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Albert Einstein scribbled notes and formulas in a pocket diary. Charles Darwin filled five journals on his voyages; they shaped his theories of evolution.

Every day, millions of people attempt to write down thoughts, dreams, and ideas in a diary, and don't think it is an activity limited to women. In fact, the fastest-growing group of journal keepers is composed of men.

Here's something you may not know: There are different kinds of journals that you can keep, to suit your own personality. Alexandra Johnson, a professor at Wesley College and the Harvard Extension school, shares some advice on The Saturday Early Show. She is also the author of Leaving A Trace: The Art of Transforming a Life Into Stories.

How to begin?

Forget the "shoulds," including the false preconceptions that a diary should be kept daily, in longhand, in fancy hardcover notebooks, never crossed out, and always in full sentences.

A journal is a collection of ideas, images, thoughts, or concepts that are saved on paper, on a computer disc, or on a tape recorder. A journal, says Johnson, should feel as comfortable as worn slippers you refuse to throw out.

Tricks to spark them to life:

  • Just do it! Begin a journal. Don't listen to the voices that tell you it's self-indulgent.
  • Start slow, with realistic expectations.
  • Write two to three times a week, alternating where and when you write.
  • Keep more than one journal. Definitely keep one by your bed with a pen.
  • Use a computer or tape recorder.
  • Remember "it" does not know. The journal does not know you have not written for two weeks. No one is judging you but you. Give yourself a break. Take it one day at a time.
  • Let go of the idea that it has to be a start of "serious work."
  • Remember who you are really writing for: a future self. Don't read back and don't edit. Write at odd moments; that catches your inner censor off-guard.
  • Secure privacy, which helps to free you from self-editing.
Benefits of keeping a journal:

Journals are about sharpening consciousness, an outward expression of an inward quest to understand your relationship with yourself, others, and your world. A journal can help empower your memory. Johnson calls a journal a marriage between memory and meaning.

A journal also can:

  • Spark creativity.
  • Help register and flush out ideas
  • Help you remember life differently
  • Reframe perspective
  • Suspend self-judgment
  • Help you define patterns in your life, of mastery and confidence
  • Help you vent!
Certain health benefits also have been linked to journals, including the help they offer to cancer survivors and to those suffering from depression.

Journals also may be used tcelebrate rites of passage (marriage, new job, or new baby) or help you deal with challenges (loss of job, divorce, or illness).

Focusing a journal:

Your journal does not have to be full of personal dish, nor does it have to contain all your thoughts every day. Here are a few ways to focus your journal:

  • Dream journal: Allows you to try and unite your subconscious mind and every-day mind.
  • Gratitude journal: Journals need not be solely for somber thoughts or used if you are in a crisis. Every day, you simply write down the things for which you are grateful. This is one of the suggestions included in the bestseller Simple Abundance .
  • Family journal: A whole family can do it together, or a parent can do it with a child (for instance, mailing back and forth to a child who is away at school), or two parents write about their 3 year old.
  • Travel journal: If a husband and wife do this at the same time, they will have two accounts of the same vacation.
  • Visual journal: Draw or paste. Use no words.

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