Change in Your Pocket: How a Video Journal Can Help You Grow

video journal

Change may be hidden in your cellphone, stowed in your digital camera. or stashed in your laptop. What I’m referring to are video cameras. These tiny, often pocket-sized marvels are powerful tools that can be used to increase creativity and foster self-transformation. You’ll learn how in a minute.

If you surf the web, chances are you have watched YouTube. Online video has exploded in popularity over the last several years and it continues to grow and evolve. Video offers us the chance to express ourselves and connect with one another on unprecedented new levels.

But this article won’t teach you to become the next YouTube superstar (although it may be a first step if that’s something you aspire to).

Most people are familiar with the concept of journaling – even if they haven’t had the chance to keep one of their own. Journaling is an excellent way to increase creativity, gain perspective on life, learn from the past and even transform painful emotions.

There is no disputing that writing (whether pen or laptop) is a time proven method to keep a journal. But video journaling offers a new opportunity for growth and change. Video is extremely active and immediate. There is sound, motion and image. Rather than write down thoughts, feelings or meaningful life experiences – these are expressed to an impartial listener – your video camera.

If you already keep a written journal, video journaling will give you a brand new experience. If you have never kept a journal, video may be just the jumpstart you need. Here are six steps to get you going.

1. Keep it Simple

Most video cameras are simple to use. Just turn yours on and away you go. Don’t allow the technology to overwhelm you. There may be many options on your camera, but for the purpose of your video journal, they shouldn’t be necessary. Just don’t forget to hit “record!”

2. Choose Your Angle

Find a private, quiet location where you won’t be interrupted. If your camera is fixed to your laptop or desktop computer, sit with a relaxed but upright posture. If your camera is handheld, choose whatever feels comfortable – this might even mean lying down while holding the camera above you. (Shooting handheld can be tiring after awhile though. Consider purchasing a miniature tripod. They range in cost from five to fifteen dollars.)

3. Your First Entry

Your first video journaling entry may feel a bit awkward. Remember to relax. Connect to your breath. Inhale and exhale fully and deeply to ground yourself in the moment. It can be an unnerving experience to look into a camera lens and speak from the heart. Connect to your feelings, whatever they are, and express them. This might mean speaking, singing, laughing, crying, shouting or using your whole body. Just relax and let go.

4. Embrace the Critic

Don’t be surprised if keeping a video journal quickly connects you with your internal dialog. Speaking from personal experience, it doesn’t take long to get in touch with how I’m really feeling once I start recording. In daily life, the internal critic often keeps a low profile. Yet it’s the negative thoughts that we’re not aware of that often do the most harm. Video journaling helps reveal what’s going on beneath the surface.

When you notice a judgment zip across your mind, pause for a minute. Try to figure out where the judgment comes from. Often the voice of the critic is the voice of someone from the past. See if you can develop a sense of compassion both for yourself and for those who planted those seeds of criticism in the first place. This is a great first step in releasing the judgments altogether.

5. Keep It Private (for now)

Video journaling is not video blogging. A video journal offers the chance to safely experiment with video on your own terms. It’s easy to develop preconceptions as to what it means to be on camera. This is your chance to let those notions go and decide for yourself. The best way to do this is to keep your video journals private at first. As you grow more comfortable on camera you might decide to make some of your entries public or to keep a regular video blog. There is no need to rush anything.

6. Instant Replay

Don’t forget to set aside time to look back at your entries as time goes by. It’s a potent experience to sit-down “face-to-face” as the “you” of today meets the “you” from yesterday through your video entries. This is a unique opportunity to learn from the past as you literally watch yourself grow and change throughout the ebb and flow of life.

This is just the beginning! There are countless ways you can use a video journal for growth and creative self-expression. For example, you might shoot a video self-portrait, create a video time capsule for friends and family or make your own life documentaries. The ongoing exploration is up to you.

Photo by Lomo-Cam

20 thoughts on “Change in Your Pocket: How a Video Journal Can Help You Grow”

  1. Wow. I have never thought about that. I usually find it funny to record videos with my friends, when we are singing or playing fools, but i have never thought about making something serious which could help me. Thank you for this post and idea!

    1. Hey Julia – thanks for your comment – let me know how it goes!

      Also – there’s no reason not to sing or goof around on your own as well. a video journal can be serious or it might it mean letting the inner joker loose. but maybe u have that covered?:) i haven’t seen the videos you made with your friends so I don’t know! lol

  2. @Michael: This is a really interesting experiment and something I’m tempted to test out myself. One thing I’d be curious about even more than the how to is the results that have occurred in your life because of doing a video journal.

