Why Journal Writing is Helpful If You Have ADHD

Do You Keep a Journal?

They are great places to record your thoughts, feelings and insights about your daily life.  Journaling isn’t just for teenage girls and aspiring writers. It helps with physical and mental health, emotional upheaval,  productivity, and happiness.

Why Journal Writing is Helpful When You Have ADHD

If you are living with ADHD, it is easy to dismiss the idea of writing in a journal. At first glance, it seems to involve all the things that are hard for you like sitting, writing, focusing and daily discipline.

However, writing in a journal allows you to press the pause button on your life. When you take time out from being busy and spend time alone with just your thoughts and journal, you can actively reflect on the events of the day.

As a result you will …

Notice Themes

People with ADHD often have short memories. You might not realize how frequently you call the locksmith because you lost your keys.  Or you might forgive and forget Susan’s consistently rude comments. When you are writing things down, it’s easier to notice these recurring events and themes, and ‘Knowing is half the battle,’ as they say.

Problem Solving

Whenever you have a problem, you can write it as a question in your journal. For example,

‘How can I stop losing my keys?’ Our brains love to answer questions, and your creative ADHD brain will come up with excellent solutions to every question you ask it.

Reduce Shame

You know the saying, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’ Well, writing in your journal counts as sharing. Perhaps you feel embarrassed about something you said or didn’t do. Describing it in writing helps you to acknowledge what happened and process your emotions. A beautiful side effect is that by doing this often, shame fades away.

Break the Repetitive Thinking Loop

Writing your thoughts down, gets them out of your head and on to paper. One of the reasons thoughts are on replay is because they haven’t been properly dealt with yet. Just taking the few minutes to sort and process them in your journal helps them to disappear from your mind.

Sleep Better

People often find falling asleep difficult because their mind is racing. It can be the first time they have chance to think about the day’s events. When you journal you dedicate a small slice of time to active thinking, which in turn means your mind is quieter at bedtime.

Anxiety and Worry

Journaling is very helpful if you are prone to anxiety and worry. Seeing your worries on paper puts them into perspective. It also allows you to identify any actions you could take to help relieve the worry.

Feel Proactive

Having time in your day to think in writing means you start to feel ‘ahead’ rather than behind trying to catch up. You feel proactive, rather than reactive, which in turns means life is less stressful and more fun.

My Experience With Journalling

One Christmas when I was about 10 years old I was given a 5 year diary. It had a red shiny cover and a lock and key. With a curious younger brother and sister, that security system seemed essential :). I hid my diary in a secret place under my bed and would write in it every day when I got home from school.

That little book was a safe place to write down all the usual concerns a pre-teen has. I reread it a little while ago and in one entry I explain how worried I was about writing an English S.A (essay). I had undiagnosed dyslexia so my spelling was not great, but that didn’t matter. I learned that writing things down, however badly, made me feel better.

In my 20’s I moved to Canada and found a copy of Julia Cameron’s, ‘The Artist’s Way.’ In it she describes a type of journal writing called ‘The Morning Pages,’ and I have been doing those ever since. I was interviewed recently about my journaling habits, and you can read more here.

The Morning Pages

The idea of Julia Cameron’s morning pages is that you write 3 pages in a journal every morning. You write whatever is on your mind; it can be the most boring things, it doesn’t matter.   No one will  ever read it besides you, and  even you might choose not to.

You don’t have to write perfectly, or get picky about  spelling and grammar. Just do a brain dump on paper. Don’t censor yourself or edit. It feels great to free up your mind, and towards the end of the 3 pages you might have insights and aha moments.

Having a goal to fill 3 pages forces you to keep going, so you really do get everything out of your mind. It would be easy to stop at 1 or 2, but the real benefits come when you push yourself to write 3 pages.

Many famous people use the idea of the morning pages, from authors like Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame to entrepreneurs such as Tim Ferris.

Feeling Inspired to Start Journaling?

Here are some practical tips.

The Best Time of Day

The morning pages are supposed to be written in the morning. However, mornings are usually challenging when you have ADHD. If you are already finding it hard to wake up and get to work on time, it’s fine to write them later in the day.  It would be a shame to miss out on the benefits of journaling because of logistics.

Limit Yourself

When you have ADHD the thought of sitting down and writing can feel overwhelming.  Having a limit or goal is helpful as you know there is an end in sight, and you won’t be there all day.

Here are 3 ideas to limit your journaling:

Number of pages  (e.g., 3 pages)

Number of words

Set a timer ( e.g., 30 minutes)

If you are upset about something, of course it’s fine to write more or to come back later and have a second sitting.

Paper or Pixel?

Purists would say paper is best. While I  love notebooks and writing things down, for this type of journaling, I type out my journal entries on my computer.  In the past I had boxes full of old journals. They wouldn’t have been particularly interesting, but if someone had read them, I would have felt very exposed.

One of my friends gets around this by writing her 3 pages and then shreds it straight afterwards.  Experiment with a few options till you find what is best for you.


If you like the idea of typing your journal, there is a cool new app called KYŌ to check out.  KYŌ wasn’t designed specifically for ADHDers; however, it is very ADHD friendly.  The simple, stylish and calm vibe of the site makes it feel like you are visiting a spa to write.

If you are like me and concerned about people reading your words, co-Founder Marc Champagne assures us it is private and secure.

You can check it out  here

Actions to Start Journalling

  1. Decide if you are going to journal on paper or online.
  2. Pick a time of day that would be best for you.
  3. Daily journaling is great, but if you miss a day, don’t let that deter you. Keep going.
  4. There is no right or wrong way to journal. Simply start writing, and you will develop a system that is helpful for you.

Are you going to try journaling? Leave a note in the comment below!

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  1. We just started a small Alpaca farm. My husband wants we write daily activities down. Your article came just in time, I wrote 5 days of activities this morning! But I heard another guru talking about improving yourself everyday and you have to write a little each day. So I will journal, a little, start what you said to improve because everyday is a tail spin. Thank you.

  2. Paris says:

    Dear Jacqui,
    Love your site, as usual! I have loved writing my thoughts and ideas since I was a kid in the 1970s. My mind races constantly and I talk incessantly which can be exhausting to my family and friends so writing is a great outlet. I never liked “dear diary” and I feared my journals would be discovered by my big brother! But my anxiety (severe but treated) is eased when I write lists of what I need to do or buy – it’s like I need to release things from my brain. Over the past 8 years I have enjoyed using Penzu online/mobile – a safe password protected journal. Sometimes I write 3 sentences or a poem or a full blown story! You don’t have to be Hemingway – just get the thoughts OUT and you will feel better! There are SO MANY! Paris in New England

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