Journaling your way towards personal success
Most of the time, we are all so caught up in the fast moving currents of our daily activities that we barely get to take a deep breath and think either about what is happening or about where we are heading to.
Responsibilities required to be accomplished, familial duties, delayed tasks, in addition to the unexpected problems that may be coming your way, all pile up to such heights that you might find it difficult to spend leisure time. But this is exactly what you need in order to face all these problems and manage them properly: you time.
If you do consider it necessary to make more time for yourself, one suggestion about what you can do is the following: journaling.
What is journaling?
Journaling is the practice and habit of recording and documenting life events, emotions, thoughts or impressions.
The difference between a journal and a diary (the type you might have kept during adolescence) is that you go deeper into the issue and gain a more valuable understanding of yourself, which can be translated into future actions for improvement.
Journaling can take different forms, all supporting you to raise your self-awareness and self-leadership. The list provided below reveals the diversity of ways in which you can journal:
- Write down freely, in a stream of consciousness, what you feel, think, what you have experienced during the day, without censuring or pausing to analyze;
- Choose a topic or a theme for each day / week, on which you focus on in order to direct your journaling entries;
- Write down the answers to concrete self-reflection questions, journaling prompts or your own questions that you want to find an answer to;
- Develop a pre-set journaling structure that you follow each day, in order to be able to make comparisons and identify trends;
- Draw or doodle, in case words are not enough to express and reveal your internal world or if you have an inclination of expressing yourself in such a manner;
- Use mixed media: images, text, shapes and texture to create a collage in order to journal in a more visual way what you are experiencing or going through.
Why would you want to start journaling?
You might have tried journaling before and stopped after a while or you never got to it even though it was on your wish list for a long time. Either way, I want to provide you with sufficient reasons in order to build up the intrinsic motivation to start the effective practice of journaling.
- Journaling supports your personal growth and development
Through self-reflection, you increase your self-awareness, get a deeper understanding and a lot more clarity on:
- Who you are as a person and the different roles you have in your life;
- What are your values, what’s important to you and what you stand for;
- What are your needs and what are the needs of the ones around you;
- What are your dreams and aspirations, what are your long term goals and your vision is for your life;
Having this information settled, you can start creating action plans and implementing productive habits in order to get to where you want to be.
- Journaling provides the space to manage your internal emotional world
Most of the interactions that we have with the ones around us or the activities in which we engage on, offer us a range of feelings amidst a carousel of emotions throughout the day. By journaling you can:
- Clearly identify your feelings and emotions and assess your emotional awareness towards the persons in your life as well;
- Access a deeper understanding of your emotions and get to their root cause, identify which was their trigger;
- Get to know what situations or people you need to avoid or confront, in order to manage your negative emotions;
- Realize what are the activities or the persons in your life that fill you with good energy and positive emotions.
This ultimately allows you to have a more balanced emotional life, to manage your emotions and relationships more effectively and increase your overall happiness level.
- Journaling is the platform for problem solving and solution generation
By recording the problems you face during the day, either at work or at home you can:
- Have a clearer idea on your perspective on the problem you are facing and the perspective of the other persons involved in the same situation;
- By writing down the details of a certain problem or conflict, you vent out so that afterwards you have a clear mind to rationally analyze what has happened and what are the concrete facts;
- You have the chance to understand what is the cause of the problems you are facing or the conflicts you are dealing with (internal and external);
- While you write about a certain problem, certain ideas and solutions tend to surface. After you have this journaling habit put in practice for long enough, it will be in your nature to think and act in terms of solutions and not get stuck on the problem.
Through the act of writing, you are accessing your left part of the brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is rummaging on the situation, you give space to your right part of the brain to create and come up with solutions and use your intuition to see the underlining situation.
These are the main reasons for which I have been using journaling these days, but this practice has an infinite potential and you can use it to serve your current situation and needs.
It’s important to clarify why you want to start journaling and what you want to get out of it. The rest will come naturally.
What are the health benefits of journaling?
In case the mentioned reasons are not strong enough for you, and you need an extra boost in order to decide on starting this practice, I am going to address this also from a health point of view.
Journaling or writing about stressful experiences is accounted for having an easier closure, and acceptance of that specific situation, thus decreasing the impact these stressors have on your physical health and well-being.
Patients facing an illness or recovering from a traumatic experience find it comforting to write about what they are going through and pour down on paper what they are feeling. This helps them calm down and get energy to go through with it.
Persons who have undergone a personal loss find solace and peace in writing about the entire experience. It is a self-guide for them to face and embrace their grief and pain.
More and more persons turn to journaling after going through a divorce or a painful breakup. Their journey of understanding what has happened, accepting it as it is and rediscovering themselves is facilitated by writing about it.
James Pennebaker, a professor at The University of Texas, Austin in the Department of Psychology has published several books on the benefits and the healing process of writing such as “Opening Up” and “Writing to Heal.
He states that writing and journaling strengthens the immune cells called T-lymphocytes which, ultimately, increase your immune system. You can find more details about what he claims on The University of Texas’ website.
Another study conducted by Joshua M. Smyth, PhD; Arthur A. Stone, PhD on patients suffering from asthma and rheumatic arthritis found that writing about their stressing experiences improved their health situation.
The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, had the following results: 4 months after the treatment, asthma patients in the experimental group showed improvements in lung function, whereas control group patients showed no change. Rheumatoid arthritis patients in the experimental group showed improvements in overall disease activity, whereas control group patients did not change.
As a conclusion, journaling is a health promoter and offers you a non-expensive way to gain better health.
This was the first part of a series of articles on journaling. The following will focus on how you can get started with journaling, what types of journals you can keep and several journaling prompts.
Until then, you can write down your own reasons for starting a journaling practice and what results you are expecting from the entire experience. I also invite you to share these in the comments below.
- Smyth J.M, Stone, A.A., Hurewitz, A., Kaell, A. (1999), Effects of Writing About Stressful Experiences on Symptom Reduction in Patients With Asthma or Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Journal of the American Medical Association