The reason why Journaling is recommended by so many therapists and counsellors is because it is one of the most helpful therapeutic habits you can form. For many people the idea of writing a journal will prompt a headache-inducing eyeroll… “It’s just not for me!” But writing a journal does not have to be the practice of slavishly listing your day-today activities. Journaling is far more creative and far less time consuming. For me personally, it is writing one single page per week and the topic I write about is, whatever I need to get out of my system.
Like any good habit it does take some time to get started so I am always on the lookout for journaling resources that might help get clients going. I heard about two different journaling products and after a few minutes of research discovered that they are both produced by the same company. The content at first glance appears remarkably similar and the difference in price is staggeringly large. I thought it might be useful to take a look at both products to see what they have to offer.
What are they?
First up we have MINDJOURNAL. This appears to be a high-end and well-presented journal that is designed for beginners. It boasts ‘scientific research’ that proves its effectiveness. The journal contains 30 exercises. MINDJOURNAL is priced at £29.95 and this does not include postage. This product appears to only be available through the MINDJOURNAL website.
Second we have the ambitiously titled, ‘THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU STRONGER’. This product is also produced by MINDJOURNAL. Again, it boasts ‘scientific research’, includes motivational support and 30 writing exercises. This one is available from most bookstores and the RRP is £10.99. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to this one throughout this article as ‘TBWMYS’.
At first glance all that appears to be different here is the price.
The subject of Gender
Both of these products are marketed specifically toward men.
Many men struggle to get into journaling so why not create a journal with men in mind? Well, gender can be a divisive topic and even acknowledging that it is divisive will likely induce ire in a few readers. Some experience gender as a spectrum and for others it is a fixed binary. The truth is that reading about lads, beers and football will feel wonderfully familiar for some and horribly foreign for others. These books take us into traditional gender-normative territory here and this is obviously not universally inclusive. From my perspective, I think it really is a crying shame. I don’t see myself as a ‘man’s man’ and found some of the language in the marketing material to be jarring. Despite this, the content of these books is actually rather good and if the gender language is not prohibitive for you, you may get a lot out of these resources.
Of the two books, it is only really TBWMYS that repeatedly refers to gender. In fact, as far as I could see, in MINDJOURNAL there is only one reflective exercise that even mentions gender.
What are the differences between these two products?
The 30 Exercises
Now this is where things get interesting! For me, the bulk of these two products comes from the 30 exercises that are presented for you to complete (30 in each book). 29 of these exercises are the same. The phrasing is altered a little here or there but for all intents and purposes they really are the same. There is one exercise unique to each book and in all honesty, the one in TBWMYS was (in my opinion) weaker than the exercise in MINDJOURNAL but certainly not a waste of time.
Both books split the exercises into three stages. They both suggest that the exercises get progressively harder by stage. I am sure there is a logic to this but the exercises are completely mixed up in both books. I found one exercise in the easiest stage of TBWMYS that was also in the hardest of MINDJOURNAL.
Generally, I found all the exercises to be exceptionally helpful.
Selling a way of life VS Selling a book
These two products take a completely different approach. TBWMYS is very straightforward. It is easy to understand and includes an introduction, some background from the author, frequently asked questions, additional resources, contact information for support services and more. It is a full package that stands alone.
MINDJOURNAL is far more ambitious. If you go to the website and express an interest in the product they will send you a downloadable sample of the journal. Their approach throughout seems to be an invitation to join a movement. Once you sign up for the journal they send you a welcome email shortly followed by a comprehensive downloadable manual for the journal including examples of both completed entries and exercises. They also send semi-regular standardised ‘check-in’ emails to support your journaling as well as weekly “episodes” (emails) which are interesting mental health ‘roundups’ linking to a range of online magazine articles and news stories. The journal itself contains very little introductory content and for that reason is far more aesthetically pleasing.
Quality and Quantity
TBWMYS is a helpful resource. It is self-contained paperback. Each journal entry provides you with a ‘tick box’ list of feelings and one blank page to complete for each exercise. It is simple and straightforward.
MINDJOURNAL has a lot of the same content but comes with some excellent extras. The journal itself appears well made with a lovely soft cover. Each journal entry offers slightly more opportunity for mindful reflection by adding daily questions (the same 3 questions repeated throughout). It also provides 3 pages per exercise for you to do the actual task of journaling. Dotted throughout are lines of encouragement or motivational tips.
The other wonderful extra that MINDJOURNAL included was the addition of 30 blank journal entries. These include the same 3 reflective questions, the ‘tick-box’ list of emotions and three blank pages per entry. It would seem that the idea is that you have learned to journal using the exercises provided, now you can get creative and journal on your own.
Both products are helpful reflective resources! I completed the exercises myself while preparing this review and was surprised at how much I learned about myself. The exercises gave me the opportunity to reflect and act upon many of the frustrations and worries in my life. I would (and have) recommend both products to clients but I have been very careful to acknowledge the sticky topic of gender. If you don’t have a problem with or can see past the masculine language and stereotyping, then these resources could really help you get into the habit of journaling.
There is a significant price difference between these two products and I hope that through this article I have highlighted some of the subtle but important differences between them. If you don’t have money to burn and are confident that you can commit to these exercises then TBWMYS is perfectly sufficient. The exercises are the bulk of these two products and the exercises are almost identical in both. Considering that one is almost three times the price it does seem that TBWMYS is the sensible option.
That being said, there is also a lot to admire about MINDJOURNAL. It is a significantly greater financial investment but the book itself is a lovely product. This may sound a little trite but I can certainly imagine that investing in a quality journal may provide an added incentive to fill it with your thoughts, reflections and feelings. It provides far more writing space, reflection points and of course the additional entries upon completion of the exercises. If you have the expendable income then MINDJOURNAL could be a journal to cherish.
THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU STRONGER by Ollie Aplin is published by Penguin Random House UK (£10.99)
MINDJOURNAL is published by MINDJOURNAL and is available from www.mindjournals.com (£29.95)