Why It Pays to Journal

I don’t profess to be an avid journaler, but what I do know is that whenever I do it, I seem to turn a corner in life.

It’s a tough conversation to have with those who aren’t on the self-development path, as they link the word ‘journaling’ back to their high school days where they expressed how in love they were with their girlfriend or boyfriend at the time, which usually follows with how distraught they are when the relationship ends.

Once you explain what real journaling is, their face shows a mixture of confusion and fear.  The penny finally drops that it requires complete honesty, and a will to dig deep into your soul.  This is what puts people off doing it.

Why do I journal?

To me, journaling is a life review, but it can be used for whatever you want it to be.  Some prefer to exclusively journal as a way of releasing all types of stress (venting etc), while others use it as a tool to explore their inner world to help them gain a sense of clarity in various aspects of life and to make a plan to move forward.

Some, like me, use it for both of those things.

It’s a chance to find out what’s really going on in my world, and not what I want to think is going on in it, as the mind likes to bury a lot of our pain at times as a way of protection.

It’s a place to document my:

  • Positive aspects in life
  • Gratitude
  • Concerns and worries
  • Creativeness and ideas etc
  • Goals and ambitions
  • Solutions to problems

I find that once I put pen to paper, we’re off to the races.  A natural flow begins, which is done so without any effort at all.

How I format my journaling

There’s no rule here as we all journal for different reasons, but this is generally the order I journal in:

1. Gratitude.

I start by writing down everything I am thankful for in my life at that moment.  I include the things we normally take for granted; like having a roof over my head, a healthy body and a job, for example.

I will go through everything: relationships with partner, family, friends, work colleagues etc, and I also pay gratitude to the struggles I am having that I now see as being a positive.  I then realise some of the positives I do see now, were in fact concerns I’d journaled about in the past, which is huge progress!

I like to end this part by asking myself why am I grateful for the things I’ve written down – both positive and negative?  Why do they make me feel this way?

I’m very specific about everything I write, but it doesn’t need to be war and peace, as long as I gain some clarity.

2. What is happening in my life right now.

Here’s where I wave the honesty flag and write down the good, the bad and the ugly.

I write down exactly what’s on my mind, and also what I want in the future at this point.  Some of the things I tend to jot down are:

  • Current relationships with anyone and everyone
  • Job – how is it, how do I feel about it? Am I happy, settled, settling for less etc?
  • Living status
  • What am I annoyed by
  • Anxieties and stresses
  • Joy and pleasures
  • Upcoming events
  • Past events
  • What do I feel I’m lacking and why
  • Dreams and ambitions
  • Short/long term goals within 6-12 months and a plan.

These are just a few, but as you journal you may find more come up naturally.

This step requires complete honesty.  I write it all out.  All the things I’m frustrated about, who I’m not fond of at the moment, what emotions I’m feeling and who and what triggers me.

I also ask myself what is my responsibility in these things?  What can I change for the better?  If I can change, how will it impact me and those around me?  What am I not facing, genuinely?  And why?

I try to be real with myself and not in denial, but there’s always something that sticks out like a sore thumb that I’m hiding when I dig deep enough.

If I do get a bit overwhelmed with writing it all down, I stop and think ”Chris, why are you worried? It’s not like anyone can see, or is ever going to see what you’re writing.  Chill out!”.

I find that does the trick and eases me.

3. Reflect.

Once I’ve written it all out I then take however long I need to read it all back and reflect what’s actually happening in my world.

It’s often eye-opening, as writing things down seems to bring out the most honesty for me.  I think I can speak for many of us here in that we develop a habit of suppressing what’s really going on inside.  But, I find once I get quiet and put pen to paper, it seems to come pouring out.

I make sure I don’t treat this reflection as a beating up session – not at all – but more of a gaining clarity session.  I find it interesting more than anything and a clear path develops, so I know which areas I will be working on towards my next stage of growth.

How often should you journal?

The short answer is whenever you like!

But, also don’t make that an excuse to avoid it as I’ve been guilty of that myself in the past.

I know some who do it daily, while others do it weekly.  Me? I tend to do it every 3-4 weeks, then it gives me another 3-4 weeks to put the wheels in motion and see what has changed – which is usually a few things – by the time I’m due to journal again.

Do you journal? Do you find it is beneficial?  Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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