Journaling: 11 benefits of just a few lines a day
Chapter 24 from the CHANGE JOURNAL »
Since you're reading this blog, likely, you are already familiar with keeping a journal. This form of introspection may have inspired you years ago, or maybe you even tried it. Today, we read and write for various purposes and occasionally use different equipment. Like me, you probably take the time to scribble in a pretty notebook sometimes. But your schedule suddenly seems to tell you you don't have the time to do it more often. If this has been your experience, wait until you have read the following few paragraphs!
It is said that behavioral psychologists have concluded that "If you can analyze it, you are also able to change it." Try to google journaling, – and you will find various articles that glorify the healing power and the stress-reducing effect of keeping a journal ... or recommend doing so as the perfect tool to achieve a higher level of mindfulness towards oneself. Scientific studies have proven that journaling has significant benefits.
The act of writing is controlled by the left half of the human brain. That's because the left side is responsible for analytical thinking and rational decision-making. So, while this half of the brain is busy analyzing, the right side can use its resources to process creative, intuitive, and emotional inputs. Are you aware that writing eliminates mental blocks and enables you to use extra brain capacity to better understand yourself and others? While you write, your brain sorts out much additional information about you and your environment.
In each of the weekly reviews of the previous chapters, there were two simple and powerful questions to be answered before you moved on to the next chapter:
1. What did you learn (today / this week / this year)?
2. What are you grateful for?
As I explained in Chapter 2, you should answer these two questions only once a week. In most templates, you were also asked to write down your daily "highlights" and "lowlights".
Reviewing the latter allowed you to add changes to soon be able to overcome these disappointments. A journal is a great tool for letting your thoughts and feelings flow. This flow is often more crucial than the structure of your thoughts or a few particularly polished formulations. Remember: This is not a beauty contest! Your journal may be nearer to you than any exchange with your family or partner. Why? Because there is no past, no agenda, no rating. Your journal is a safe realm where you can formulate your deepest, most unadulterated thoughts, so don't even try to pimp or fake anything. Achieving that in itself is a job well done! ;)
Here are some more benefits of keeping a journal:
1) Collect your ideas
How many of your most fantastic ideas have you lost because you did not write them down in time? That's over now! Take notes or make sketches wherever you are. Do whatever helps you bundle them in one place, so you can have them at hand whenever you need them.
2) Become aware of your thoughts and feelings
Get to know yourself a little better! You will find out what makes you happy and content by making notes regularly. You will also become aware of situations and people that don't do you any good – which is especially important for finding your inner balance.
"A journal can get to know you better than any partner."
3) Document your victories
What did you learn? Who made you feel good and why? Where did you actually achieve something? In moments of sadness or anger, these memories will not only remind you of better times in your life. Still, they will also motivate you to develop new goals and plans.
4) Increase your mindfulness
Observe yourself as well as the world around you. Don't overlook all the little things that affect you. Many of these make you happy or sad. Jot down your introspections and celebrate whatever makes you happy, but don't overlook the necessity to think about solutions for existing "construction sites" occasionally.
5) Reduce your stress
Once you translate your anger, sadness, worry, and other painful feelings into words will immediately help reduce the intensity of these woes. You regain your inner balance, and it will be much easier for you to focus on the present.
6) Comedy = drama + time
Once in a while, we suffer. It could be due to loss, disappointment, or other occurrences. Sharing such experiences with your journal may be helpful. It might take time, but at some point, you can look back on the events and view them differently. What may have first seemed like theatrical chaos suddenly makes you smile. Try it!
7) Dream big
If you're still afraid that a journal would be just another load of unnecessary work on your shoulders, then pimp the fun factor! Make a note of some crazy ideas every now and then. Who said you aren't allowed to be a bit crazy or have thoughts that might seem freaky at first glance? Go ahead and dream big because that could spark other great ideas. Let your imagination run free!
8) Write a letter
Someone may have upset you. I mean, seriously upset you. Or you may begin to develop feelings for someone. A personal letter could help you better understand yourself and your feelings. Try to formulate your thoughts and feelings as accurately as possible. After waiting a few days, sometimes even hours later, you will reread this letter and rewrite it. Observe the changes that are going on inside you: Are your feelings unchanged, increasing in intensity, or fading? Although this exercise is meant to clarify things for you, it can sometimes make sense to take the risk and send the letter to the intended recipient!
9) Follow your goals
As described in Chapter 20, you can set specific goals for yourself. But remember to divide them into realistic sub-steps. Maybe this will motivate you:
Successful people like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks were all known to be avowed journal keepers. Even Prince had a little purple notebook in which he collected ideas for songs and movies. Isn't it amazing that these super-successful people found the time to keep a private journal in their tightly-scheduled lives? If you think about it – maybe they only became so successful in the first place because they treated their everyday thoughts and ideas with respect and didn't simply reject or forget them!
10) How to start
Most articles about keeping a journal try to convince you to begin by devoting 20 minutes to this task daily. Just reading something like that gives me cold feet and makes me want to forget about the whole thing. I have repeatedly stated this in various chapters: As with everything else, you can start the journal by taking tiny steps. So what if there is only one single line per day? If you want to establish a new routine, that's a pretty solid start – at least from my point of view. I can assure you that you will soon be so drawn into it that you will want to write one line, a second, and a third. But be careful not to increase your expectations too fast or to take too big steps. Initially, limit yourself to only one or two lines per day. You can still increase that later.
Let it flow whenever the mood hits you. But don't be disappointed if you aren't able to write more than two lines on the following day. This writing obsession can be developed from week to week. And if, at some point, you feel like it, then you can write for 20 minutes in one sitting. Look for a consistent spot to do that.
You might also choose a fixed time, but that's unimportant. The steady location will help you make it into a little ritual. Reserving a daily five-minute slot in your schedule for this task is also helpful. Everyone has their own trick to get motivated.
11) Use the Change Journal
Every idea in this Change Journal can be used in your own journal or notebook. Try them out! It is suitable if it feels right and meets your present needs – whatever chapters you select for your customized combination.
Now: Ready, set, fun!