"Dear Diary" doesn't sound so juvenile anymore, does it?
Journaling is like a meditation in words rather than thoughts. And, like meditation, more and more research shows that journaling offers innumerable mental health benefits—including, yes, for your sexual wellness.
Here's how, and what you can do to make the most of a sex journal.
How Journaling Can Improve Your Sex Life
Journaling offers so many perks: Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that self-expressive writing can help limit intrusive, negative thoughts and improve your memory, and a study published in JMIR Mental Health shows that consistent journaling can help with stress, depressive feelings, and anxiety.
Those mental health benefits go far beyond your brain. Research shows that reducing intrusive thoughts, ditching toxic, self-deprecating habits, and controlling stress can all improve your libido. Meanwhile, improving your working memory can free up your brain for other mental activities, according to Pennebaker's research. This could mean better crushing your job, coping with stress, or, perhaps, connecting more deeply with a partner. (See: All the Benefits of Using a Worry Journal)
Moreover, journaling can help you become more self-aware and pinpoint unhealthy patterns that may be negatively impacting your sex life, such as the partners you're choosing, the boundaries you're setting (or lack thereof), insecurities you might have, and so on.
"Everyone who's looking to reconnect with their sexuality or who's ready to really dive deep and explore their sexuality should have a journal—even if it's to just remember your most pleasurable experiences, reflect, and have better feelings toward certain events that took place," says Davia Frost, a certified sex coach and sex educator, as well as the founder and owner of Frosted Pleasure, a platform that offers sensual classes, lectures, and coaching sessions. "Having experiences in print allows you to see what it is that you like and need for your sexual experiences, whether partnered or solo."
How to Start a Sex Journal
Here, psychologists and sexperts share journaling best practices to enhance your sex life and boost your sexual wellness. Here are their top 10 tips for journaling to better sex. (P.S. You can use these journaling apps or websites if you don't want to go with pen and paper.)
1. Set your intentions.
First and foremost, writing down your intentions for your journal will help you remember why you're writing and help you feel focused and empowered through the process.
"If you're using a sex journal for you and your partner(s), first, set your intentions for what the sex journal will be about (i.e. better communication, more intimacy, setting boundaries, reconnecting to one another, etc.)," says Frost.
This practice is for you, so whatever the purpose is, be honest with yourself.
"When you journal, you're essentially writing for an audience of one: yourself," adds Carol Queen, a staff sexologist at Good Vibrations and co-author of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone. "You can be really honest about your experiences with sex and use the journal to help you better understand your desires, beliefs and attitudes, as well as the habits and outcomes around your sexual experiences. If you're in a rut, journaling helps you see it. And it can be a source of insight or pattern recognition."
2. Journal about what makes you feel sexy.
Journaling about what makes you feel sexy and gets you in the mood can stimulate your sensuality. If you're feeling "blah" after a long day, it might just take a few minutes of thinking and writing about sex to help you re-access that part of yourself.
"I prescribe journaling to my clients looking for better sex—putting pen to paper can be a powerful first step toward making something happen in the bedroom," says Nicole Buratti, a sex coach and functional nutritionist. "For one, stress can interfere with wanting to have sex or feeling sexy. So, I have my clients journal about their worries."
Buratti uses a specific exercise to help clients alleviate stress, think about themselves in a more sensual way, and open doors to conversation with their partners, she says. Try completing the following sentences:
- What was great about today was ___.
- What makes me feel sexy is ___.
- What turns me on is ___.
3. Explore your sexual fantasies.
For clients who don't need such a guided structure to jumpstart their journaling, Buratti says she encourages them to free-write about their sexual fantasies.
"Using your journal to write out your sexual fantasies not only gives you the chance to think through them, but also gives you the chance to express them in a way you may not be comfortable telling a partner just yet," says Kayla Lords, a sexpert for Jack and Jill, an adult toy company. "Once you see them on paper, you may find it easier to talk to your partner and share what you'd really like."
You can even write a letter to your partner about what you want, she says. Whether or not you give it to them, it can help you explore your desires in a low-pressure setting.
4. Journal to find the words you need to eventually communicate with your partner.
"Journal when the sex is good and when it's bad," says Lords. "Write out your feelings—what you liked, what you didn't. This helps you put into words what you're feeling, instead of pretending it doesn't matter. It will either help you communicate those needs a bit better or at least give you a space to express yourself instead of pretending you don't have certain feelings about a situation."
Using your journal to write out what you want to tell your partner allows you to think it out and find your words without the pressure, she explains. For example, you might journal about clitoral stimulation techniques your partner uses in foreplay that you really enjoy, or you might journal about feeling disconnected from your partner due to their lack of eye contact during sex. After writing these things out, you may have an easier time communicating them to your partner. (Related: I Tried a 30-Day Sex Challenge to Revive My Marriage's Sex Life)
5. Record and rate your sexual experiences.
It may sound a bit harsh, but recording and rating your sexual experiences based on safety, enjoyment, and other factors can help you be more mindful of how fulfilling it was and also stay on top of your health.
When thinking about your rating, consider a number of different factors: the quantity and quality of your orgasms, any pain you may have experienced, any new sexual practices you've tried (such as roleplaying or the introduction of toys), the level of romance or kink you felt regarding the setting, any disconnect or discomfort you may have experienced with your partner, the duration of foreplay if there was any, any pleasure you felt leading up to climax, etc.
"You should include if you used protection or not, since this is vital in keeping track of your sexual health," says Christopher Ryan Jones, Pys.D., a clinical psychologist who focuses on sex therapy. "You can also include an enjoyment rating: Was it the same old boring sex or was it mind-blowing and incredible? This could be key in discovering what you like and what you don't like during sex, which will be important to communicate with your partner so that you can have the best sex possible." (FYI: Some period tracking apps allow you to track your sexual activity too.)
