As a writer, I know the value of journaling. Getting all of your thoughts, feelings, worries out on paper — it’s so freeing. Heck, when I was a teen, I had the biggest journal ever: a 4-inch, 3-ring binder that held about 800 pages. And, yes, I wrote on both the front and back of the paper.
Fast forward to decades (and more responsibilities) later. As a writer, there are days when the last thing I want to do after a long day of writing is to write more. So journaling became very sporadic. I would do it for a couple of days and then not pick it up again for weeks.
Several months ago, when I was basically a huge ball of stress, a friend recommended I try audio journaling. If you’re not familiar, it’s as simple as it sounds: Instead of writing or typing down your thoughts, you speak them aloud. You can use a journaling app, the recorder on your phone or another recording device.
I can voice journal with no filter. It’s not like a written journal where sometimes I can’t write (or type) as fast as the thoughts spill out of my head.
Since pen-to-paper journaling wasn’t working for me anymore, I gave voice journaling a try. And let me tell you, talking away the tension is now my go-to for stress relief.
What’s great about audio journaling
As I’ve found, audio journaling reduces stress. “[As Black women], we have historically been taught to keep things inside, and we hold it in our mind or we push it away, and we see that as strength. But the things we keep inside emotionally impact our health, both our psychological and physical health,” says Charryse Johnson, Ph.D., LCMHC, a psychotherapist and founder of Jade Integrative Counseling and Wellness in Charlotte, North Carolina. Audio journaling allows us to release stress because you aren’t holding those thoughts in your head and cluttering your mind, says Dr. Johnson.
I don’t worry about grammar, scratching out mistakes or censoring myself. I simply talk.
For many people, audio journaling is easier to keep up with than its written counterpart. Apps may offer the option of talk-to-text as well as audio playback. Some also allow you to add video, images or other media. You can voice journal anytime, anywhere. “If you have an emotional situation, right there in the moment, you can verbally process it because it’s just you and whatever device you’re working with,” says Dr. Johnson. You can pop into the restroom at work, go for a “walk and talk” lunch break, do your audio recording first thing in the morning or before bedtime — whatever works for you. For example, I often do mine in my vehicle, so I won’t be overheard.
Stream of consciousness—with no filter
One more benefit is voice journaling helps me work out problems. Many time, I’ve struggled with an issue and, in talking about it in my journal, realized the solution halfway through.
Another perk is I can voice journal with no filter. It’s not like a written journal where sometimes I can’t write (or type) as fast as the thoughts spill out of my head. And I don’t worry about grammar, scratching out mistakes or censoring myself. I simply talk. When I’m done, I feel so much lighter.
Some quick tips:
There’s no right or wrong. You can voice journal as often or as little as necessary, says Dr. Johnson. And tailor it to your preferences. Whether that’s going freestyle and talking about whatever you choose or using journal prompts or an app for structure.
If you’re an iPhone user, you might have noticed a new app on your screen in mid-December, which is when Apple launched Journal.
Listen back … or don’t. When I first started, I wasn’t sure if I should listen to the recordings. “Listening back is one of the most important steps because it’s not just about, ‘I want to kind of verbal vomit and get it all out there,’” says Dr. Johnson. “The goal is to be able to separate from it, listen back and then ask, ‘Do I still feel this way? Is this situation getting better? What do I want to do next?’”
There’s one caveat: It’s probably better to not replay audio discussing something traumatizing, Dr. Johnson says.
Don’t try to replace therapy. Audio journaling is therapeutic, but it’s not therapy. If you’re struggling with something that’s significantly impacting your daily life and well-being, and it’s not getting better with audio journaling and other self-help strategies, Dr. Johnson recommends seeking professional help.
Journaling apps to try
You may already have one! If you’re an iPhone user, you might have noticed a new app on your screen in mid-December, which is when Apple launched Journal. Other options:
Murmur: voice diary (iOS, Android)
Free, with in-app purchases
Murmur is a straightforward audio journal. Simply press record and talk. If you choose, you can label your emotions before recording and see them on the calendar. That allows you to track your emotional state over time or go back and listen to certain types of recordings (say, the happy ones).
Journify (iOS, Android)
$4/month or $30/year (there’s also a free version with limited journal entries)
This app has a simple interface and automatic encryption, so it’s easy (and safe) to clear your mind. You can talk about whatever you want or use its journaling prompts. You can even transcribe your audio into text if you choose. Journify also has a mood analyzer based on your audio content to help you keep track of your mental wellness.
Diarium (iOS, Android)
Free or $10 one-time fee for pro version
While this isn’t a dedicated audio journal, it’s a diary app that allows audio recordings. You can also add tags, photos, videos and files to your entries. To keep your info safe, you can lock the app with a password, pin or biometrics.
If you want to go the old-school route, use the voice recorder on your phone. That’s what I do. I hit the record button and unload all my mental baggage (and good moments, too). I store my recordings in a secure, password-protected folder.
That’s the beauty of audio journaling. It’s a quick, simple, cost-effective way to unleash your inner thoughts. It’s like having a loyal and non-judgmental confidant who’s always there when you need a listening ear.