FIVE BENEFITS TO JOURNALING
Throughout ancient history to modern times people have kept a journal. A journal is your private space that you can express your ideas, fears, hopes, and dreams. Unlike social media what is placed in your journal stays in your journal. There are many reasons to keep a journal. Some do because it helps them remember what they did that day. I know people who kept a journal only to record the food they ate. Other I knew kept a journal of the movies they watched or books they read. The purpose of your journal is entirely up to you.
But there are benefits in keeping a journal. When you write in your journal you are improving your intelligence, discipline, creativity, and reducing stress. It is the ultimate self help tool that requires only 10 minutes a day.
1. Improve your intelligence
When you write in your journal you are using different parts of the brain. Writing activates and accesses your left brain while the thought process and free flow of ideas activates and accesses the right side of your brain. Through studies and research have shown that the left side of the brain is the analytical portion and the right side is your creative side. When you are writing in your journal you are using both sides of the brain. This is helpful
because if you are writing about a problem that maybe analytical you are also accessing your creative side which would be providing input on a different angle to the problem. In a way you are using that old cliché “thinking outside the box” on the problem just by journaling about it.
But look at the genius’ throughout history. Thomas Edison for example was a prolific note taker. His diary contains five million pages. Edison would review his notes and entries about his past work. This helped him avoid projects that did not work in the past. In addition, by keeping his notes he could review his notes to recall what people have told him or even records of what he did on certain days. This not only became an aid to improve his memory but also it freed him the burden of remembering little details and focus on the big picture.
2. Improve self discipline
Just the action alone of setting aside time to write and writing is an act of discipline. But what you place in your notebook is accounting for yourself discipline. People record what they ate that day, people they met, projects they worked on, and exercise they completed. By taking the time either at the end of the day or beginning of the day you are noting your progress on a daily basis but holding yourself accountable. By noting the food you eat every day in your journal. You know you will be proud if all you write were fruits, vegetables, and healthy portions. Because you did this and felt good about it you are tracking those good days and likely commit to maintain those good days. But you will know also that you will be disappointed if you write pizza, beer, and soda in your journal at the end of the day. Even on the days of gluttony you will hold yourself accountable and work just as hard the next day not to make the same mistake. There are also a number of people who keep track of their exercise for the day. They note how many miles they ran, biked, or walked. Or what exercise they completed. Each day they write it in their journal they are adding those positive affirmations of achievements to their goal.
3. Improve your creativity
As I wrote about above when you are writing in your journal you are doing a creative task. A powerful tool in writing in your journal is to just write what comes to your mind. This writing what you are thinking is “stream of consciousness.” This unlocks your creativity by bringing out thoughts or feelings we did not know we had. By writing in this way you are letting lose all the junk in your head that was occupying your space.
When you journal you do so in private. This helps your creativity because you are able to experiment with new styles or ideas. You are doing so without someone able to criticize. By journaling you are able to break out the idea fully on paper in front of you before it is ever published to the outside world. You are able to make it yours and fully develop the idea. The best is if you later do not like the experiment you can stop it without anyone ever knowing you were working on it in the first place. This is very helpful because the people who are pretty successful are the ones who have had multiple ideas and projects and chose the ones that worked out the best.
4. Improve your writing
If you want to be a better swimmer you don’t grab a book and read about swimming. You actually go out and swim. The repetitive practice in any activity is a way to improve that activity. To improve your tennis game you practice playing tennis. You work on your serving and other drills to improve your game. You play practice matches focusing on certain aspects of your game all to improve your game. This is the same when it comes to writing. To be in expert in anything you devote time and practice to improve that skill. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwelll says to be an expert at something you must invest 10,000 hours in practice. By journaling and writing you are contributing to that 10,000 hours of practice to your writing. You want to improve your writing skills, you write more. The best way to keep a daily habit of writing is to include writing in your journal. To be able to express thoughts on paper is not something we are born with. It is a skill that is developed over time.
It is important to remember you are not writing in your journal to publish the journal. You are writing in your journal for several reasons. First, you are doing so to warm up your creativity. By placing pen on paper you are triggering your brain and hand to work together. To bring your thoughts onto paper. This helps warm up your mind to start putting what is up there down in a logical manner on paper. Second, along with warming up your mind you are thinking about what to write. This is what we described earlier on the creativity improvement that journaling provides. You are creating something on paper which was not on there before. You are placing your ideas on that paper creating a comprehensive project. Third, your writing creates a personal archive. Those ideas or little phrases or experiences you wrote down for later are all saved in your journal. You can come back to your journal over time and retrieve those snippets later. It is saved in one place and is easily retrievable. Because to be honest, if you have an idea and you tell yourself to remember it later without any notation or way to save it, it is likely that idea is lost forever.
5. Reduce Stress
Keeping a journal can reduce stress. The journal you keep is private. It is your private oasis where you can express yourself and complain about those around you without anyone knowing your complaints. It is an emotional release. It is a good way to clear your mind. In a study mentioned by the Michigan State University Extension spoke about how writing down your negative thoughts and then physically throwing the paper away could be a good way of clearing your mind. In this same paper the Extension discussed another study by the American Medical Association where patients with chronic illness wrote down their thoughts about stressful situations, they experienced later fewer physical symptoms compared to the patients that did not journal. In a study published in Psychotherapy Research stated that patients who wrote out their emotions experienced greater reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms and reported better progress compared to a control group.
Plus it is a good outlet to let off some steam or express frustrations. We all heard of the story about Abraham Lincoln’s unsent letter to General Meade. During the middle of the Civil War in 1863, General George Meade defeated the Southern Army at the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead of pursuing the Southern Army and defeating it wholly and ending the bloodiest war in the United States that divided the country. Instead General Meade did not advance and the Southern Army escaped and lived to fight a few more years. Abraham Lincoln knew that the General made a huge mistake which cost countless more lives of young men in the war. Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter to the General telling him he will be relieved of his command and expressed his disappointment with the General. This letter was never sent to General Meade. Instead a different letter was expressing the sadness in the loss of life and how traumatic it must be for the General to see it that way. What this story tells us that when we express our frustration out in writing we put that frustration on paper. This makes us feel better. So much so that when it comes time to tell the person that anger we felt inside has already been expressed. So as a result our conversation is more tempered and diplomatic. Really what happen then are we self healed ourselves.
We write about five main ways writing in our journal can help us. There are many more than five. But to improve our intelligence, self-discipline, creativity, writing and to reduce stress are very good reasons to start in that journal. Plus through your writings you will find out a lot about yourself. You take the time every day to express what happened that day you will find out where you spend your money and your time. You will find out if those devotions are working out for you or you need to change those devotions or if they are positive to keep with them. If you find out that you are writing frustrations about the same thing on a daily basis you will be informed to make a wise decision to leave that situation or make changes. Through your writing you can find out a lot and maybe that winning million-dollar idea comes across on paper and changes your life forever.