6. Use visuals.
"A sex journal makes sense for folks who want to understand their own rhythms better or to attune to a partner's rhythm," says Amy M. Baker, an intimacy specialist with The Pleasure Principal. "One of the tips I use for clients is to keep a sex journal but also to use a little graph (if they're data- or visually-inspired) with an 'x' and 'y' axis to track [factors such as] when they're having sex, when they're aroused, failed sex attempts, when they masturbate and to what, if using visual aids."
For instance, if Baker's client is having trouble reaching orgasm during sex and they think it's due to a lack of foreplay, they may record the duration of time they spend on foreplay with their frequency of orgasms during sex.
"It's particularly interesting to have couples with desire discrepancy use these graphs," she adds. "They may map their stressors during the day and how those influence their sexual behaviors, such as masturbation or losing an erection." (Related: 13 Masturbation Tips for a Mind-Blowing Solo Session)
7. Explore your sexual archetype.
It may not feel easy to journal about yourself as a sexual being. That could be exactly why you're keeping a sex journal in the first place—to explore your sexual self. In this case, you may feel more comfortable journaling about a sexual archetype, aka a sexual alter ego.
"Think of a 'sexual archetype' you could embody," says Audria O'Neill, a love, sex and relationship coach. "Mine is the 'Love Goddess.' Yours could be the 'Queen of Passion,' for example. In your journal, describe what you would be like and how you would do things if you stepped into this part of yourself. Then follow that by asking yourself what holds you back from being this sexy archetype and what you can do to consciously step into it."
This type of journaling (and all journaling, really) is a helpful way to explore why you subconsciously operate the way you do, she says. "Then, you use this knowledge to consciously change your habits." (Related: Women Are Using BDSM As a Form of Therapy)
8. Consider which details you're putting on paper.
A notebook tucked under your bed may feel safer than sending a nude through the ~cloud~, but that doesn't mean it's 100-percent safe from prying eyes.
For that reason, "don't include your sexual partner's full name in journaling," says Jones. "Just because you're journaling doesn't mean you have to write down everything. Using a partner's first name will help you keep track of who they were; however, using their full name could be problematic if someone else reads your journal. There are some things that are personal and private, and your partner might not appreciate you sharing all the details of the sexual exploits you two have had."
That said, don't be too vague either. "While you should be cautious in revealing identifying details, you should be liberal in the rest," he says. "It's important to paint a vivid picture of what took place." After all, your journal is for you.
9. Don't forget to journal about your feelings surrounding your sexual experience—not just the sex itself.
"Journal about your feelings as much as your actions," says Johann Davis, a resident relationship and sex coach at Beyond Ages, a dating advice site for older women. "When you're journaling about your sex life, it's very easy to overlook how you felt in the moment in favor of what was happening. When that happens, you miss out on a lot of the major benefits that come from the process."
Many of the hang-ups and causes of sexual issues like sexual dysfunction, pain, and disconnect with partners arise from how we react to sex emotionally, explains Davis.
"You can't properly deal with the anxiety, fear, and guilt that is often tied to various sexual topics until you really write out and analyze your emotions," she explains. "If you just look at the actions that occurred, it's hard to dig into the root causes of any particular problem."
For example, if you couldn't orgasm, instead of just writing that you couldn't, you may want to ask yourself how you felt about it or why you think it happened. Did it make you feel frustrated, embarrassed, unsexy, or pressured? Why do you think you felt the way you did? Once you have some answers, you can also brainstorm and troubleshoot how you can react the next time there's a similar cause and effect.
Of course, don't just write about your negative emotions; remember to include the positives, too. (P.S. You can also consider adding gratitude-journal practices to your sex journaling routine.)
"It's easy to turn a healthy journaling practice into a negative exercise if you're unhappy with your sex life—and you don't want to use your journaling merely as a way to let off your frustrations," Davis adds. "You also want to celebrate all the positive moments, even the small ones. So reserve at least a small amount of the time and space of your journaling to detail the positive things that happened. This can be as small as a little compliment about yourself or a small improvement in something you're working on. You want to celebrate all of the small victories along the way as you improve your sexual wellness." (See: How to Use Positive Self-Talk to Benefit Your Mental Health)
10. Make it a consistent practice.
Journaling every day about your sex life can feel daunting, especially if you're not having sex or engaging in sexual activity every day. But even when it feels like you have nothing to write about, that feeling alone is material.
"Once you take one day off, it's very easy for that to turn into a week or a month, especially if you're not particularly sexually active," Davis says. "A simple solution is to journal every day, even on days that nothing particularly sexual happens. At a minimum, you can share the sexual feelings you felt that day and where they stemmed from."
Maybe, for example, you're going on a date with someone you've been seeing for a while, and the sexual tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. You're hoping you'll finally take your relationship to the next level, but you don't end up engaging in any sexual activity after all. You're bummed, and it probably feels like there's nothing to write about—but that feeling of defeat alone is journal material.
"For the very rare days when you don't have a single sexual thought or feeling (if they exist), you should write that down, as well," says Davis. "If nothing else, you'll have a complete record of the ebbs and flows of your sexual desires and will maintain the journaling momentum you have built up."
Consistency matters in the long run so you can be conscious of what seems to work and what doesn't seem to work for you and, as such, better communicate with your partners. Consistency is also important to help you spot any unhealthy patterns you might be able to break (like regularly feeling bad after sex with a certain someone or self-deprecating thoughts about your body image during sex).