When I was 12 years old my parents left me in the car as they went shopping for two hours and I had to entertain myself (yes, they could do that back then). I had purchased a small book with a horse on the cover assuming it was a book about horses. When I opened the book there were no words; the book was blank. This was my first introduction to journaling and I have been journaling at least once each month for the past 42 years. I define journaling as writing your original thoughts in a book, blog or online app at least 1 time per month. As opposed to a “diary” which is an accounting of your day to day events. Below is a list of benefits you can receive from journaling.
- You can sleep at night. Before I learned how to journal I had thoughts invade my brain. “What do I need to do tomorrow? What will I make for breakfast? How will I show up in the big meeting on Tuesday? Did I turn off the light in the TV room?” Now, I journal before bed and I write down all of my thoughts, worries, dreams, and strategies. This helps me delete the random thoughts so I can sleep.
- You don’t worry anymore. Recently, I realized that I don’t ever have to worry. I have always heard the mantra, “live in the present” but I just learned how to apply it to my life. I write what I am worried about in my journal then I go about my day. I let my journal worry for me and I take action to solve my issues. We worry about the past or the future. In the present we are living the problem so we are not worrying – we are living.
- You don’t hold a grudge. Many of my family members and friends that I know hold grudges. Someone made you upset so you just don’t talk to them or you talk about them – neither is a good strategy. I write about what made me upset and keep writing about it – I get my emotions out, then I strategize about what to do in that situation. Then I let it go once I have my plan of action.
- You can “remember” the past. Sometimes the past can be blurry. Most of us cannot remember what we ate for lunch yesterday. I have said to myself, “what was I thinking back then when I made that stupid decision?” Yes, I have gone back years in my journal to try not to make the same mistake again. This is indeed an excellent benefit.
- You remember great ideas. I keep a journal beside my bed because I get great ideas in the night. When your body sleeps your mind is still processing. I have learned how to ask for an answer to a problem that I have before I sleep and my mind will process the answer. This happened to me as I was writing my dissertation. I was fixated on the next step in my theory when at 2am – BOOM – the idea came to me. Fortunately, I had a journal handy and wrote down my idea – I found it in the morning and totally forgot that I was awake at 2am. It was almost as if someone else wrote the answer to my questions – in my handwriting.
- You feel better. According to Dr. Marty Seligman authentichappiness.com and Robert Emmons http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/author/Robert_Emmons being grateful – giving thanks – makes you happier. Keeping a gratitude journal where you would write 5 things you were thankful for not more than 3 times a week seems to be a key to being happier. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for the last 5 years and I am definitely happier after I write in the journal.
- You see answers to your prayers. I keep a prayer journal. I learned how to do this from my roommate in college. She told me to write the date of the prayer – the prayer – then the date it was answered across the top of the page. I have been doing this for over 30 years and I can see what my prayers were from the past and how they were answered. I am NOT saying that all prayers will be granted (like a genie) but I can see the date that they were answered.
- You won’t stress out. Have you ever been so upset and there is just no one to talk to about your issue or you don’t want to talk to anyone? When I am so upset that I can’t even talk to anyone I write and write and write. I get it all out. At times, I can’t even read what I wrote but that does not matter. I got “it” out onto the paper and out of my brain. This is wonderful “therapy” too.
- You won’t lose friends. Have you ever been so upset with someone you love that you told them without your filter? There is no way to take back what you say. If you write in a journal when you are upset with a friend, they don’t need to know what you think or write about them. I have done this many times. After my emotions are out then I can think logically and strategize about what to do and how to better communicate my issue with my friend.
- You will lose weight. Yes, even Weight Watchers(C) knows that if you write down everything you eat you will eat less. This strategy has been proven in many University and independent studies including WEB MD http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20080708/keeping-food-diary-helps-lose-weight
- It can help you write better and faster. They say that practice makes perfect. In the book, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell http://gladwell.com/outliers/the-10000-hour-rule/ he says that after 10,000 hours of practice you can be a “master”. The more you write, the better you get at writing. I have noticed that my thoughts come faster and I can type as I think. It is easier for me to sit down to write now than it was when I was in college. Words, thoughts, ideas just come to me faster because I have practice writing my ideas in a book for many years.
- You can be more positive. If you saw the movie with Queen Latifah https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Latifah called Last Holiday, you know that she kept a “possibilities journal”. Her journal had pictures of all of the things on her bucket list. I have a special journal where I write what I want to happen in the future. I have lists of things that I wish to happen in my life. This type of journal gives me hope that I can live a better life, that good things will happen – even if it just a story I tell myself. If find that I am much more positive after writing in my “possibilities journal”.
Now that you have these twelve benefits to journaling how do you get started? First, I would decide what type of journal that you wish to keep. I would suggest a general journal to start. Next, write your ideas, thoughts or emotions as the mood strikes you. There are no rules. Be creative with your journal or not. Now you can start to gain some of these benefits.
#journaling #self-awareness #happiness