My experience has made me an unabashed proponent of journaling. I strongly recommend it to you.
So, what exactly is a journal and why should you write one?
A journal is a periodic, usually daily, record of information which often includes such things as experiences, thoughts and future plans. However, what you write in your journal is entirely up to you, and journal contents vary from person to person.
Before I explain how I have benefited and how I think you can benefit from keeping a journal, let’s look at reasons why people do not write a journal.
Reasons Why People Do Not Write A Journal
These are some of the most common reasons why people do not keep a journal:
- “Writing in a diary is for kids.”
- ”I don’t have anything to write.”
- “I’m not a good writer.”
- ”I don’t have the time.”
- “That’s the last thing I need, another daily obligation.”
- “I don’t see how it would benefit me.”
- “It’s sissy to write in a ‘diary’ about my ‘feelings.’”
Do any of those sound like you?
I didn’t start journaling earlier because I subscribed to the no-time and no-benefit schools of thought. In short, I didn’t see any reason why I should bother.
Here’s what I have learned . . .
Benefits of Writing In A Journal
These are the top 15 benefits I have experienced from writing in my journal every day, any one of which would be enough reason to continue.
1. It helps me remember things.
As I recently told my wife, whatshername, my memory is not as sharp as it once was. So I record information to preserve it.
2. It keeps me organized and focused.
My journal is where I post and keep track of my goals and where I monitor my progress toward achieving those goals.
3. It makes me accountable – to myself.
If I write in my journal that I’m going to do something, it’s like a written promise to myself. I have to prove to myself every day that I can consistently act on my commitments to others and to myself.
4. It’s a way to have a degree of immortality.
As I write my life story — essentially, that’s what a journal is — I am aware that my thoughts and ideas will live after me, instead of dying with me, simply because I recorded them. That’s a pretty cool thought.
5. It helps me be self-reflective.
By that, I mean that it organizes my thinking about myself, the world around me and my role in it.
6. It makes me more thoughtful.
Regular journaling forces me to look for the lessons of daily living. Generally, it makes me think more. And that’s never a bad thing!
7. It improves my writing.
The best way – by far – to learn to write better is to write. I thought I was a decent writer before I started writing in my journal, but I have seen dramatic improvement over the last year which I attribute to consistent journal writing.
8. It is a place where I record my ideas.
We all have them. Those brilliant ideas and insights that we mull for a few moments and then, in most cases, forget. Now, I’m more likely to record these gems for further consideration. (Of course some of these “thought diamonds” turn out to be cubic zirconia, but that’s ok, too.)
9. It’s a great place to work out problems.
Writing about your problems forces you to come to grips with them and leads to solutions.
10. It’s a great place to record my successes.
This is the flip side of working out problems. We all have successes, large and small. Now I write them down and savor them. It feels good.
11. I can measure my development over time.
Even in just one year, I can see great personal growth and development which I attribute to recording my goals and being accountable for taking regular, daily action to achieve them.
12. Writing in my journal is great way to reduce stress.
I feel better when I get it out, whatever “it” may be at that moment. In fact, there is a great deal of scientific research that validates my experience. Writing about problems is a recognized and valuable therapy technique. There is other research which shows that writing a journal improves your physical well-being, too.
13. I can sort out my feelings.
I don’t know if it’s a male thing or my particular personality, but I don’t spend a great deal of time ruminating about my feelings. I’m more focused on taking action and accomplishing things. However, there are times when writing to myself about my feelings, such as after my mother’s death, has been invaluable.
14. I record significant events in my life.
I want to remember things like when my children or other family members achieved various milestones, when loved ones died, when I had major business or personal accomplishments and what I was thinking at the time.
15. It’s a great place to keep track of the things I am grateful for.
A large body of recent research has shown that people who are more grateful have higher levels of well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.
Closing Thoughts About Journals
In my next post, I will explain what things I record in my journal and how I structure it. I’m not suggesting that my journaling system is anything more than what works for me, but seeing an example might help you.
In the future, I intend to write about such journaling topics as:
- Which format should you use for your journal, paper or electronic?
- Should you review your journal; and, if so, how often?
- How much time should you spend writing in your journal?
- What are the best ways to make your journal searchable?
- What are some common journal topics?
One more thing . . .
The idea of maintaining a daily journal forever is overwhelming. So don’t initially commit to forever. On the other hand, it takes a little time for the habit to be established and the benefits to be clear. My suggestion, therefore, is that you commit to a 30 day trial. Then evaluate and decide whether the benefits are worth the time.