Edit: June 2021 – I’ve linked to this article a few times and I just realised it might be a bit confusing for those who click on it. I wrote this a while back when this website was called Being On Wheels, if you enjoy this style of writing, you can find the archive of my previous work here.

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Random Post

I firmly believe that there isn’t anyone that wouldn’t benefit from keeping a daily journal and it’s perhaps one of the best methods of self-development available. So my plan here is to show you some research, tell you my story and give you some tips and tricks that will enable you to begin your own journaling experience.


There have been many studies showing that journals are beneficial. One that demonstrated people keeping a journal of what they were grateful for “showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy” than people who didn’t.

Another demonstrated that the longer-term benefits of expressive writing include but are not limited to: Improved immune system function, Reduced blood pressure, improved mood, feeling of greater psychological well-being, improved working memory, and improved sporting performance.

The neurologist and teacher Judy Willis wrote an article about how even the act of writing even outside the context of journaling, produces a wide range of benefits for students.

Journal Uses

A journal is so many things:

  • An idea springboard
  • A problem-solving tool
  • A neutral ground for realigning morals
  • A home to leave memories you don’t want to lose
  • A temple of self-improvement
  • A frustration venter that never tires of your complaints
  • A haven for making life more meaningful

…and too many others to mention.

My Experience With Journaling

Starting Out

The first time I tried my hand at keeping a journal, I was travelling around Australia. I bought a super smart Moleskine notebook and planned to keep a track of all of my travels along the way. In the end, I only wrote 4 pages of A5 during the whole seven-month trip because it always felt odd for me to be writing about something that had only just happened.

You can find these cheerful chaps at the entrance of pretty much every village and town in Australia, note the scale of danger here…

Second Try

After I got back from Australia and was living in Bristol I was at a point where I didn’t really know what I was doing with my life, I was oversleeping a lot and had no real focus. I wanted to stop this cycle from happening so I got my old Australia journal out and made a promise to myself to write two pages of A5 a day.

I wanted to keep it simple, and so I decided to write the current date at the start of each entry and then fill both pages with long-form writing.

At first, I found it really difficult to manage all of this writing. I was always trying to write in the evenings, usually before bed. Sometimes it took me nearly an hour and I would just be desperate for it to be over so I could get on with my life.

Working Out The Kinks

I was keen to make a habit out of it though, so I decided to try a different approach. I realised while journaling (this is all part of the magic of the journal, you can journal to sort out your journaling problems), that trying to write before bed was making it harder than it needed to be because it felt like an interruption that I had to deal with before I could move on with my evening.

I found that if I started writing as soon as I woke up without allowing any distractions of the day to get into my brain, I would be much more inspired to write.

The Being On Wheels how many times have I written the words journal, journals, or journaling so far-o-matic

Don’t Worry About What You’re Writing

I also realised that I was overthinking the content of my journal. At the start of the process, I wanted all of my writing to be interesting and important, I wanted it to be something I would want to read in the future. This made me feel very pressured so I decided to try a different technique: I would write as quickly as I could, trying to just take whatever was in my head from moment to moment and get it onto paper, trying as much as I could to avoid hesitation and pausing for thought.

It would usually start something like this:

“Today I had an omelette for breakfast with mushrooms and onions and drank tea with Maya in the living room. I am using a blue pen today rather than a black one, I can never quite decide whether I prefer blue or black pens for writing, when I was little I remember always writing in pencil, but I wasn’t allowed so ended up writing in pen…” and so on.

Reading It Back

At the time it felt a bit trivial, similar to when I was trying to journal in Australia. Again I felt like I was wasting time writing things I wouldn’t want to read in the future. But when I’m actually reading old journal entries I tend to find them really interesting (if a little cringeworthy at times).

When reading the above example I am reminded of the time in my life where I was living in Bristol, eating loads of omelettes for breakfast and occasionally drinking tea with Maya in the living room. At the time it seems needless to take note of this, but in retrospect, it’s really nice to look back on.

Letting Creativity Flow

This particular benefit is easy to notice, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Trying as best you can to get whatever is in your head onto paper is the best way to uncover the far deeper and more meaningful benefits of the journaling experience. If you spend all of your writing time really thinking about what it is that you’re writing, then you tend not to leave room for the little sparks of creativity to manifest into something really inspiring.

Another classic Being On Wheels metaphor

This, in a nutshell, is the joy of journaling for me. Sometimes you don’t really achieve anything, but you always get the feeling of joy that goes along with completing a habit, and sometimes as an added bonus (with a burst of excitement and a flurry of words), you’ll watch a solution to a problem that’s been bugging you work itself out, or you’ll have a new idea for a project you’re working on, or you’ll just experience a sudden shift in perspective about a subject.

