Journaling and its many forms have a long history in our culture. Early travelers were notorious for keeping logs of their journeys to destinations around the globe. Notably, Lewis and Clark chronicled their historic expedition out west with entries that detail their trials and triumphs along the trail. Notebooks were kept by scholars as a place to store equations, research, observations, and insights. Some of the most influential people in history were known for keeping journals, including Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein.
Later, journals became record books of feelings and emotions; a place to house deep secrets, fantasies, and desires. You’d be hard pressed to find a woman whom at some point in her adolescence didn’t hide under her covers pouring her innocent little heart out into a book filled with lined pages, secured by a lock which was tucked away safely in a secret spot for no one to find.
Current culture and technology now allow us the convenience of creating web-based journals and blogs. Blogs, and their increasing in popularity counterpart, vlogs (video logs), have become an incredible tool for documenting and sharing experiences, storytelling and connecting with others who share similar interests.
The Benefits of Journaling
The benefits of journaling, however, don’t end with recordkeeping. Multiple studies have been done on the subject and the results suggest that there are some pretty powerful reasons to keep a journal, including:
Improved Writing Skills
With any skill, practice helps to improve, and writing is no different. Writing in a journal is also of a different style of writing than what we use for work or school, and that difference can help build vocabulary and overall communication ability.
Increase in Memory
The act of recalling and writing of our experiences, as well as reading those journal entries at a later date all help to cement those experiences to memory.
Whether it’s due to the process of uncluttering the mind, providing for a momentary escape, or the self reflection provided by keeping a journal, there are numerous studies indicating that journaling can offer stress relief.
Setting and Achieving Goals
We all lead pretty busy lives, and it can sometimes be difficult to envision a clear path between where we are, and where we want to be. Journaling can help to identify those goals, and assist with defining the best path to reaching them.
Journaling can be a remarkably valuable tool for learning, since it can be used to refine one’s thinking and allow you to articulate and reveal thoughts that you may not have realized previously.
Similar to the ways in which journaling can assist in the discovery of new thoughts and ideas, journaling can help you to become more creative, by allowing you to see connections between separate thoughts and giving you freedom to delve deeper into ideas and topics. One of the most powerful assets of journaling is that it’s just for you. It’s a safe place to explore without the fear of being judged by others, which often times makes it easier to be creative.
The beauty of journaling is that there are no rules. The act of journaling itself is unique to each person, their needs, and experiences. Fundamentally, it’s as simple as finding a medium to write, whether it be a specialty journal, simple notebook, or a website that will allow storing text, such as Ctitch.
There are so many different approaches and styles of journaling. Part of the fun of learning about different methods is that it allows you to explore and use a combination of journaling styles to suit your current needs or interests. We’ve listed a few of the most popular journaling styles below:
At the end of the day, take a few moments to reflect on your activities and interactions. Try to identify three things that created a sense of gratitude without duplicating previous days’ entries.
It can be difficult to find new things to appreciate, but that’s part of the challenge. Just remember, you can be grateful for even the smallest of experiences or objects.
Another end of the day activity to prevent sleeplessness due to an overactive mind is a brain dump or brain drain journal.
Keep a notebook near your bedside and before turning off your light, make note of anything on your mind. You may choose to review what you wrote upon waking to see if there is anything that needs your attention or an idea you may want to explore further.
It can be difficult finding writing topics, and it can get boring always writing about your life. Writing prompts are a great way to mix things up.
Create a list of writing topics, throw them in a jar, and randomly draw one each day. There are also several online resources that can also give you a random topic to write on, including this writing topic generator.
A great idea for tracking things that interest you is a special interest journal. Love wine? A wine journal will allow you make note of wines you’ve tried, whether you liked them or not, and any tasting notes you might wish to refer back to at a later date. This could be applied to golf courses, places you’ve traveled, books you’ve read, and so on.
This style of writing allows you to write down whatever pops into your head in a loose format without any specific structure. It can be a little surprising to see where your thoughts lead, but randomly writing without an agenda can be one of the most affective ways of discovering more about yourself and discovering issues that may not be immediately obvious.
There are numerous journal styles that prompt you to write daily responses to a set of questions or to leave your daily notes in a specific format. Currently, both the 5 Minute Journal and the Bullet Journal are fairly popular options. These well-defined journal templates can be helpful in providing structure and guidance for your journaling.
Ready to get started? Below are a few tips to help you begin your journal practice. Remember that it is, in fact, a practice. In order for you to get accustomed to writing in your journal on a regular basis, you need to practice writing in it.
Choose your writing medium carefully. That’s not to say it needs to be elaborate but you want it to inspire you to write. A beautiful journal and the right pen can be enough to inspire many to write, while the speed afforded by typing your thoughts has some advantages, and can appeal to others. There are a number of quality writing journals available, many of which offer prompts and guidance using some of the journaling styles listed above.
Frequency is a very individual preference. However, to begin, challenge yourself to write every day for three weeks, which for many, is the minimum amount of time for a daily activity to become a habit. Setting alerts on your phone or scheduling a time to write on your online calendar can also help with creating a regular writing habit.
When to Write
Decide what time of day works best for you. Choose a time in which your surroundings are quiet and there will not be an interruption. Mornings are a great time to write! It has been said that creativity is an early riser. You might find that words flow easier just after you wake up while savoring your morning cup of coffee. Alternately, curled up with a steamy mug of tea and your journal before bed might help you unwind from the day. There is no right or wrong time to write.
How Long to Write
Set aside a minimum of 10 minutes when you first begin journaling. You may find that 10 minutes is all you want or need. Or, you might later decide to increase that time to 20 or 30 minutes based on your daily activities. Aim to write until you feel that you have nothing left to release from your mind.
How Much to Write
Don’t worry about how much you write. You may end up with a sentence. Or four filled pages. As long as you feel you’ve written down what’s on your mind, it is enough. Each day will be different.
Entries should be dated. It is a useful habit that can help you keep track of thoughts, feeling, and emotions during various cycles of your life. It can be interesting to look back over the years and a great way to chronicle the events that have unfolded in your life.
Ignore spelling and grammar. Unless you intend to have your journal published, it is a space for you to free your mind. Mistakes will happen and they are not as important as the thoughts you are trying to purge onto paper.
Regardless of when you write, how much you write, or what you fill your pages with, the rewards of journaling are found within the process. Allowing yourself time and space to free random thoughts and ideas that can otherwise occupy too much space in your head will make a profound impact on your life and your well-being.