The Benefits of Keeping a Journal
A few years ago, I decided that writing in my journal every day was going to become a non-negotiable part of my daily routine. It was bringing me so many unexpected benefits, that I no longer wanted to view it as an "if I have time" sort of activity. Regardless of how busy my day is, I make sure that I spend at least 5 minutes getting my thoughts down onto paper, so that they're not left swimming around in my head.
In this blog post, I am going to share with you the personal benefits that I have experienced, along with some research about the benefits of keeping a journal.
Drawing a Line
Every evening, I like to jot down a few lines about my day, just summarising a few key points. I find that it helps me to draw a line under the work day and relax more comfortably into the evening. If it's been a good day, it's great taking a few moments to acknowledge my gratitude for things that went well. If it's not been so good, then I find it helpful to get it out of my system, onto paper, as this really helps me to move on, rather than worrying about things throughout the evening.
I like to reflect on how I have spent my time that day, whether it went to plan and what lessons I can learn to take into the next day. This helps me to be more productive and happy as I'm less likely to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. If I've not been happy during the day, I look at what caused this and think about what steps I can take to avoid those situations in future. Equally, if it's been a great day, I look for more opportunities to have the same type of experience again.
Planning out Big Goals
My journal is also the place where I write down all of my big life goals. Every dream and vision that I have for the future gets written down, explored and planned out. Before I started writing in my journal every day, I would find that my goals would somehow just pass me by. I was always too busy doing everything I had to do, without prioritising some of the things that I really wanted to do.
I find the simple act of writing in my journal, is one of the most relaxing periods of my day. I'm usually sat on the settee, with my journal on my lap, bringing my thoughts into focus. I make sure that I am away from digital distractions and give myself the time I need to unwind. If I have enough time, I will also get creative in my journal, by adding lettering, stamping, watercolour, or washi tape. This part of my routine always feels like a well needed treat at the end of a long day.
Recording Special Moments
One of my favourite ways to use my journal, is to record my favourite moments throughout the month. I keep these pages really simple, as I will have written more comprehensively about them on the day that they happened. Having a snapshot each month creates really lovely pages to look back through and provides a quick recap of all the best moments.
Sometimes, it can feel like I'm stuck in a bit of a rut, or haven't achieved as much as I had hoped. However, when I read back through my journal pages from 6 or 12 months ago, I am reminded of how far I have come. It really helps to put a tough week into perspective, as I can be reminded of my progress over a longer period of time, rather than just the moment that I am in.
Being creative is something that I find really helps me to express my feelings. Whether it's the colours I choose, a quote I handletter onto my page, or a simple illustration; they all tell a part of my story. The creative elements help to support my journal writing and broaden the story that I am able to tell on my pages.
Organise my Thoughts
When my mind is swimming with thoughts of unfunished tasks, exciting ideas and things that worry me, I empty it all out into my journal. It helps me to structure my thoughts, decide what is important and free up my mind to take a more analytical approach, rather than feeling swamped by everything at one time.
Research on the Benefits of Journaling
Along, with writing about the benefits that I personally feel through keeping a journal, I decided to do a little research into studies that have been carried out in this area. Other benefits that were highlighted are:
Journaling encourages you to explore language as you look for new ways to express yourself. An increased vocabulary has a positive correlation with intelligence
Keeping a journal is linked closely to Mindfulness as it enables you to deeply engage with your thoughts, whilst focusing on the present moment. The focus required to write in your journal helps you to concentrate and keep your mind on track
Writing goals down in your journal helps send a clear message to your brain that these things are important to you. This keeps you more focused and in tune with opportunities as they arise
Improved Emotional Intelligence: writing down your thoughts and emotions leads to increased self-awareness, which in turn helps you to build empathy with others. This can help strengthen your relationships and enables you to have a greater understanding of emotions that other people are feeling
There is a strong relationship between your brain and your hands. When you write things down, it helps to boost your memory, in a way that typing alone doesn't usually achieve
Forming a habit of writing in your journal every day helps to strengthen your self-discipline
By reliving positive experiences in your journal it can help to build your self-confidence, as you are reminded of moments that made you feel good about yourself
Positive Mental Health: keeping a journal has been proven to help with depression, anxiety and stress. Studies show that writing down your thoughts can help you to sleep and feel more relaxed, which can also have benefits for your physical health
"Opening Up by Writing it Down" by Dr James Pennebaker states that keeping a journal lowers depression and anxiety as it strengthens your immune cells called T-lymphocytes. Writing down your feelings enables you to express yourself and impose structure on anxious feelings, which reduces stress and it's physical impact on your body
When creating a new habit, such as daily journaling, I find it really helpful to have a strong reason for doing so. It helps to keep you motivated to carry on when you understand the benefits that keeping a journal can bring. Along with taking the time to eat healthily and do a little exercise, I think journaling is one of those key habits that brings us all sorts of health benefits that aren't always immediately obvious.
"I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear and my courage is reborn." - Anne Frank
I really hope you've enjoyed this blog post and it encourages you to continue with your own journaling journey.
I would love to know the biggest benefit that you have found from keeping a journal. Please do let me know in the comments section.
Happy journaling, Helen x