Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a man is what he thinks about all day long. Emerson probably preferred to journal at night. And there’s a surprising amount of research to back up the idea that journaling at night is better than journaling in the morning.
Is it better to journal in the morning or at night? It’s better to journal your thoughts at night rather than in the morning because it helps you to clear your mental palate and sleep better. Studies show it’s better to journal at night because it gives you an outlet for emotions and thoughts that might otherwise keep you awake.
Even though there is sound scientific research to support the idea that journaling at night is better, many people prefer to journal in the morning. And further investigation shows there are good arguments to both sides.
Journaling at night is key to a refreshing night of sleep. Which leads to a productive day tomorrow.
This is especially true if you find yourself constantly waking up in the middle of the night still processing the events of the previous day.
During a recent interview, sleep researcher Dr. Michael Scullin said that there’s something about the act of putting your thoughts on paper before bed that helps put a pause on the day.
He especially recommends creating a to-do list for the next day because half-done or un-done projects tend to rattle around in your brain and keep you up in the middle of the night. Bullet journaling is a good journaling method to help you create a to-do list. You can find more information in the sections below.
Forty-one college students who had persistent problems falling asleep at night were given an assignment for a week. Journal for 15 minutes before bed about something positive or what they were grateful for. When tested, researchers found that these students no longer had racing thoughts at night, but were able to sleep better and longer.
Journaling at night doesn’t have to happen right before bed. Often times, you might be so spent that you don’t want to add one more thing to your bedtime routine.
Instead, consider journaling at the end of your work day. Use this time to reflect on the events of the workday and as a transition before going home.
Similar to a nice glass of wine or a tasty dessert, journaling after dinner can be a quiet way to wind down the day.
Think about journaling before bed as if you are putting the day to bed. Closing the book on today, so you can start fresh tomorrow.
After the hubbub of the day is done and noise is gone, those deep-seated concerns that we grapple with often float to the surface. Or all the things we forgot to do today that still need to get done.
Keep it simple. Don’t spend oodles of time journaling. Maybe five to ten minutes. Find your most comfortable spot; like a favorite armchair and ottoman.
Include things like:
Some people sleep perfectly fine at night and prefer to journal in the morning. When everything is fresh and new. The world is quiet. The household is still sleeping, and they can be thoughtful before the rigors of the day begin.
Here are some benefits to journaling in the morning.
When most people think about journaling, they think about a written record of what happened during the day. Or how they felt about something. Or their experiences during a certain event.
And that is all true about journaling.
But there are other methods of journaling that people use for different reasons. Whether it’s for therapy or setting goals, you might find these journaling methods helpful.
This is an excellent way to journal if you are struggling with depression or going through a very difficult time. Use this way of journaling at night, to help you process heavy emotions. A steady diet of grateful thoughts before bed can lead to a better night of sleep.
A study done in 2015 examined the role of expressing gratitude in a group of people suffering from heart failure. Researchers discovered that by writing down three things they were grateful for every night, for eight weeks, these patients:
This is a good method for analytical thinkers who want a practical way of organizing your goals and keeping productive. It’s designed to be used throughout the day.
Bullet journaling is a method of organizing your thoughts, to-do lists, reminders and future events by tracking them throughout the day. Author Ryder Carroll developed this method of journaling, because of learning disabilities, as an alternative way to stay focused and productive.
Instead of writing out long sentences by hand, he says to use a short-hand method called Rapid Logging.
Pair short sentences with specific symbols to easily identify what kind of entry:
There are four different categories you track these entries in:
This is a good method for creative people who prefer to journal in the morning.
Stream-of-conscious journaling means spending time in the morning free writing at least three pages of thought. Without care to grammar, punctuation, or spelling.
Award-winning author, Julie Cameron in her book, “ The Artists Way” developed this 12-week journaling journey to help People unleash their creative flow, writing three pages in the morning, before your brain has a change to engage.
This method isn’t about being creative, she says. But about our concerns that play like a daily sound-track. By putting them on paper, we become more alert and in the moment. Aware of other creative choices.
This method of journaling is meant to happen throughout the day as a way to transition from one project to the next.
Productivity Coach Tony Stubblebine formulated this method to help combat procrastination in the work place and increase productivity. He likes to work on a project for 25 minutes, then journal for five minutes.
He says that humans weren’t meant for multi-tasking and attempting to move on to a new project while you are still thinking about the last project can cause us to become derailed. And your next project suffers because you aren’t giving it your full attention.
He defines a project as checking an email to working on a presentation. Even the act of moving from one task to the next can be disruptive. He suggests doing short journal entries between each project. No more than four sentences. Keep it short and sweet.
This method of journaling helps you break down short and longer-term goals into bite-sized chunks. It’s like the old adage about how you eat a whole elephant one bite at a time. Do this type of journaling at night, when you can reflect back on the day.
There’s something about seeing your goals written down that makes them feel tangible.
Instead of these someday ideas floating around in your head of what you’d like to accomplish one day, you articulate them in such a way that they feel concrete. Physical.
Identify your goals and steps to take toward making them happen.
Set aside 15-20 minutes a night to journal about your progress. It’s like keeping a record of your past successes. When you look back on where you started, you can see how far you came. And if you can accomplish this goal, then you can do another one.
Journaling about your goals will often cause hidden fears to float to the surface. By becoming aware of our doubts, we can defeat them with honest assessments.
It may also help you identify potential obstacles to your goals and help you overcome them. Or it shows how you overcame similar obstacles in the past so you can help others.
If you are having trouble quantifying your goals, journaling can be a place you brainstorm and figure out the next steps.
Create actionable next steps to generate momentum. You can’t steer a parked car.
What if you don’t have time to journal? Then carry a travel journal with you, or use the notes feature on your phone during the day.
Whether you decide it’s better to journal at night versus in the morning, the act of journaling your thoughts is very beneficial. No matter what method you choose, embrace the journey ahead.
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