Journaling, in a nutshell (feeling pretty smug about this one)

What’s amazing about these moments is that they just seem to unfold themselves, it’s like you have no control over what you’re writing and yet you can’t get it down fast enough. It’s hard to put into words (ironically), you just have to experience it yourself.

Tips ‘N’ Tricks


When writing in your journal, one of the most important things is to try and write as truthfully as you can and to write as if no one other than yourself is ever going to read what you’ve written. One of the things that make a journal such a powerful tool is that what your writing isn’t put through a filter of what other people think.

This really does takes practice, it’s actually really hard to be truthful with yourself regardless of whether you think someone else will read what you’ve written or not. It really is worth the effort though and does get easier with time. I think improving your ability to be truthful with yourself is enough reason to journal all on its own.

Journaling in Rougher Times

Being honest with yourself is especially important in moments of unhappiness, anxiety or other negative emotions. If you write about them as truthfully as you can muster, it always seems to help. I’ve never once written about something negative and ended up feeling worse as a result of my writing.

Sometimes doing this can lead to a realisation or solution that will help. Personally, I sometimes find it hard to write when going through an experience like this but when I do manage to put pen to paper in these situations it tends to help more often than not.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Something that really excites me about journaling is the thought that in several years time, I’ll be able to look at my bookshelf full of journals and ask “What was I doing in June 2017?”

Then rather than vaguely trying to remember if that’s when I was travelling around Europe, instead I can discover that I was in Slovenia with Maz in our Ford Transit “Lola-Mak”, starting to learn to juggle and working on the very early stages of planning this blog.

Doesn’t seem to be a real place, I can’t find it on Google Maps at any rate

Use Pen & Paper

Personally, I think it’s far more beneficial to write with pen and paper when journaling. I do also keep a small daily journal of sorts in the digital realm, but when it comes to long-form writing I couldn’t imagine turning away from good ol’ pen and paper. Part of the refreshing aspect of journaling is getting away from the screen for a change.

I would fully recommend trying to start in this manner simply because it’s just easier to get your thoughts down on a real bit of paper. Also, you can carry your journal around with you which is very helpful when you’re trying to keep it up as a habit.

Interesting Insights

One of the most profound impacts of journaling for me has been the vastly improved understanding of what I want from my life and also the sense of who I am. It feels a little clichéd to say that, but it does make sense when you think about it. Writing truthfully to yourself each day can only increase your knowledge of yourself and what you might be after from this weird, crazy life.

Noticing Patterns

When you’re writing each day you begin to notice patterns that you wouldn’t have otherwise realised. For example, when we started our trip around Europe I found myself writing about how much I was enjoying the freedom of living in a van almost every morning.

This led to me forming the plan to buy another van to turn into a full-time house, There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have reached this decision anywhere near as quickly, if at all, had I not been keeping a journal.

The Being On Wheels how many times have I written the words journal, journals, or journaling so far-o-matic

Therapeutic Benefits

I’d often heard that the process of journaling was therapeutic, and at first, I didn’t really understand why. But as time went on it became apparent that the best way to address any problem I was having was to journal about it.

Doing this allows you to reckon with yourself on a deeper level and also helps you find out how you really feel about a given situation and can give you an idea of what steps you might need to take.

For example, for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve always seemed to hold a superhuman ability to set an alarm, then constantly snooze and snooze almost an entire day away without even realising until the late afternoon.

It got to the point where it was really bothering me, I would always feel like I’d wasted loads of time for no reason and that I then couldn’t possibly achieve anything with that day. I found this very, very uninspiring and eventually it made me quite unhappy.

When I started journaling first thing in the morning, I realised that the most productive sessions took place while everyone else in the house was asleep, and because I tended to feel really good after finishing my two pages of writing, I managed to start getting out of bed more and more consistently and felt much happier in myself.


This was a huge step forward for me, for years I had struggled with getting up and now I could manage to get straight out of bed almost every day, which was absolutely the direct result of keeping a journal.

Now I know this is a problem that is personal to me and might not apply to you, but assuming you’re a human I think it’s a fair assumption that you will have some issue or another affecting your life.

The beauty of this whole thing is that no matter what your personal problem is, your own personal journal will be one of the most helpful tools you have to help you solve it.

Did I go a bit far with this one?

Things To Remember

Now, what I’ve written about here is my own experience of journaling, but because it’s a form of self-expression your experience will (and should) be different to mine.

One thing I think will apply to everyone is the benefit of writing each day, even when you don’t feel like doing it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of writing, the important part is turning up and getting a little done each day.

Now, I certainly don’t manage every day, and will sometimes have spells where I won’t write for a week or more but there’s no doubt that journaling is at it’s most effective when you’re consistently writing each day.

