Journaling is like a best friend that I can tell anything to. A friend who just listens as I share my unedited self. An outlet for me to process my experiences, thoughts and emotions. A place I can retreat to when I need to get through challenging times. It even serves as a source for my creative ideas.
The notion of journaling might bring up images of teenage girls gushing into a padlocked diary. Or perhaps journaling seems like a good idea, but you haven’t gotten around to doing it yet. Whether you’re someone who thinks journaling is unnecessary or you think you ‘should’ journal, but just haven’t started, developing a regular journaling ritual can change your life and it’s easy to get started!
Some of the most prominent figures in history like Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Leonardo da Vinci kept journals. Modern day figures like Oprah, Barack Obama, and Richard Branson are also regular journalers.
Clearly they were onto something! But that’s not the only reason to pick up journaling. Hundreds of studies have uncovered a host of benefits from journaling regardless of your age, occupation or demographic.
The benefits of journaling are abundant.
- Strengthens Immune System.
- Expressive writing improves your immune system functioning and helps you heal faster by lowering your cortisol levels and strengthening your T-lymphocytes immune cells.
- Helps You Process Experiences.
- Journaling is a safe space to share your thoughts, feelings, dreams, hopes, desires, fears, anxieties and insecurities without judgement. By writing about your life experiences, you’re better able to organize events in your life, make more sense of situations, and cope and heal from them.
- Reduces Stress.
- The physical act of writing and emotional release from self expression has a calming effect. From a calm state, you’reable to gain new perspective on your anxious feelings and worries and even ideate on solutions rather than ruminate on your stressors.
- Sharpens Your Memory.
- The hand-brain coordination required to write stimulates the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which brings whatever events, thoughts, and feelings you journal about to the forefront. This tells your brain that what you’re writing about is important and helps to ‘seal’ them into your memory. This process also increases your working memory capacity!
- Supports You in Achieving Your Goals.
- The act of writing down your goals prompts your brain to recognize that it is important. Your journal can also serve as a place to jot down your plan, identify obstacles and keep track of the small successes you might normally dismiss. This keeps you motivated as you refer back and can see the progress you’re making.
- Improves Your Mood.
- Writing about your feelings helps you express your emotions rather than keep them bottled up. This shifts you from feelings of fear and upset to happiness and high spirits.
- Cultivates Mindfulness.
- The act of journaling requires you to slow down and be present with what you’re writing. This leads to a greater capacity for mindfulness even when you’re not journaling.
- Helps You Better Understand Yourself.
- Journaling is a powerful tool for getting in touch with your inner wisdom and gaining more clarity about who you are and what really matters. As you track your thoughts and emotions, your words will reveal a clearer picture of who you are, where you’re at and what direction you want to go.
- Boosts Creativity.
- The act of writing is a creative process that engages the right brain. Increased neural activity on this side of your brain will unlock a greater capacity to think in different ways.
Journaling can be easy and fun!
Starting a new practice might feel daunting. Perhaps the notion of sustaining it seems challenging. But it doesn’t have to be so hard! Here are a few tips to start and sustain a journaling ritual.
Tip #1: Start Small. Write at a frequency that works for you.
Writing often is important, but you can start with small steps. Aim for five minutes a day a few times a week. Or try writing one line each time you journal. You don’t have to write pages for hours. And go easy with any self-judgement if you miss a day here or there.
Tip #2: Write in your own style. Forget about rules of spelling and grammar.
There is no right or wrong to journaling. Use journaling as a place to express yourself in your own personal style. Don’t worry about how it’s written or what it sounds like. You don’t have to write like Shakespeare!
Tip #3: Hand write (if possible).
Hand writing in your journal offers a host of benefits, beyond giving you time away from your devices. But if hand written journals don’t work for you, try a digital journal. What matters most is that you build a sustainable habit.
Tip #4: Use journal prompts that resonate with you.
Google “journal prompts” and you’ll have hundreds of journal prompt ideas at your fingertips. Select prompts that resonate with you. It’ll be harder to sustain journaling, if the prompts don’t echo who you are.
Tip #5: Create a relaxing routine around journaling.
The more you can enjoy your journaling routine, the more likely you’ll keep it up. Consider journaling in the morning with your favorite coffee or in the evening with a warm cup of tea. You can also turn on your favorite playlist or light some candles. Create a space that feels like a treat for you.
Tip #6: Stack it with an existing habit.
New habits can be challenging to maintain. Stacking with an existing routine or habit makes it easier. Consider stacking journaling into your morning routine as you wait for your coffee to be prepared. Or keep your journal with the book you read in the evenings so you can journal before you read.
Tip #7: Try bullet journaling or even drawing.
Who said journaling has to be in paragraphs? Use bullets if it feels more natural for you. Journaling also doesn’t have to just be words. So doodle away and express yourself through drawing.
Tip #8: Schedule it in.
If you’re someone that lives by a calendar, scheduling journal time into your calendar will help you stay committed.
Tip #9: Experiment to figure out what works best for you.
Try different ways of journaling to see what sticks. Whether that’s different journal prompts, writing at different times of the day or journaling in different locations and settings. If you fall out of the habit, assess what works and what doesn’t, then try again.
Stuck with what to journal about? Here are a few prompts to get you started.
- Where are you in your life right now with relationships, growth, career, living situation? Are you where you want to be?
- Journal about something or someone that is important to you.
- What are five things you’re most grateful for?
- Write yourself a love letter from your inner confidence on all the reasons that you are awesome.
- What is your proudest achievement?
- Try stream-of-consciousness writing for 5-10 minutes on your current thoughts and emotions around a current challenge you’re struggling with. Perhaps ideate on possible solutions.
- Write to a younger you. What would you tell him or her?
At the end of the day, journaling needs to be fun!
If it’s not fun, you won’t want to do it. Journaling should not be hard work or a chore you have to check off your ‘to-do’ list. Whether it’s investing in a nice pen or settling in a favorite chair for journaling, the little luxuries will make writing time something you look forward to.
And as you develop this ritual, you’ll cultivate a greater sense of self and clarity on the life you want. Journaling will change your life!