With Apple's latest iOS update, the company launched a new app: Journal. If you are familiar with Apple, you know they don't release new apps very often, and when they do they integrate them well with the rest of the Apple ecosystem. Journal is no different. Apple wants to encourage people to focus on wellbeing, and journaling is a good way to become more mindful and to gain an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. With new year's resolutions, the launch of Journal was timed perfectly for anyone looking to give this practice a shot in 2024.

Apple's new Journal app icon.

The Good

Journal is integrated well with the rest of the Apple ecosystem. What this means is that, if you allow it, it will suggest activities or items from other apps that you can use as a source of inspiration for your journaling habit. Took a cool photo? You can write about it. Did a good workout? It's there for you to add to your journal. In effect, this helps fight writer's block. If you're new to journaling, it's not unusual to have the desire to create the habit, but to feel that you might not have something good to write about. The nice thing about these suggestions is that it will help you pick something – big or small – and not have to worry about having inspiration.

If you're already a seasoned journal writer, you can choose not to give the app access to your data, and you can start with a blank page every time. I really appreciate this option because I prefer not to give apps too much permission to my data.

The Bad

While Journal is great for newcomers to the practice, I don't think it brings anything new to seasoned writers. For one, maybe you write in a notebook. Maybe the thought of an electronic, app-based journal turns you off right away. This app is useless to you!

Maybe you already use an app, as there are many great journal apps out there. This app is once again useless because it does not let you import your data from other apps. You would have to break up with your current journal app. I personally use Day One, a journal app that has had an iOS and MacOS app for many, many years. It offers more features than Apple's app, so I won't be switching anytime soon.

Lastly, adopting Apple's Journal app will not be great if you ever switch to Android. At least for now, it is only available on iOS as far as I know.

The Hmm

I am from a generation that grew up with pen and paper. The digital journal seems a bit off to me, even though I do use one. Such a personal practice should not need an app or a device. However, life gets busy and these devices are part of life now. I like being able to attach a cool photo I took to my day's journal entry. I like getting notifications that show me what I wrote about 1, 2, 3 years ago. It's kind of nice when my own content becomes a source of joy, as opposed to social media where some algorithm bombards you with what it thinks should give you joy. That's why I am not on Facebook, Instagram, etc. I refuse to let algorithms steal my time.

Part of me wants to switch to a paper journal and reduce my screen time even further. But part of me also knows that most days are busy, and sitting down with pen and paper might simply not happen. You might say, “just make it happen instead of the typing into the app!”, which is a fair point. I think I just like attaching the photos and rating each entry with how I felt that day. In the long run, even when I had a bad day, I can look at my stats and see that, in a given year, there are far more good days than bad days, and that makes me feel good. In other words, the Day One journal app serves more functions than just recording my thoughts. I don't feel too bad using it, because I quit all the big social media platforms a few years ago, so it's not a big source of screen time. There are no ads, and no algorithm, so I also feel like my data privacy is respected.

I think Journal apps are an example of positive technology, where the tech enhances he habit without handing it over to someone like Meta or Google who would just use your data for their own financial gains. A journal app is a good first step into this positive habit. It's a low effort way to see if you like it. You can always switch to a paper journal later, or to a self-hosted web journal or blog if you prefer independence from a particular app.

The How

If you're new to journaling, there are many ways to do it, but I'll suggest an easy method that works well for many. You can simply think of what went well today. It doesn't have to be big. It can be very small. This kind of journaling helps create positivity. If you are like me, you might first think of what was frustrating during the day. The journal could turn into a rant about how upset you are at the world. That's ok too! The journal can be an outlet for your angry thoughts. But I chose to use journaling as a wellness tool. It takes some effort to be positive these days, with all the bad things happening in the world. So, I pick 3-5 small things that went well today, and try to write them in my journal in the evening. This will wrap up my day in a positive manner. For example:

As you can see, journaling can be as easy as listing 3 positive things every day. Whether or not you choose to use an app for it, journaling is a positive habit, and the longer you do it, the better it gets, and the more it becomes part of your day.


©️ Razvan Ungureanu