5 Journaling Alternatives for People Who Hate Writing About Their Feelings


I’m assuming you’ve been advised to start journaling at one point or another. Writing down your innermost thoughts and feelings—or at least what you did that day—is regularly endorsed by therapists, in wellness articles (hi), and all over TikTok. It’s not a baseless trend: Research suggests that journaling can be an effective way to improve your mood, and it’s also been linked to physical health improvements like better sleep

That doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, though. While keeping a journal might be a game-changer for some people when it comes to mitigating stress and anxiety, for others, it can feel like a total chore. 

After a long day of work, the very last thing I want to do is sit down with a notebook or Google Doc and scribble about my day (and that’s coming from someone who loves writing). I don’t journal—ever—even though it’s always been something I feel like I ought to be doing. If you’re on the same page (heh), you’ve come to the right place. Feeling exhausted at the mere thought of journaling doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t experience some of its mental health benefits—instead, it’s likely a sign that you’d do better with an alternative reflective practice. (A guided journal can make the process less overwhelming for some people, but ultimately, it’s still a journal.)

Janelle S. Peifer, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Richmond, tells SELF that, psychological research, which largely focuses on talk therapy, has historically prioritized people who process their emotions through language. But not everyone makes sense of the world through words (think: talking things out or, yep, writing in a journal). People process information in all different ways: Yes, there are the word-centric folks, but others make sense of things visually, or through performance, movement, music, or other forms of art, Dr. Peifer says.

If writing out your deepest thoughts isn’t your MO and you’ve been shaming yourself for not journaling—or begrudgingly forcing yourself to do it—there are other self-reflection practices that can help you work through your feelings and improve your well-being. Here I wrote some down (for once).

Create video or voice notes.

If you tend to work through issues by talking versus writing, consider taking audio or video notes, Dr. Peifer recommends. Recording yourself lets you think aloud, which can give you the space to explore your emotions spontaneously, she says. Journaling typically involves reflecting and then creating cohesive narratives about your life, but people tend to speak off the cuff with audio or video tools. It’s pretty simple: Record yourself chatting about whatever’s on your mind. You can use your phone’s voice notes or camera, or try an app like Day One Journal or Daylee. You can follow a format (e.g., talking about your day, things you’re grateful for, or your goals), or just wing it. 

The benefit of this in-the-moment approach: You may get to know yourself in a raw, unfiltered way, which can offer pretty deep insights into your psyche, research suggests. Additionally, because you can record on the go, you might find voice and video journaling less time-consuming.


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