One of the best ways to have a rich, fulfilling, successful life? Keep a personal journal. Writing down ideas, desires, experiences, and conclusions about the people and events that touch your life every day helps you capture the information around you.
What is a journal?
A journal gathers all your observations and discoveries about life. It is a handwritten or typed narrative in your own words. Writing preserves your messages, ideas, and thoughts.
Remarkable Benefits of a Journal
- A journal allows you to capture the present moment so you can review your thoughts, experiences, and feelings in the future. The past is the best source for making good decisions today and tomorrow.
- A journal helps record information accurately and helps you avoid repeating the same errors. You may remember the outcome but some details may be blurred, distorting your memory. Writing the emotions and experience of special moments, milestones, victories helps you relive them, lest they fade away and become forgotten.
- A journal helps you think more objectively about your actions. The very act of writing slows down the flow of information and gives you time to ponder and analyze the experience. You can evaluate the source of information on which you base your actions and beliefs. Writing helps you to be both subjective, tapping into your inner feelings, and to be objective, putting those same feelings out onto the page, out beyond yourself.
- Journaling helps you communicate better. The more you practice recording events and emotions with words, the more clearly you communicate your ideas.
- Journaling helps you understand yourself better. Writing down, rather than just thinking gratitude or another emotion, translates thoughts into concrete language. Writing gives you the tools to become more aware of your thoughts and deepens their emotional impact.
- Journaling builds good discipline. Developing small disciplines over time results in great accomplishments. You catch the minor mistakes in judgment immediately, decreasing the negative results.
- Journaling helps you in your decision-making process. List the pros and cons to see objectively what is the best next course of action.
How to Write a Journal
Daily is best. Consistency is the most important. Designate a time of day when to write, so the activity becomes part of your routine and a habit. Maybe write for 5 minutes as your morning coffee brews. Or, how about 5 minutes right before you go to bed?
Remind yourself to journal by associating it with other habits. These triggers decrease the mental effort and initial resistance of any new activity. Not having to think about when, where, or how you journal will increase the likelihood of your writing daily.
Have the tools ready. Want to journal with paper and pen? Get a designated journal and pen; the more it suits your personality, the more attachment you’ll have to it and the more inclined you’ll be to write. Prefer the computer? Have a program that you always use present you with the same ‘page.’ Familiarity of the medium encourages creativity; you don’t want to be struggling with the how but the what.
Ultimately, your thoughts and your writing are more important than the form you put it on.
What to Write About
- Write three things that you are grateful for. Think about your daily activities, nature around you, people you encounter often, anything that brings you happiness, comfort, and security. Write out the first-person pronoun as the subject- “I”, which makes you the subject and director of the action and state desired.
“I am grateful for this beautiful day.”
“I am thankful for easy, make-ahead recipes.”
“I am grateful for the sound and beauty of crashing ocean waves.”
- Write about your dreams and goals and the steps to get there. Journaling provides a structured format that tracks and inspires your journey towards your goal, whether it is to learn another language, improve your tennis game, or study for a test.
- Write about what is heavy on your heart. Let yourself feel. Facing your emotions helps you acknowledge them and decreases the intensity. Yearning for Campbell’s tomato soup as a child, Oprah writes in her cookbook, she really wanted love. Writing helped her recognize what soup stood for: “Soup is Love” and she decreased emotional eating.
- Reflect on the day’s events. What went well? What didn’t go well? And how could the day have been better? Consider how to tweak your day’s activities and interactions, so tomorrow goes more smoothly and successfully.
- Write about your observations of the world. Take notes during the day about what you heard on the radio or podcast, saw in the news, or watched on tv. These become instant journaling prompts for the next session.
- Research a particular word, exploring its etymology, synonyms, antonyms, and uses. Learning more about language helps you be more articulate. You learn the nuances of words and thus your own feelings.
Using journals is not essential to success, but it is an important part of self-discovery and happiness. Journals are tools to reflect on the details of past mistakes and wins, and in the process, allows you to become more than you might have been.
“A life worth living is a life worth documenting.”- Jim Rohn