Over the past decade, the power of journaling regularly has been well-documented.
Author-entrepreneur Tim Ferriss once referred to journaling as the “deloading phase” of his daily life saying, “I use it as a tool to clarify my thinking and goals, much as Kevin Kelly (one of my favorite humans) does. The paper is like a photography darkroom for my mind.”
And Hal Elrod, author of the hit bestseller The Miracle Morning said:
Writing in a journal each day, with a structured, strategic process allows you to direct your focus to what you did accomplish, what you’re grateful for, and what you’re committed to doing better tomorrow. Thus, you more deeply enjoy your journey each day, feel good about any forward progress you made, and use a heightened level of clarity to accelerate your results,
If you’ve been thinking about starting up the journal habit, or just want to try it out, have no fear. Read on for everything you need to know about the benefits of journaling along with our best tips for starting your own powerful journal habit.
If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal.
– Jim Rohn
The benefits of journaling
The benefits of journaling are broad: A regular journal practice can help you reduce stress and work through difficult emotions.
The benefits of journaling include:
- Reduce stress
- Collect and clarify your thoughts and feelings
- Become a self-expert, allowing you to uncover what makes you happy, what drives you, and how to navigate your feelings and behavior most effectively
- Work through difficult emotions such as sadness and anger, reducing the intensity of said emotions and calming yourself
- Solve problems through critical thinking and right-brain reflection (we often try to solve problems with the left-brain, but sometimes the right-brain is what is needed)
- Realize forgiveness, resolve disagreements (at least from your end), and cultivate understanding and compassion for others
- Stay accountable to your goals and track improvement, improving your ability to stick to your long-term goals
Impressive list, huh? Keep in mind that, to some degree, these benefits all depend on how you decide to journal. Plus, there are other additional benefits that more specific forms of journaling offer which aren’t even mentioned here (but we’ll touch on a bit later).
Tips for journaling effectively
Journaling isn’t exactly a science, however, there are certain practices that are important to keep in mind to get the most from the practice.
According to expressive writing expert Dr. James Pennebaker, follow these rules to get the best results from writing:
- Forget about grammar and spelling: Just get your thoughts and feelings out on the page. If it’s legible and you can understand it, you’ve succeeded.
- Be yourself: Write honestly and authentically, holding back nothing and expressing yourself clearly. A journal is a place of solace, somewhere that you can open up without worry of what others might think of you, so go wild.
- Write by hand: This improves memory recall. You could even consider writing in cursive to speed up your handwriting speed.
Journaling is most effective in short bursts of no more than 20 minutes, so it’s an easy habit to keep up. Plus, when you start out, try to keep it to no more than 10 minutes so you reduce resistance to the task and are more likely to develop the habit.
If you’ve got your pen in hand but still aren’t quite sure where to go from here, this section is for you.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that there are no rules in journaling. Just do what comes most naturally to you and then iterate over time, finding something that works for you.
Here are a few methods for getting started:
1. Free writing
Free writing is what I just touched on and it’s what I suggest starting with. Don’t establish any sort of rules upfront, just be free and write whatever comes to mind. Being able to openly express your feelings and what is going on in your life right now is one of the greatest benefits of journaling and free writing is what this helps best with.
A gratitude journal has a lot of great benefits, benefits we didn’t even cover here like making you happier and more compassionate. List out three things you’re grateful for, just whatever comes to mind at the time.
A positivity journal is another rather specific form of journaling that is all about cultivating optimism. For this method, list out three good things that happened today, from scoring a new job or a big new client all the way down to the small things like getting a great big hug from your daughter.
There is no best form of journaling because each has its own unique benefits, however, I’d suggest that free writing be the cornerstone of your journaling habit at all times. From there, you can add other writing habits such as gratitude or positivity on top of that. For example, ten minutes of free writing and ten minutes of gratitude might be what you settle on over time.
Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to keep the habit up, so take some time to learn how to most effectively establish new habits and stick to them. If you do that, journaling can become an incredible friend and confidant that allows you to cool off, focus in, and reflect on your life in a significant way.