

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