Remember, if you’re struggling to write, just write about how you’re struggling to write, or that you can’t be bothered to write at the moment, or the days of the week over and over. More often than not you will free up your mind in the act of doing this, and regain your flow of writing.

The only other thing that I feel is important for everyone (as I mentioned earlier) is that you should be as truthful with yourself as you possibly can. This is a constant journey and will always take work, but is a key factor in effective journaling.

I hope that this has helped some of you wondering whether to start a journal or perhaps introduced the idea to you for the first time. Either way, I hope this has provided some useful information for you to continue on your journaling journey.

The final Being On Wheels how many times have I written the words journal, journals, or journaling so far-o-matic (look at that, one for each week of the year!)

What are your experiences with journaling? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject (yes you!) Comments are in the usual place.

Also, do let me know if you manage to find a real-life Memory Lane…






22 responses to “Journaling”

  1. Egg avatar

    woop woop! one of the nicer things i have read recently and has inspired me to keep a journal again! It can get a bit overwhelming when i’m writing and i have to think of song lyrics so i think it would be really good to get back into the flow of writing just my day to day thoughts with no pressure to make something great. So, many thanks to you craig! (had a good old giggle to journal in a nutshell)

    1. Craig avatar

      Thanks for your lovely comment! I’m glad you found it inspirational, happy journaling!

  2. Bessie avatar

    Aye, good old journalling. A poor man’s ticket to happiness. I always did say that a page a day keeps your head on your shoulders and the wrinkles from your face. Keep the written word alive, boy!

    1. Craig avatar

      Keeping your head on your shoulders is always a good shout, I can never bear to keep mine apart!

  3. Josh avatar

    Amazing! Full of juice, I’m all inspired to claw the journal(, journals or journalling) habit back into my mornings now. Thank you for the wisdom Mr Craig, you’re a temple of self-improvement.

    1. Craig avatar

      Thanks bruvlet, glad you like! I’ve been getting some premium Journaling done since posting this.

  4. Marie B avatar
    Marie B

    Really enjoyed reading this – particularly the captions under the illustrations 😉 Look forward to reading more as it appears! x

    1. Craig avatar

      Thanks Marie, lovely to hear you enjoyed it!

  5. Aleckz avatar

    Well thought out, informative and inspiring! U da absolute man Cragglet! I’ve been weakly attempting to get on the journaling for a long time now, and have always found it useful when I have, but this has certainly refreshed my word nodes and has got me keen to get back on the journal journey. After the second paragraph I grabbed an empty notebook, did the first page of the gratitude journal I’ve been meaning to do for many longs, read the rest and am now about to ride forth to my 2 page a5 spread! Keep doing what you’re doing man, it’s appreciated x

    1. Craig avatar

      Thank you my man, much appreciated! My website thought that you were spam, but I don’t think you are! Sending good journal times to you.

  6. Erin avatar

    Love this Craig! Really inspiring <3 xxxx

    1. Craig avatar

      Thank you very very very much, I’m so glad y’all taking the time to read.

  7. Miels avatar

    The wisest of words, accompanied with the cheekiest jpegs going!
    Thanks Craig!
    I’ll be looking forward to all your future entries 🙂
    Big love!

    1. Craig avatar

      Thanks! Gotta watch out for those jpegs, they’ll take over your life if you’re not careful!

  8. Hi I'm James avatar
    Hi I’m James

    Despite the distinct lack of gun bars this was a great read!
    Loads of clever insights, plus your Jpeg game is stroooong!

    Would recommend on trip advisor!

    (They’re like the stars you get above good films, it’s not a naughty word blanked out)

    1. Craig avatar

      Hi James, I’m Craig,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and adding some kind niceness, it’s really appreciated.

      Do keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming article “Gun Bars 101, 001. The Ultimate Guide to all Bars Gun”.

  9. Ross avatar

    Craig, real pleasure to meet you and start reading your blog. Some really interesting stuff stimulating me to reflect a little more in my life.

    I wonder at the length of your blog posts. So much good stuff here but I find folk’s attention span is pretty short. Maybe chop things into bite size chunks?

    1. Craig avatar

      It’s my pleasure, I’m glad to hear it.

      That is something I’ve considered a fair bit, but some of my favourite things to read are really long-form articles. The best example I can think of is the prolific Wait but Why. This is a perfect example of a really popular, long-form article of his that’s worth almost anyone’s time.

      I really like the idea of being able to really explore a topic, but perhaps I should include more bite-size articles and then do the occasional chunky number. This would allow me to post more often as well, which I very much like the idea of.

      Thanks for taking the time to have a click around, I really appreciate it.

  10. […] have a certain amount of subscribers to my weekly newsletter, or a certain number of comments on my journal-keeping article. Instead, I’m intending to carry on producing content that I hope people will get something from, […]

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