The Surprising Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is like whispering to one's self and listening at the same time
Journaling is simply the act of thinking about your life & writing it down
Gain more great ideas, learn from past experiences, & obtain a new perspective
Increase your motivation & achieve more of your goals
There’s no one right way to journal
Two minutes of journaling is the perfect start
Do it as consistently as you can
When I think about the routines that had the most positive impact on my life, I'd definitely put journaling in the top 3. In the fast few years, this habit created numerous opportunities for me. But despite its huge potential and a key role not only in my life but also in the careers of many prolific people, it's such a simple task.
In this article, I want to share with you the reasons why I journal and how you can get started, too.
What is journaling?
Journaling is simply the act of thinking about your life and writing it down. That’s it. Nothing more is needed.
Most often, though, the journaling process is guided by one or several questions. I've got a set of questions for my different types of journals. Nevertheless, you can also just simply aim to write, for instance, ten sentences or five minutes about whatever you want.
Journaling is much more about the process than about the results.
Why you should journal
Among the greatest benefits of journaling that I've experienced in the last years, gaining a different perspective of life and looking at it from a bird's eye view provided me with numerous massive opportunities. The act of journaling allowed me to write down ideas (protect them from getting lost), rethink and reevaluate them (refine and nourish a once simply thought), and eventually take practical action (make these ideas happen).
Journaling is the origin of most of my achievements, many of which once started with a simple notion: all my personal branding activities (YouTube, Instagram, this blog, my newsletter, and more to come), my academic and professional accomplishments, the improvement of personal relationships, my high self-confidence and self-esteem, etc.
Critical stance on one's own life
Journaling provides the opportunity to learn new lessons from old experiences. When looking back on my journal entries a year ago, I can quickly put myself in the situation I was in at the time but with the knowledge and experience that I have today. Mostly, this reflection process feels quite strange and rather uncomfortable than positive. Yet, the insights you can gain are precious.
For instance, last year around this time I had a conversation with my mum about nutrition and how important parents are in developing healthy eating habits in their children (in this case my younger siblings). Last year, I thought I did a good job and made my point clear. From today's perspective, though, I could've approached this situation more gently and more empathetically and prevented an emotional overload of the situation.
Reading your old journal entries is like reading a great book for a second time. You pick up on new sentences and see the past in a different way. Only this time, you are re-reading the story of your life. This alone makes journaling worth the little effort it takes.
Higher chances of goal achievement
For me, it's no surprise that journaling has been utilized by brilliant thinkers and inventors: Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein. Similarly, leaders, entrepreneurs, Olympians, and politicians throughout history have kept journals in one form or another.
Journaling motivates you to make the most of each day
When you have a bad day, it can be easy to forget how much progress you have made. But with a journal, it's easier to keep a sense of perspective. One glance at your previous entries and you have proof of how much you have grown over the months and years. Writing down one sentence about what went well today gives you something powerful to look at when you're feeling down.
Moreover, there is something about knowing that your day will be recorded that makes you want to make at least one good choice before going to bed. These little achievements can add up to a huge success. Don't underestimate the power of marginal gains.
How to get started with journaling
There’s no one “right” way to journal.
When I started journaling, I asked myself one question before going to sleep: what were my greatest achievements today?
This question enabled me a soft entry into the realm of journaling. At first, it wasn't that easy to find an achievement every day, but that's actually the whole point: to recalibrate our thinking and perception. Once I started with this routine, I've become much more positively minded.
Two years ago, I added another question: what's something to look forward to tomorrow? Knowing that tomorrow offers you at least one great thing makes you sleep so much better.
Last year, my journaling routine was massively extended: I added another two questions that I answer after night. "What are the three most important goals of tomorrow?" and "In which area of life I can improve by 1% tomorrow?". Additionally, I started to reflect on my life on a weekly and monthly basis, too.
The questions I ask myself every week:
What was a highlight moment of the Week?
Did I achieve my goals? Why, or Why Not?
What’s a a life lesson that I learned this week?
What are my 3 main goals for next week?
How will I achieve them?
Who deserves a big 'thank you'?
How can I help someone else this coming week?
The questions I ask myself every month:
What did I achieve this month?
What did I fail at this month?
How happy do I feel, why?
Who am I grateful for, why?
Who/what does harm to me?
Am I still consistent with my core values and mission statement?
Compare the current situation with my 5-year plan
What was I doing this time last year? Do I progress? Why/why not?
I'd highly recommend you to start small and do it as consistently as you can. It takes a lot of time until you can experience the first benefits. Make it a habit to journal for 2 minutes every night on a topic that makes you feel passionate or find something else you want to reflect on consistently. Make it a fun activity. Most people have one of these journals:
What happened today? (Daily journal)
What am I grateful for today? (Gratitude journal)
What is my most important task today? (Productivity journal)
How did I sleep last night? (Sleep journal)
How do I feel today? (Mood journal)