    1. Hi Srinivas,

      Keeping a video journal has given me perspective on my life that I don’t think I would have otherwise. When change happens – we are right in the middle of it . Often (at least for me) I haven’t realized how much I have changed until I look back at an older entry.

      Video journaling has also increased my creativity – but not just the *feeling* of creativity – the ability to express it. Sometimes this has been a new project – but other time it’s been a new way of looking at something small – a shift – and a different experience as a result.

      I’ve also found it very cathartic!:) A video rant is a great way to let off steam and the camera never talks back.:) At least not so far…

      I hope you try it out – and please let me know what your experience is. I think it’s different for everyone.

      Michael Sean

    1. hey farouk – congrats! if you’d like to share your links i’d love to see them.

      there is still a lot of opportunity to use video for business that hasn’t been fully tapped. i think it will continue to get better and better.

    1. Hey Noro – that’s a good question. I think it’s important to connect to your feelings. If you are truly connecting and speaking from your heart (and you have the time) then a long entry might be just what you need.

      If you are kind of rambling and saying random things to avoid feeling your feelings, then that’s probably not super productive. My advice would be to pause every so often, take a deep breath and center yourself. Then you can decide if you want to continue the entry or if you’ve said what you needed to say.

      Let me know if this helps.

      Michael Sean

  3. hi friends ,
    i wanted to video journal the research work i do before i teach in class .
    can you guys suggest to me a good video camera which i should buy
    so that i can download the small video clips to my computer and go thru it also
    in order to improvise on what i got to teach .

    thank you

    1. hi prakash – i’d recommend one of the small handheld cameras such as the flip or the kodak z18 for what you are doing. note that neither of these cameras have a flip out screen. if it’s important for you to be able to watch yourself WHILE you’re recording consider the sanyo xacti VPC CS1 or similar.

      finally – do you perhaps already have a camera that you could use? maybe on your phone or in a digital still camera? if so i recommend that you buy a cheap mini tripod and experiment with that first. even if it’s not the ideal camera you’ll learn what you actually need best by doing (and who knows if it’s good enough you may save yourself some money.):)

  4. Video journaling is great! I would encourage kids to do it too! Imagine having a journal of your life available to your kids when you pass away…I think it would be the greatest gift to give them.

    1. Hi J.C. I agree – kids should definitely be encouraged! Imagine when *they* have kids and can share their video journals way back from when they were exactly the same age as their own children…of course some editing might be in order for the teen years…but that’s part of the fun;)

  5. Brilliant tips about video journaling. It would take some time to learn this and achieve the best result. Paying attention to details has always been my key to success. By the way, i think it would be great to suggest some cameras to your readers.

  6. Great post! I just had a son and throughout the pregnancy and after his birth I found it hard to write. I can’t seem to express what I am feeling deeply enough. I have been thinking about video journaling. My question is what is the best way for me to archive them for playing back? I use a MacBook Air. I do not like the idea of apps that store the videos as these are never completely private as we know. Thanks for the advice!

  7. I want to thank you so much for this article, I have been seriously thinking about starting a video journal and I have never heard of anyone else doing it until now.

    So you confirm it’ not a crazy idea after all. It just seems like a logical step from pen and paper to video.

    I’m going to start an anonymous YouTube channel and post once a day. See what happens! I’m actially really excited about doing this, I want to understand myself more, give mysefl a channel of reflecting and defining what my feeling are as I’m at a real crossroads in life.

    Thanks again, I really appreciate this post.

    1. Hi Simon,

      No, it’s not crazy and you definitely aren’t alone! Since writing my book lots of people have got in touch with me and several have told me that keeping a video journal has dramatically transformed their lives for the better.

      Yes, you could start an anonymous YouTube channel for sure. Just be certain you understand how YouTube privacy works. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe it’s quite as private as Vimeo where you can password protect videos so you might want to keep that in mind.:)

      Thanks for leaving your post. And feel free to ask any questions!


  8. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for this article. Like Jillian I have a small child and don’t have time to wtite. Where is the best place to store these videos. I’m worried about the amount of storage space and if I use an app, the longevity of the company. Can you provide some recommendations?

    Thank you

  9. Hey Sean,

    I strongly agree with your points. Would you mind I quote your article to my App, I am very eager for my users to see this article, and I want to recommend it to them through my app. We will clearly cite the source and author of the article.

    Best wish

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