Journaling used to be a solitary endeavor. You sit down with pen and paper and you journal. There are many ways to journal, from freewriting to using bullet points to writing down what you're grateful for, but ultimately you do it by yourself.

At least, until now. The flexibility of a generative AI like ChatGPT make it a surprisingly effective addition to your journaling practice. No longer is it just you writing; you now have a companion you can go back and forth with about your inner life. The benefits are surprising and potentially transformative.

(some of you may point out that even with AI you'd still be journaling by yourself, which is quite likely true but perhaps also not, given how circular our definition of consciousness is)

The Benefits of Regular Journaling

Journaling on its own is already an effective way to record daily events and understand who you are and why you do the things you do. Over the years, scientists have uncovered a large swathe of benefits associated with journaling, including:

  • More working memory. In computer terms: more biological RAM. People who journal are better at remembering and recalling what they journal about, but also what they haven't journaled about, i.e. they're better at remembering and recalling things in general.
  • A boost to your immune system. Writing about traumatic or negative experiences helps you process those experiences better, which leads to less stress, less anxiety, and a better immune system.
  • Increased self-awareness. The simple act of sitting down and consciously trying to understand your thoughts and feelings makes you a much more self-aware person than someone who doesn't do that.

Why Add ChatGPT to Your Journal

Unless you prompt it to act otherwise, ChatGPT is a non-judgmental, compassionate companion to your journaling practice. It excels at a few things, the first of which is pattern recognition.

Let's face it. How often do you read previous entries of your journal? Chances are you likely don't do this very much, if at all. But ChatGPT can, and in doing so it can analyze your past entries to identify common themes or recurring emotional states. In turn, this can help you recognize and address sources of stress you wouldn't otherwise have spotted.

Second, ChatGPT is an excellent mood tracker. It can label the emotions you've expressed in your journal entries and provide you with insights into how you're progressing over time. It can help you identify what makes you feel good and what doesn't.

Third, ChatGPT is highly customizable. You can prompt it to respond in whatever way you prefer. Want it to respond as if it were Socrates? You can. Prompt you with certain gratitude questions? Yep. Act as a good friend who likes to banter? Sure! You can even go meta and first ask it to figure out what the most effective journaling method for you would be. It all works.

How to Add ChatGPT to Your Journal

Now that OpenAI have released GPTs, the best way to add ChatGPT to your journal is to create a new GPT with tailored instructions that explain how you currently journal and how you'd like ChatGPT to help you.

Perhaps you would like it to analyze your past entries. Perhaps you'd rather it provides you with reflective questions to keep you going when you don't know what to write. Perhaps you'd like it to act a little more like a therapist and use the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in its responses to you.

However you prompt it, don't expect it to be perfect from the get-go. It will likely require some experimentation to find something that works for you. Additionally, while ChatGPT is already really good and will only get better, a small percentage of its responses will always be nonsensical. Simply ignore those.

Additionally, ChatGPT is not and should never be a replacement of a trained therapist. If you're struggling mentally, do not rely on a generative AI to help, but visit a therapist instead.

This being said, if you're willing to experiment, ChatGPT can quite easily become a powerful and indispensable addition to your journaling practice. Whether you're already an avid journaler or have never journaled before, adding AI to your journal is at the very least worth a try.