Before you dismiss of journaling habit as something only the intelligent ones or the creative ones do, let me tell you something:
Journaling can be for everyone.
Great men like Benjamin Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and many more, had journals.
So what is the relation between writing journals and becoming great?
It’s not that simply writing in a journal can make you great. It is how you use it, makes the difference.
If you think you don’t know what to write in a journal or don’t know how to start, let me help.
Here are some of the things you can write in a journal (or 10 benefits of journal writing)
1.Record daily insights that touch you
As humans we have an average of 60-65k thoughts per day. Among them there might be some wonderful thoughts, ideas and life lessons that we learn from our experiences on a daily basis.
You can record them in your journal. We grow as a person when we learn from our lessons. Recording them on your journal helps you to remember them more.
Another benefit, journaling sometimes gives you interesting revelations about yourself which you wouldn’t have normally thought about.
2. Write about your goals and record progress
Instead of simply writing about your days, you can also use journaling to keep track of your life. It helps in planning your life as you want it to be.
You can have a goal tracker or a habit tracker drawn (or dedicate a separate section for it). And at the end of each day, evaluate how much you did accomplish.
As the saying goes,
What gets measured, gets done.”
It helps in not losing your focus on your goals, and acts as a reminder why you want to achieve a certain goal. When you write down your goals, you are committing yourself to do it. It reminds your brain that this is important for you and thus your brain causes you to notice more opportunities which help in achieving them.
Having a written plan in your journal will help you kick procrastination habit and bring more order in your life by getting things done.
3. Write about your desires
As humans, we all spend some time wishing about future; the list of things we want to do, or want to have.
It can be about ideas for expanding business, the kind of body you want to have, the places you want to go, the activities you want to check off your bucket list, the new dish you want to make etc.
A journal is a great place to jot down all these. Research has proved that what we write down we retain more. Thus, there are more chances of taking action. And you definitely want to have those wonderful experiences, right?
4. Lessons from your past experiences
Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.
Your journal is a little window to your past.
Looking back you have those memories to smile or cry or learn.
It also helps in analyzing your growth as a person. Like what made you upset years ago doesn’t even have a place in your life right now or you realize you cried over trivial things. Such things make you realize how important it is to spend your time more wisely. And manage your emotions in a new light.
You can also write about daily events, not necessarily daily, but the memorable events of your day. The ones you would like to revisit later in life.
5. A tool to release pent-up emotions
Today we have all kinds of journals planners and apps to help us do our tasks, but we are distracted more than ever because of the temptation to give in to the social media notifications. This virtual escape does not help in dealing with our thoughts and problems.
When we get overwhelmed due to our circling thoughts, we try to numb our minds with social media. It has become a new medium for relaxation.
But time spent on social media doesn’t always relax our minds and give focus. It gives only distraction.
We should rely on a medium that helps us channel our thoughts onto a focused solution. You can dump your thoughts in a journal, or you can just use it for brainstorming. It helps us to clear our minds, relax and take better decisions.
When my mind is overwhelmed with difficult emotions, I do freewriting in my journal (more on this in a moment). And I write about how to solve it, how I should approach this problem and how I should improve myself so that this doesn’t occur again (being proactive). Trust me, it is super comforting. I learn about myself more on these journaling sessions and I get actionable tips for self-improvement.
It’s like having a personal therapist.
6. Organize your thoughts
You can create separate sections in your journal for each area of your life. Because to evolve as a person and be a better version of yourself, you need to grow in all aspects of life. A journal is a tool where you can plan to improve.
In my journal, I write about making improvements in career, relationships, parenting, spirituality, health, exercise etc.
I have goals for each part of my life. And it will blow me away if I were to keep all those aspirations in my mind. If it is on my journal, I know I am going to do something about it (and I do!)
You can even have different journals for different subjects but I recommend using one(or two) for everything as you can take it everywhere.
After all, after a while you will find that your journal turns out to be your constant companion who agrees to whatever you say, be with you in everything, gives you feedback and guards your secrets like a loyal friend.
7. Write about what you are grateful for today
I cannot stress enough how important and powerful gratitude is. I first found out about it from Rhonda Byrne’s famous book “The Secret” two years ago. There are people who scorn Law of Attraction. Even I don’t believe in sitting at one place “wishing” for things to happen and hope that a magical genie would come fulfill my desires. No! You have to move your butt and work for it. And then expect the results.
But feeling gratitude daily has changed my life. I used to be a pessimist and would spend my days thinking about ‘lack of things’. The downside of it is, I failed to notice the good things happening in life. But when I started practicing gratitude, I found out I have more things to be happy of, than things to worry about.
Gratitude makes me ponder about the blessings I have and I never let my mind to drown in disappointing thoughts which drain the positive energy out of my day. Gratitude makes me see the good side of life, even in the most difficult circumstances.
It has really changed my life. I am happier, became more optimistic and I find more blessings come around.
For all those who want to know more about the power of gratitude, I highly recommend the book ‘The Secret’.
You can buy the audio version here from Audible.com. (You’ll get it free along with another book, if you sign up for a free 30 day trial.)
8. Increases self discipline
Self discipline is one quality you should develop if you want to succeed in life. Successful people have one quality: they do their tasks even if they want to or not.
We all have days on which we would like to stop the alarm, pull the covers and sleep more. But showing up daily, no matter what, is what going to help you create the life you want.
With journaling habit, you are creating a habit where you are expected to show up. And self discipline is a muscle which grows as you flex it more and more.
9. It helps in healing your emotional wounds
Writing is therapeutic. It also helps you to tap into your intuitions to get answers.
It is an outlet to let flow even the most difficult and painful experiences or feelings, that you might not want to tell anyone. (Though I recommend getting an expert help if there is something you can’t solve yourself). It helps in confronting the situation and finding a way out.
You get to listen to your thoughts and feelings and express them rather than creating a storm in your head going in circles.
It is powerful because when we let our feelings out, we get more emotional clarity.
10. It helps in problem solving
Too often, we struggle to take action because of our fears and self doubt.
In the primitive age, our body would produce fear to protect us from external danger ( like wild animals ). The truth is, still today, our brain triggers fear when we are about to step into the unknown. But we get engulfed in our fears without realizing there is no such potential danger.
Often we choose to stay in the safe zone, even if it doesn’t give us the happiness we deserve. We choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
But, a journal could help you in fighting your fears. And control the fear which is affecting the quality of your life.
How is it possible?
Tim ferris, a bestselling author and blogger, teaches an exercise called “fear-setting”, in his book Tools of Titans. He says, fear setting helped him in overcoming difficult fears in life. Here is an article to learn more about fear-setting.
And also watch Tim’s TED talk(2017) on it, here.
You need not do this exercise in a journal. You can do it in a piece of paper too. But, a journal is going to be with you always and you can always refer back to it when needed.
Finally, there you are.
You have 10 reasons to start journaling today. Grab a book and start writing. If you are still unsure about what to write, you can try freewriting in the beginning.
Freewriting means writing whatever comes to your mind for a set period of time, without regard to spelling or grammar.
Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Write what you are thinking right now, even if it sounds stupid. Write even if you don’t get anything to write. It can go like this.
I don’t know what to write about. Nothing comes to my mind. Right now, I’m freewriting. I think this will help me in putting my thoughts onto paper. I bought a journal. In it I will write about …….
You see often it will give you ideas that you might have not got if you stayed in your mental chatter. Freewriting is usually used to warm up writing routine when you face writer’s block. You don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or any error here. Neither should you stop to read what you wrote. Do not lose contact of your pen with paper.
I’d like to hear about your journaling habit . How has it helped you in other areas of life?