Since humans could write, we have kept journals. We’ve kept them for all sorts of reasons, too - to keep a record of daily events, to flex our creative muscles, to help us manage time and tasks. Journals have been archived as part of historical records and published as great works. They solve mysteries and help us to create an accurate timeline of civilization.
But most of them are never read because their true purpose is to help the writer.
Currently, the vast majority of self-help, development, and healing methods recommend journaling. Why? And what if you’re not a writer - what do you write about?
The Benefits of Journaling
Here are just a few benefits we get out of daily journaling.
Better goal setting (and achieving).
Thinking of a goal - or even typing it out - is much different than writing it down. The act of writing down your goals engages the RAS (reticular activating system). The RAS, after processing the writing, will subconsciously help you seek out ways to achieve what you wrote.
More mindfulness moments.
If writing were easier than typing or texting, we’d do it more often. It’s easy to flippantly (mindlessly) fire off a text. Writing keeps us more firmly rooted in the present moment, as we form each letter, word, sentence.
Knowledge of self.
People who keep diaries learn new things about themselves all of the time. They can see what topics they tend to write about most, what emotions they reference frequently, the general tone and mood of their writing. There are sure to be some very helpful insights there.
Maintain memory and cognition.
Many types of journals ask us to remember something, whether it’s something from earlier in the day or a childhood memory. We have to use our hands to make sense of these things, making it the literal external expression of the brain. When done regularly, this can be very good for keeping our minds sharp.
Finally, journaling is healing. We all have emotions stuck inside of us, and writing them down does have a positive psychological impact. Journaling can help us process trauma and release unpleasant feelings.
What to Write?
You’ve probably heard of morning pages, which is a great practice. Here are a few other types of journals to keep. Try them all, and see which ones resonate with you best.
Future Self Journal
The Future Self Journal was created by a psychologist who specializes in self-healing. It helps us to create new and better patterns through writing. Focus on one habit or pattern you want to change for thirty days, and see the power you have over your own subconscious.
If you’re short on time or have trouble getting into new habits, a gratitude journal is simple and fast. Every day, make a short list of things you’re grateful for. Even if it’s just a cup of coffee. Acknowledging the good in life is a tried and true way of increasing happiness.
Do you feel like you don’t dream often, and when you do, you can’t remember the details? With dream journaling, you write down whatever you can recall, from colors and symbols to fully fleshed-out scenes, right when you wake. Over time, this exercise can make your dreams more frequent and vivid.
If none of the above is appealing, just start keeping track of the day. Write down what you had for lunch, any deadlines you have coming up, or scheduled appointments. Doing so helps us see where and how our schedules could be adjusted for better productivity and less stress.
Do you keep a journal? Is it easy to use it regularly, or do you start and stop a lot? What benefits do you think you’ve seen from journaling? Share in the comments below, and check back soon for more.