I’ve always loved to write. Ever since I was a young girl, my journal—well, back then, it was my diary—has been my go-to outlet for getting the thoughts out of my head, so I can literally gain some distance from them. Over the years, journaling has helped me work through personal problems, work challenges, and business questions.
You couldn’t pay me enough to share my unedited personal musings, not only because I would be mortified, but also because when I journal…it’s for ME. I don’t write to impress anyone or tell anyone else how I’m feeling. For me, Journaling = self-care.
I could go on about the benefits of journaling and tell you at least 100 edited personal stories, but I already opened a window into my journaling practice and you can find as much of this stuff as you want with a quick Google search. Instead, I want to focus on one really powerful benefit and then offer 3 approaches to try. Yay! Let’s dig in!
Journaling Awakens the Mind
There’s a good reason therapists, coaches, and others who study the mind often recommend that you write down your thoughts first thing in the morning. Journaling helps to evoke mindfulness and wake up your mind.
Plus, mindfulness—living in the present moment—has all kinds of great mental benefits. There’s a real connection between mindfulness and happiness. When you write down your thoughts:
- Past frustrations and anxieties lose their edge in the light of the present moment.
- Your busy mind moves from passively observing to actively engaging with your thoughts.
- Studies show that the emotional release from journaling lowers stress and anxiety.
Personally, journaling and meditation play similar roles in my life. When I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed about whatever is happening around me, I start writing or I sit for a few minutes to focus on my breathing and the center of my body. Whether I choose to journal or meditate depends on my mood, how much time I have, and whether pen and paper is within reach.
3 Approaches to Try Out
If you’re ready to change the world by starting with your own mind, get out your favorite pen and your Conscious Strong™ Journal—yep, research suggests that the old analog method works best for creating mindfulness. The following are great methods to try if you’d like to make journaling a daily habit.
The Goal Journal
You might already make lists of your goals. But what if, instead of simply writing out your goals once and looking them over occasionally you incorporate them into a daily journal?
Here are some tips for making the most of your goals-based journaling practice:
- Start with a list: listing your goals is a quick, easy way to write down everything you’re working toward.
- Look to the future and the past: avoid thinking of your journal as another to-do list. This is a very intentional list of things you want to accomplish in the next year, routines you want to start, or anything. Likewise, journaling is a great way to be reflective about what you’ve accomplished, not just make a list of what you’ve done.
- What’s in your way: sometimes when you write down your goals, you start thinking about the things that stand between you and them. With a journal, you can write down these things too. They are also parts of your life to keep track of.
- Progress reports: since your journal is a place to tell your story, take time to write about the progress you’re making and the parts of your goals you’re getting to, not just whether you’ve taken care of the whole thing yet.
- Intangible goals: Your journal can be a place to write down things you’re working on that don’t have metrics, too, like working on your relationships with your friends, improving your confidence at work, and making time to reflect.
Remember: when journaling toward your goals, just writing them down is a huge step to getting them done. Whether it’s things you need to get done at work or places you want to be in 10 years, committing your goals to paper starts down a road of being more likely to get there.
The Ideas Journal
We all come across interesting and new ideas throughout our days. Some are more useful than others, but it’s difficult to tell which is which in the moment. Here are some steps toward clearing out that clutter:
Keep a small notebook and pen with you wherever you go. Jot down those brief moments of inspiration or nagging thoughts ASAP. This practice will help get them out of your head, so you can focus on whatever you’re doing in the moment.
In the evening, take 15 minutes to review what you’ve written throughout the day. Is there a thought or idea that strikes you as particularly interesting? Are any of the things you wrote related to one another? Do they connect back to other problems or ideas you’ve been mulling over?
Take a page or two to further explore one idea or several related ones. Taking the time to reflect on our thoughts helps us draw deeper insights, discover new connections, and reach more creative solutions.
The Curiosity Journal
This method is one of my personal favorites. Research shows that curiosity is associated with stronger relationships, greater levels of happiness, higher intelligence, and more acute problem-solving skills. As the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness site explains:
Although researchers have not identified the precise pathway by which curiosity leads to cognitive growth, a likely explanation concerns the rich environment curious people create for themselves as they seek new experiences and explore new ideas. Put simply, curious brains are active brains, and active brains become smart brains.
It’s easy to get stuck in routines and our own way of thinking about things. But it’s also possible to cultivate curiosity by intentionally training your attention. Much like how writing what you’re thankful for can help you feel more gratitude, writing about what makes you feel curious can conjure up feelings of curiosity.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Here’s my challenge for you: Write about one thing every day that made you stop and ask a question. It could be anything — a building you pass on the way to work, the way something functions, a story you heard about on the radio. Write about it. Why does it make you feel curious? What questions do you have about it? You may look into it further, or you may not. It doesn’t matter. It’s the act of noticing novelty and asking questions every day that’s important.