Keeping a journal might seem like a custom reserved for the rich and famous. Great authors, artists, scientists and politicians write journals, but what if they became great because they keep a journal, and not the other way around? When you learn the benefits of journaling you’ll want to start – so here’s how.
There are many well documented benefits to journaling. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should give you a flavor of the life improvements you can expect to see when you start keeping a daily journal.
- Get to know yourself – what are you really feeling?
- Solve problems – get fresh insights on unresolved issues
- Capture your ideas – no more scraps of paper or relying on memory
- Increase thinking power – free your mind to do what it’s made for
- Reduce stress levels – letting go of pent-up feelings
- Improved health – less stress + more relaxation = good health
- Personal growth – reflect and learn from your successes and mistakes
So how do you actually go about keeping a journal? Fortunately there’s no great mystery; here it is in five simple steps:
1 Start with a small commitment
Don’t overdo it. When you really get into journaling you may find yourself writing for 20 or 30 minutes, even an hour a day. But don’t commit to this at the start. Start small.
Commit to 5-10 minutes a day, every day for 30 days. After 30 days review what you’ve written and make a decision about whether you want to continue. When you see the benefits you’ll likely make this a lifelong habit, but don’t start out thinking it has to be a forever thing – just feel your way into it.
2 Choose your favorite medium
There’s a lot to be said for writing, in pen or pencil, in a physical book. At some point you might want to treat yourself to a leather-bound journal and a quality pen.
If, however, you can’t stand writing, by all means type. There are plenty of software options to choose from, online and offline, even a Word or Google doc will do. The key is to record your thoughts in a way that works well for you.
3 Set a time for journaling
Set aside some time for your journaling, ideally at the same time each day. First thing in the morning or last thing at night work well, but during a lunch break or at the end of your working day could be good too.
Aim for consistency and find a time that works for you. Look to get 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing time and prioritize that time. Block it out in your schedule if you need to.
4 Set yourself a reminder
As with any new habit, it can be easy to forget at first. Make it easy for yourself by setting reminders. Put journaling time in your calendar and set an alarm on your phone.
If you plan to write at the end or beginning of the day, try leaving your journal on your pillow or bedside table as a physical reminder.
5 Take a moment to relax
Consider journaling as a form of meditation Take a few moments to relax and clear your mind to make way for whatever thoughts and feelings arise.
Notice how you feel and capture what comes up for you. Things that have been niggling you all day may come to the surface, you may have new ideas or fresh insights. Write it all down.
But what should I be writing?
Short answer: whatever comes up. The longer, and perhaps more useful answer is: whatever comes up! Honestly – nothing is off limits. It’s your journal and you can write what you want. See what flows.
Whether you rant about a perceived wrongdoing, despair about your current lifestyle, come up with a fresh insight on an old problem or an idea for a new product, or find yourself writing poetry – it’s all good. Write from the heart, follow streams of consciousness, empty your head – pour it all out. It’s the writing it down that’s key; if you’re writing then you can’t really get it wrong.
Journaling is just for you
Your journal should be private – for your eyes only. As such you should feel safe to write without censoring yourself. If feelings of anger or resentment come up, capture them, write them down – it may not be pretty, but it’s far better than holding onto resentments.
Don’t judge yourself for what you write – just observe with interest, and reflect. What can you learn? The answers, and benefits, may well surprise you!
What you should do now
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