This turned into a longer post (with tons of annoying parentheticals, sorry!). Okay, here we go...
I tried traditional journals (pen and paper, a Word document) several times, for a few weeks each. However, I felt that:
1) I was putting way too much work and time into it. I found myself trying to "save energy" after my homework to write the journal entry, and lots of times sacrificing homework time for it.
2) It was just messy and disorganized, I didn't know how to improve the system.
3) I always found myself paranoid and afraid that someone else would find it.
4) I worried about losing it, even though it was supposed to be "write it and forget it".
5) As it relates to #4, though I could back up Word documents, school absolutely destroyed Word documents for me. I didn't want to use a program that I associated with the stress of essay writing, and reminding myself "it's ok, this isn't for school, you're just keeping a journal for yourself" as I'm on the verge of a panic attack staring at that white screen every time got super old.
6) I really felt that I was deriving no sense of improvement from the activity. Being more aware of my thoughts didn't help me to work on them, if anything it made the situation worse as I uncovered more things to stress about fixing.
For about a year (last year) I used a "habit calendar" where I wrote down a list of habits and ticked each item off as I completed it (things like waking up, brushing my teeth, not biting my nails, running, etc. - literally everything I should do every day). So that itself was sort of like a journal as I could look at the calendar and see what I did each day (which actually proved useful, as before doing the calendar I could never come up with a clear answer when people asked what I did yesterday/last week). I also had a section where I reflected on my day, and another where I gave it a score between -2 and 2 of how happy I felt that day. Overall I found this pretty time consuming as well. Ticking off items seems easy enough, but when you forget to do it until the end of the day you find yourself spending a lot of time thinking "wait... did I actually do this?" (and just in general, needing to set aside time every day to do it wasn't very fun). The alternative, running to the calendar to tick something off right after you complete it, would be super annoying. Also, it was just very depressing. Seeing so many days with the only thing checked being "Eat supper", and never going beyond a 0 on the happy scale. I knew I wasn't very happy and didn't do many things every day, but that list made me aware of things that really got to me (and I feel didn't make the situation better). So for now I've stopped doing it; instead, I moved everything to a program called "Stickies" which will pop up a sticky note and tell me what habit I should be doing at specific time. For some things this is useful, but for most things it hasn't done well (probably like 90% of the pop ups I instantly close and forget, telling myself "well I'll just remember to do that later..." but never do).
Right now I participate in two kinds of journaling:
1) About a year ago, something called /r/MyDaily3 was created on reddit. At the end of the day you post three things that you did that day. I've been absolutely hooked to this and look forward to writing down my three things every day. It's very motivational as well, as some days you find that you can only come up with one or two things for ...
1) About a year ago, something called /r/MyDaily3 was created on reddit. At the end of the day you post three things that you did that day. I've been absolutely hooked to this and look forward to writing down my three things every day. It's very motivational as well, as some days you find that you can only come up with one or two things for that day, and so you quickly look at your to-do list and knock off something really easy so that you can put it on there.
2) Twitter. I made a semi-anonymous Twitter account (first because I didn't want to spam my friends, eventually because it reached a point with the sincerity of my tweets that I didn't want people knowing it was really me) and I tweet just about anything I'm doing or feeling at that moment, unfiltered. It feels a lot like keeping a traditional journal, but there's a chance someone might stumble upon your tweet and read it (and maybe even respond to it) which I find very exciting and uplifting.
I feel like both of these solved a lot of my gripes with traditional journaling, though three points from above still apply: #1 about taking up too much time and sacrificing homework time for it (though to a much lesser extent), and #3 about worrying people I know will find it (slightly less worry though), and #6 about not really using it to improve myself and instead stressing myself out.
As for why I journal:
1) So I can actually respond to the question of "what did you do last X" as my memory for that kind of stuff is really bad.
2) Because, supposedly, it's good and therapeutic for you, though after several years of this I'm not sure I've seen any benefit, it's just another activity I do each day.