Journaling seems to be one of those things that impressive, successful, serious people do. And me.
I’ve tried to start journaling probably seven or eight times in my adult life, but never with any lasting success. This time, though, I’ve managed to stick with it for three months, and journaling has delivered some major benefits (and some minor ones, too—like the fact that it’s kinda fun to carry a Moleskine around and maintain a little analog-only zone in our increasingly digital lives).
For your consideration, then, are four reasons to consider adding regular journaling to your own life.
1. Journaling fills an important gap in your personal records
While there are many ways to use a journal, I use mine for three main purposes:
- Creating each day’s schedule
- Collecting any and all ideas for GTD processing
- Plain ol’ self-reflection
Let’s talk about #3: self-reflection.
You probably keep a calendar of some kind—perhaps an electronic one. It likely takes just a few seconds for you look back at last March 15th and see where you went and what you did.
But what about how you felt? Unless you’re keeping a journal, it’s nearly impossible.
Reading through past journal entries is illuminating. You relive ups and downs, you see what excited and scared you, and you notice yourself overreacting and under-reacting (mostly overreacting, in my case).
More than anything else, reading past journal entries helps you keep today’s events in perspective. That’s a crucial skill.
2. Journaling helps us work through difficult events and emotions
Journaling as self-help?
When I started keeping a journal, I was skeptical of this much-touted benefit. So you can imagine my surprise when I experienced the therapeutic effects of journaling first-hand.
A couple months ago, I applied for an interesting job that came along. I was happy with my interview, but I didn’t land the position.
I was disappointed. Certainly not crushed, but definitely a little bummed. So I journaled about it—sat down and wrote out a few sentences about how I felt and what lessons I’d take from the experience.
You wouldn’t believe how much better I felt.
In addition to helping us work through difficulty, journaling helps us articulate complex emotions more effectively. Describing how we feel is harder than it sounds, but it’s good practice. And the more we do it, the better we get.
3. Journaling promotes objective thinking
One of the greatest challenges in life is learning to see things as they really are, and working through a problem on paper is great for this.
There’s something about journaling that separates reality from the stories we tell ourselves. As we commit a problem to paper, its true nature often emerges (and with it, possible solutions).
4. Journaling reveals patterns
When we’ve got a pretty robust record of our lives, we’re able to pick up patterns in our mood and behavior much more easily.
I don’t have to read too deeply into my own journal to realize that I’m happiest at the end of long, busy days. When I’ve got an easy day with nothing going on, I’m liable to be pretty unhappy around 5 PM. Journaling has taught me that I’ve got to fill my time up, even if it’s just with intentional leisure activities.
The benefits of journaling far outweigh the few minutes it takes out of your day. Try it for a week and see what you think!