The Art Of Journaling…
Remember those diaries that had tiny locks and keys when we were younger? We actually believed those things kept our thoughts safe. Well, I did, lol. Have you ever kept a diary/ journal?
I would estimate that over the span of my life, I’ve had and started upwards of thirty diaries. Growing up, I was obsessed with keeping my thoughts and random ideas — but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I gained an understanding of the benefits of journaling, because they exist. I promise. And at the end of this piece, you might be inspired to pick up a pen and a notebook and start writing.
When I say that I started diaries, I mean just that, by the way. I didn’t finish them. Most have less than ten entries. I tried everything from treating “Dear Diary” as a person to whom I was writing a letter, to writing about myself in the third person, to creating entire alternate egos for myself. Shockingly (or, not so shockingly), nothing stuck.
Later, though as an early 20s, recent university graduate struggling to carve out a place in the world, I returned once again to journaling. Ultimately, the absolute simplest option — holding myself accountable for writing at least a few sentences every night before going to bed and being honest with myself about things in my life I was struggling with — was the one that, after so many years, finally began to have a positive impact on my life. (p.s that’s the secret to how I became anger-proof)
BENEFITS OF JOURNALING
So if you’re struggling, or if you’re curious, or if you just want to glow up a little bit more (I mean, honestly, who doesn’t?), then check out some of these out.
• It Can Have Long-Term, Positive Effects On Your Mood.
Especially if you’re writing about your actual feelings, not the weather or what shoes you wore that day. You’ll feel lighter and freer.
• It Sparks Creativity
When you keep a handwritten journal, the act of putting your pen to paper engages the analytical left brain, leaving the right side of your brain — the more creative part of you — free to feel and deduce.
• It Can Help You Realize Personal Patterns
In addition to engaging in stream-of-consciousness, free form-style writing, it can be helpful to note your mood each day when writing. If you don’t know your triggers, whether they’re mood or health related, this can be a great way to begin identifying them.
• It Can Assist In Goal-Setting
In addition to a brighter, more positive mood, journaling can help you process stressful situations and move past them more quickly. The future begins to take shape. Possibilities begin to multiply.
• It Makes Your Resilience Tangible
A journal provides a record of your good days and your bad days, the best and the worst things to happen in your life. And in having a physical, tangible document, it can serve as a reminder of your resilience. You’re still here. You made it through all that.
HOW TO GET STARTED
I have a few thoughts for getting the most out of journaling. But from all the articles out there on the Internet, I found some key pieces of advice that I hope you will find helpful.
Use pen and paper
According to nearly all sources, using good old-fashioned pen and paper is key in reaping the psychological and productive benefits of journaling; writing things out by hand improves memory, encourages deeper thinking and reflection, and keeps you from ending up in the deep recesses of your Facebook feed without remembering how you got there in the first place. (Personally, I found it highly motivating to spend an unnecessarily large amount of money on a fancy journal that makes me feel both scholarly and reflective, but a plain spiral notebook and a biro will do just fine.)
Make it a habit
But how? First and foremost, you need a consistent trigger that signals to your brain it’s time to write. Incorporate journaling into your morning and evening routines directly following a habit you already do every day. For me, my habit is morning meditations—and lord knows I’ll never forget to do that. I’ve used this pre-established habit to trigger a new one: sitting down with my journal. No matter how sleepy I feel. Keep your journal in the same spot where you’ll see it at the same time every day. The more consistent you can keep your journaling routine, the easier it will be to keep.
We don’t often take the time to sit down with our own thoughts. Writing a journal can feel self-indulgent or a waste of time. Resist the instinct to rush through it to get to the next thing, especially when life reaches its busiest. As we learned above, journaling can actually save you both time and stress by clearing your mind and clarifying your thoughts. Treat it as an investment in your productivity rather than a detractor from it.
Don’t make it sound good
Self-consciousness is the enemy of writing. Your journal doesn’t need to make good reading for you or for anyone else—the point is to get your thoughts on paper, not to create a masterpiece. Don’t edit; just write.
Make it useful for you
In this article, I’ve created a very broad view of what it means to journal: doing, really, any kind of personal writing. There’s no one way to do it correctly. You don’t even have to follow the same approach every day, although giving yourself some structure in what you write makes it easier to stick with the habit instead of getting overwhelmed with the possibilities. Experiment and find out which approaches work best for you.
METHODS TO TRY
The Gratitude Journal
One of the easiest and most impactful ways to start journaling is by simply writing about something that you’re grateful for. Make a note of unusual events. We tend to be more grateful about unexpected or surprising events. Don’t write in your gratitude journal every day. It might get boring. Writing a gratitude journal once per week is more likely to be beneficial.
The point is to put down whatever swirling thoughts you have on paper to start your morning with a clean slate, so to speak. Try writing three Morning Pages every day for a week. Track if you feel calmer or more productive on the days you write.
The Goal Journal
Don’t just write out your goals once and look them over every once in awhile—incorporate them into a daily journal. Here are some tips for making the most of your goals-based journaling practice:
Start with a list: Listing your goals or hopes is a quick, easy way to write down everything you’re working toward.
Looking to the future: It can be a list of things you want to accomplish in the next year, routines you want to start, or anything.
Looking to the past: Journaling is a great way to be reflective about what you’ve accomplished, not just eager for what’s coming up next.
What’s in your way: Sometimes you’re writing down your goals and can start thinking about the things that stand between you and them. With a journal, I suggest writing these things down, too, as parts of your life to be keeping track of.
Progress reports: Take time to write about the progress you’re making and the parts of your goals you’re getting to, not just whether you’ve taken care of the whole thing yet.
Intangible goals: Your journal can be a place to write down things you’re working on that don’t have outcomes, like working on your relationships with your friends, improving your confidence at work, and making time to reflect.
The Ideas Journal
We all come across interesting things and new ideas throughout the day. Some are useful and some aren’t, but it’s difficult to tell which is which in the moment. Keep a small notebook and pen with you wherever you go. Jot down those brief moments of inspiration or nagging thoughts you have as soon as you can; this will help get them out of your head so you can focus on more whatever you’re doing in the moment. In the evening, take 15 minutes to review what you’ve written throughout the day. Is there a thought or idea that strikes you as particularly interesting? Are any of the things you wrote related to one another? Do they connect back to other problems or ideas you’ve been mulling over? Take a page or two to further explore one idea or several related ones. Taking the time to reflect on our thoughts helps us draw deeper insights, discover new connections, and reach more creative solutions.
Here is video from one of my favorite people in the world, Adaure Achumba, on journaling.
You don’t have to be a writer, or a creative, or a new-age hippie to keep a journal. Whatever your goals are—to feel happier, manage stress, think more clearly, learn more deeply, or better align your daily actions with your values and goals—making time in your busy life to journal can help you get there. Just pick up a pen and start writing.
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