Bullets, dreams, or gratitude - what style of journaling best matches your personality?

Reap the benefits of the diary in the way that works for you

Reap the benefits of the diary in the way that works for you

(Credit: Getty Images)

Curie, Kafka, and Keynes journaled. So did Warhol and Woolf. Naturally, famous lives are worth recording. But ought we, the not-yet-in-the-history-books, also keep a diary?

According to its boosters, journaling - which is the act of writing down stuff about yourself - can help you organize your life, boost your productivity, and promote psychological health.

To reap these benefits, you may want to move beyond the traditional "Dear Diary…" entry. As such, here are three of the trendiest styles of journaling, who they work for, and what you can get out of them.

The Bullet Journal

Who you are:

Ambitious, organized, and relentlessly self-improving. You're a high-achiever who prefers coloured pens to excel spreadsheets.

What it is:

The aim is in the name. The "Bullet Journal" is meant to be an effective and rapid weapon of self-organization. At its heart, the bullet journal is a method for building flexible and customizable calendars that can combine to-do lists, diaries, and doodles. While there are endless variations, it's built around a few key elements:

An index, which list the main topics in the journal, and the page numbers where they might be found.

Future Log: a month-by-month overview of your plans and goals for the year.

Monthly Logs and to-do lists: These track your todays and to-do's on a more granular scale than the future-log.

What you get out of it:

Fans say that the bullet journal is a super effective method of keeping yourself organized. It's quick, it's analog, and, if you are inclined, can become a minor art project. (Search #bulletjournal or #bujocomminty on instagram for examples.) Critics say it can become complicated and makes tracking your activities a chore.

The Dream Journal

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Who you are:

Introspective, visionary, with hippy-ish tendencies. You've checked your horoscope this week.

What it is:

The dream journal is just what is sounds like: a record of your nightly dreams. Every night before bed spend a few minutes writing about your day, and set an intention to remember your dream. When you wake up, grab the notebook or other recorder that you keep by your bed, and write down a few keywords about your dream, a brief description of its events, how you felt, etc. It's also worth asking why you might have been dreaming about what you were dreaming about.

What you get out of it:

Dream journaling is a way of sneaking up on your unconscious self. Over time, you may start to notice patterns in your dreams, triggers for certain kinds of dreams, or clues to the major issues swimming around your unconscious.

Dream journaling is also considered a key step for anyone aiming for lucid dreaming, which occurs when the dreamer can control their dreams.

The Gratitude Journal

Who it's for:

You believe in the power of positive thinking, but don't always do enough of it.

What it is:

A gratitude journal is simply a record of things that you are thankful for, and it's meant as a tool to help people experience the emotion of gratitude. To start one, simply list  five to ten such things and why you appreciate them. Reflect on how that makes you feel. Sometimes, it helps to think about what life would be life without these things. Stick to updating it once or twice per week though. Psychologists have found that daily gratitude journaling can become a chore if we overdo it and nullify the positive effects.

What you get out of it:

Proponents, including Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, and Ariana Huffington, say that gratitude can serve as an antidote to negative emotions, and helps inoculate us from stress, depression and cynicism. Many psychologists have also reported that expressing gratitude, even in a journal, can result in greater well-being.

Some, however, doubt its benefits. Author Liz Brown argues that, for some, ingratitude journals, a record of things that tick you off, may be more useful.

Journals come in all kinds, depending on the interests of the journalist. Picasso kept a notebook of sketches, French king Louis XVI kept a hunting log, and economist John Maynard Keynes kept a coded sex diary. Find the right style(s) of journaling for you, and spend some time with your dear diary.