There are many ways to keep a journal. You can record the events of your days, plan a vacation, analyze your dreams or use a bullet journal to organize your life. Journals can help you capture your thoughts or plot out your career.
As well as decluttering your mind, keeping a journal can have some surprising benefits.
Journaling Helps With Stress
One way to think of stress is as pent up energy that doesn’t have an outlet. Journaling provides an outlet, allowing the worry and anxious thoughts that have been spinning in our heads to spill out, through pen and onto the page.
Externalizing our worries through journaling helps us disentangle from the strangling feelings surrounding them, and see our problems more objectively. Often this alone is enough to calm our anxieties–precisely because worry and anxiety usually derive from emotionally distorted views of reality.
For dealing with stress, try good old fashioned venting on the page. Write out your frustrations, concerns, and gripes. Complain, rant, worry. Try doing this exercise in the morning for a few days, and then notice if you become less stressed and less easily flustered over the week.
Journaling Helps With Problem Solving
Journaling allows you to work out problems in a way that just thinking about them doesn’t. When we put the problem onto the page it becomes less intimidating and more manageable. We can take our problem, examine it from different angles, and brainstorm possible solutions around it.
A tried and true method for problem solving and brainstorming is mind-mapping. Pick a problem that’s been vexing you lately, put it in a box in the center of your journal page, and then start free-thinking solutions around it. Try not to censor yourself here. Your subconscious mind may have novel ideas your critical mind would never normally entertain. The mind-map will help these ideas percolate up and find expression.
Journaling Facilitates Goal Achievement
It stands to reason that if your journal is helping you manage stress and problem solve, then you’ll have an easier time achieving your goals. But journaling facilitates goal achievement in other ways too.
If you want to succeed in life (however you define success), you need to write down your goals and review them regularly. Full stop. A journal is an obvious place to do this.
In your journal you can . . .
- Brainstorm and plan
- Weigh options
- Vent frustrations (when plans don’t seem to be working)
- Work out solutions to problems
- Envision and dream
- Pray and affirm
More, journaling every day about your goals keeps them on the forefront of your consciousness, which will help keep you focused on doing what’s necessary to achieve them and also helping you spot opportunities that you might otherwise miss.
Get different journals for different things. You might have your Regular Journal for more traditional daily entries, a Dream Journal, and Success Journal, exclusively for and about your goals.
Alternately, get a single Large Journal and divide it into sections for different journaling categories. I love the Believe Journal for that. It’s huge (360 sheets!), so it has plenty of room for multiple journaling sections. And . . . at under $20 it’s a great deal!
Journaling Inspires Creativity
If you’re an artist or writer you probably already know this: the more you listen to the Muses, they more they tend to speak.
When inspiration strikes out of the blue you learn the importance of writing it down. If you don’t then a few hours later when you try to remember the great idea you often find that you can’t. It’s as if the Muses are punishing you for not respecting them. That may sound superstitious to non-artsy types, but when you’ve had enough brilliant ideas vanish into the ether, then you’ll get superstitious too!
This is one reason you’ll rarely find a writer who isn’t always ready to write, with a notebook in hand.
Another reason is that notebooks and journals provide free space to safely explore ideas that you might not be able to do elsewhere. You can be messy without worry, fearlessly go down blind alleys while working out that difficult plot point, and shamelessly scribble God awful poetry. You can, in short, be messy . . . an essential ingredient to creativity.
Open up your journal and make a crazy mess out of at least two pages. Free write, doodle, fast-write some poems, write your signature five times with your off hand, write a manifesto and then strike through every third word. Whatever. Make these pages the journal equivalent of Van Gogh cutting off his own ear: crazy.
See if any unexpected bits of brilliance come through when you give yourself a some space to be the mad artist. You might be surprised!
What benefits have you found in maintaining a regular journaling practice? Share your insights below.