Journaling (or keeping letters or diaries) is an ancient tradition that dates back to at least 10th century Japan, for good reason. Pen plus paper equals a powerful life tool for cultivating awareness, tracking transformation, and building a good relationship with oneself, others, and life itself. The benefits of journaling reach far beyond the page.
“What a comfort is this journal I tell myself to myself and throw the burden on my book and feel relieved.” – Anne Lister
12 Far-Reaching Benefits of Journaling
Through my own journaling practice I have discovered some seriously amazing benefits of putting pen to paper. I don’t record what I ate for breakfast that particular day (though food journaling is beneficial in its own right). More often than not, my journal reflects my blessings, positive changes, and random happy thoughts. Writing is my tool of expression, my healing balm, and my reflection pool.
Journaling is a healthy, safe way to explore the darkness and discover the light within. Here are a few positive impacts of the practice.
1. Increases clarity.
Writing promotes self-discovery and builds self-knowledge. Through journal writing you: identify your thoughts, feelings, and values; gain insight into behaviors and moods; and identify patterns and cycles. Essentially, you read your own mind. It’s beautiful how different aspects of yourself are revealed as you turn the pages.
2. Cultivates mindfulness.
There’s a strong connection between happiness and mindfulness. Journaling calls an often wandering mind to the present moment, the only place where you can tap into and change your thoughts. The past and future have no hold on you when you are fully immersed in the here and now.
3. Supports goals.
Journaling about your dreams and ambitions signals to your brain that they are important. When your brain deems something important, it seeks out supportive resources and relevant opportunities to achieve that goal.
4. Tracks growth.
As you look back on past journal entries, you are able to compare where you were then to where you are now. You have the chance to record your own life story, and to reflect on past celebrations, resolutions, and obstacles overcome. Seeing progress is a source of self-confidence, which brings me to my next point…
5. Boosts confidence.
Your journal becomes a story upon which you can reflect; it is a catalog of personal achievements, positive experiences, triumphs over negative experiences, and a testament to how far you’ve come. Make it a point to write down your goals, challenges, and victories–even the smallest ones make a big difference.
6. Strengthens self-discipline.
Setting aside time to write in your journal is a habit, and it take consistent, disciplined action to form a habit. Even better, forming a habit in one area of your life tends to have a ripple effect on your life as a whole. Daily journaling may be the spark of motivation that lights fires in other areas of your life, fueling more healthy habits.
7. Sparks creativity.
We are all creative. The problem isn’t whether or not we possess creativity, but whether or not we’re allowing it to flow. Writing helps release blocks that would keep us from expressing our natural creative selves. Writing without thinking–also known as “stream of consciousness” writing–lets your thoughts and ideas (that you never even knew existed) spill out onto the pages. Simply put, don’t think; just write.
8. Identifies negative thoughts.
Negative self-talk is a common thread in stress, anxiety, panic and depressive disorders. It is crucial that we are able to safely navigate the swirling sea of thoughts inside our head. Writing helps locate the negative thoughts that are floating around in there. By facing them and translating them into words we can purposefully work through them and with them, and move beyond them.
9. Shifts perspective.
A useful tool in the healing process, journal writing helps you to discover hidden lessons in challenging situations through reflection, contemplation, and release. You always have the power to change your mind, and writing empowers you to make that miraculous shift in perspective.
10. Promotes healing.
Expressive writing has been linked to improved immune function, lower anxiety and stress levels, and better sleep. By translating our experiences, we can untangle ourselves from the web of confusion that so often keeps us emotionally and psychologically bound to the trauma or drama.
11. Improves relationships.
Stewing in anger, bitterness, disappointment, guilt, and regret is damaging to our health. Journaling is a safe outlet for processing emotions and increasing self-awareness, which helps us to better understand ourselves and others. Writing our emotions can shine light on the bigger picture, leading to resolutions and deeper connections with others.
12. Boosts memory and comprehension.
The composition of thoughts and ideas causes the mind to compose or re-compose these ideas while journaling. In other words, when your hand engages in writing, your brain engages in cognitive recall. Your learning ability is strengthened and your memory improved. By writing about a subject, you understand it more fully and deeply.
Your journal is an all-accepting, non-judgmental friend and sometimes a really good therapy session.
The One Rule of Journaling
No fancy notebook is needed. The only requirement is that you actually write.
Journal in the morning, afternoon or night; pick any time when you feel most calm, relaxed, and/or focused. Experiment until you find the time of day that works best for you. I usually write in my journal before I go to bed, but the time varies depending on the particular season of my life.
Write as much as you want or as little as you want. Write for five minutes or write for an hour. There is no proper word count, and no magical length of time that unlocks the benefits of journaling. All that matters is that you do it.
How to Keep a Journal
Here are a few tips on journaling to help you maintain the good habit and improve your life, one entry at a time.
With consistency comes the need for patience, and we need to practice both of these qualities if we are to form any new habit and make it last.
Whether you’re an avid writer or you’re still a bit resistant to the idea, taking baby steps in the beginning is a solid piece of advice. For example, choose three days a week, setting aside five minutes each day to write. Build from three days of three sentences to a daily practice of half-page entries. Don’t give up, just give it your time–even if that’s five minutes every few days, it means you’re giving the habit a chance to stick.
The beauty of a journal lies in its privacy. You need not seek outside approval; you are the only one writing in and reading this journal. Grammatical errors are not judged. Messy handwriting happens. Write whatever flows through your pen that day, however serious or playful it needs to be. Your journal is the ultimate judgment-free zone.
With privacy comes truth. Be real, raw, and candid. You are not writing to impress anyone. You are writing to shed light on the truth, to release yourself from the need to be anything or anyone other than who you are. Write from the heart and let your words pour onto the paper before the ego has a chance to interrupt.
Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
If you identify negative thoughts or destructive behaviors through journaling, here is also where you can address them. Try writing in the third person and communicating to the thought. Introduce a positive thought or affirmation, a truthful statement, a reason why this negative thought isn’t true. Thank the negative thought for its contribution or lesson, and release it (visualize it floating away or sailing away–whatever helps–and write about it leaving). Invite the positive thought to make a home in your head in its place.
This is a habit that takes time to develop, but with enough practice you can learn to automatically identify, dispute, and replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
You may enjoy these 21 quotes about writing and life.
- Do you keep a journal, or love to write?
- Has writing in your journal helped you in any of the ways listed here, or in any other ways that you’d care to share?
Please share your thoughts, insights, lessons, and experiences and with me in the comments.
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Let the words inside your heart come out and speak.