What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about journaling?
Is it the fascinating world of Pinterest-worthy creations where each notebook represents a unique work of art? Does it take you back to your teen years when keeping a diary was a way to document your life? Maybe the idea is more practical, thanks to the rising popularity of organizational systems like Bullet Journaling.
Whichever of these things you associate with the word journaling, you are absolutely in the right. There’s nothing as versatile as a blank notebook or an empty document page in your favorite note-taking app.
What most people don’t understand, though, is that journaling isn’t just a form of self-expression, personal historiography, or super-productive organization. It can also be a beneficial daily habit that can help you gain more control over your life.
So, if you’ve been toying with the idea of starting a journal but still aren’t convinced, here are the following top reasons to get to it this year.
1. Collect Your Thoughts
If we look to the most traditional form of journaling, we will inevitably think of keeping a diary. Historically, these records have been around for centuries. From the ancient Egyptians, people have always had an inherent need to record the events and happenings in their lives. Journaling changed from being a historiographic method into a way to express one’s thoughts, feelings, opinions.
And consider how effective putting thoughts to paper is at defining opinions, pinpointing emotions, and helping us make sense of external experiences. It should come as no surprise that journaling is such a great way to achieve a state of mindfulness. By turning the gaze inwards and allowing ourselves to express our innermost thoughts, we’re conducting a form of self-care.
Doing a bit of mental cleaning up, ridding ourselves of overwhelming reflections, and freeing up cognitive power to focus on the things that matter the most. So, if you’re looking for some clarity in life, starting a journal might just be the perfect way to achieve it.
Pro Tip: If you’re unsure how to start journaling, make it into a daily 10-minute task. You can go freeform or you can also use a pre-made template.
2. Keep Track of Your Life
Starting a journal doesn’t have to mean keeping a diary. After all, there are a million ways to use a blank notebook. And, while you may not be interested in expressing your opinions and feelings about your daily happenings, you might benefit from keeping tabs on what’s going on. For a lot of people, journals are simply trackers.
My own journaling journey started with needing a system to track my wellbeing. As I was experiencing sleep issues, I decided to create a method that would help me identify potential disruptors. After about a month of collecting data, the results were unanimous: my ability to fall asleep was directly related to my work hours. The longer into the afternoon I worked, the more difficult I found it to rest during the night.
Without keeping a journal, I don’t think I would have gotten to the root of my problem. Nor would I have realized just how often I ordered take-out or re-watched my favorite Friends episodes. As they say, you learn as long as you live!
Pro Tip: If you’re a fan of digital solutions, there’s a great app that combines long-form journaling and habit tracking called Tangerine. It allows you to set reminders for all the journaling actions you want to complete during the day.
3. Set Goals & Go After Them
Are you looking to invest in your personal growth, start a business, or check off items on your bucket list? Perhaps you’re just searching for a system that’ll help you get through the day’s assignments with a bit more ease? Or, you might be on to the next brilliant idea and need a space to work it out?
Most people’s project management skills come down to preparing mental notes. Unfortunately, these can easily get lost when there are many tasks to finish or urgent matters to attend to. But, writing them down makes for an excellent way to keep a hold of the day’s obligations. To make the absolute most of your notebook when chasing your goals, break up your tasks into actionable items.
Pro Tip: Learn how to set EPIC goals. Essentially, the practice refers to a better way of defining short-term and long-term objectives. E.P.I.C. goals are elevating, practical, impactful, and clear.
4. Boost Productivity
Most people want to become more efficient at what they do. With limited time resources and an ever-expanding list of obligations, we’re all chasing productivity in one way or another. There are several ways in which keeping a journal can help you become more productive.
For one, if you’re using it to define your goals, it automatically becomes a behavior training tool. Seeing that checking off an item on a list gives us a sense of accomplishment. Regularly doing so can help us learn to prioritize that positive feeling over the pull of procrastination.
Secondly, journals often come with some form of a planning template. Or, even if you’re using a blank notebook, you can make one for yourself. Having a visual representation of your calendar and responsibilities can give you a better sense of how much time you have on your hands.
Pro Tip: If your main reason for journaling is to improve your productivity, you can do your journaling in a pre-made planner notebook. Alternatively, if you’re the visual type, you can purchase a large wall/desk calendar and do all your writing and task-setting right on its pages.
5. Relieve Stress & Anxiety
Did you know that keeping a diary is an excellent way to improve and nurture your mental health? The benefits of expressive writing have been known for quite some time now.
In the 1990s, psychologist James W. Pennebaker conducted a series of studies to look at how writing or verbal disclosure impacted mental health. Working with both undergrad students and Holocaust survivors, his team concluded that putting experiences into words on paper reduces stress and anxiety, improves mood, and boosts immunity.
Nowadays, journaling has become standard practice in psychological treatment. It’s used with trauma survivors, is often prescribed by therapists, and is even the subject of studies that look beyond event documentation and study the impact of creative or gratitude writing.
But the thing is, you don’t have to wait until you feel unwell to start problem solving. Keeping a journal may be one of the simplest ways to take care of your emotional wellbeing.
Pro Tip: If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or are currently dealing with a lot, journaling might be a good start. You don’t necessarily have to get to the big things bothering you. But, allowing yourself to express your thoughts and feelings can help you work through them. The secret lies in the act of organizing a narrative that can help understand and structure triggering events.
6. Become a Better Writer
Finally, it’s worth remembering that regularly doing something involves building the skill needed to complete the action. This means that writing every day helps you become a better writer.
It’s a valuable craft no matter your profession. Even if your work doesn’t include a lot of writing, you could improve the way you present information and ideas.
Pro Tip: When getting started, your journal doesn’t have to resemble something penned by Oscar Wilde. In fact, you don’t even have to write in full sentences. However, as time progresses, you’ll become more comfortable expressing yourself on paper, ultimately helping you become that much better at conveying your ideas.
There you have it, six excellent reasons to pick up a pen and notebook and start giving journaling a go. As you can see, the practice of keeping a diary can be anything you make it. So don’t be afraid to color outside the lines and experiment with systems, formats, and schedules.
Remember, the best way to benefit from journaling is to do it regularly. So block out 5-10 minutes every day to keep up with the habit, and you’ll find that in no time, it’ll become a valuable part of your everyday routine.