10 Ways Journaling Will Transform Your Life
Oct. 24, 2017
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Turn your day around by journaling.
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There’s something very liberating about a blank journal page. Whether you doodle and sketch cartoons, scribble daily reminders or pour your heart out onto the pages is up to you. To start, Conner Habib, a Los Angeles-based author and writing coach, recommends getting a pen and journal specifically for the purpose. Now get writing! The rules are: There are no rules, only tips and techniques (like in the following slides) to help you discover how journaling can help you shape the life you want along with guidance to get started.
Let your mind wander.
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Journaling ignites your vision.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Life is not about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” But if you’re not sure how to do that, Douglas Polster, a sports neuropsychologist and performance consultant, recommends listing everything you’d like to do, even if it’s outside the box of what you’re currently doing. From there, explore each one in depth, noting the pros and cons, what it would take to get started and if you’re willing to go on that journey.
Bu oftentimes, when we want something, the reason is more deeply rooted than we realize. So another tactic is to ask yourself, "What do I really want?" Be still and breathe for three to five minutes, and then record your response. Then reflect on what you wrote. This exercise can help you move forward with your vision as your actions are intrinsically tied to a deeper, more heartfelt reason.
Read more: 20 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Life
Journaling has health benefits.
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It improves your physical health.
In one of the first studies on expressive writing, college students wrote about traumatic or upsetting experiences for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. As a result, they improved their blood pressure, liver and lung health and immune system function and had fewer stress-related visits to the doctor.
Apply this to your own life: For four consecutive days for 15 minutes, write your deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic experiences of your entire life or an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. The only rule is that once you begin writing, you continue until the time is up.
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Embark on a journey of self-discovery.
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You'll learn more about yourself.
“We live in a culture that is hyper-concerned with tracking every move," says writing coach Conner Habib. "It can lead us away from thinking and into mere obsessive recording of every external event." Journaling, on the other hand, gives you space to analyze your inner life and how you feel about all those quantifiable events going on around you.
To discover more about yourself and get in touch with the inner workings of your mind, sports neuropsychologist Douglas Polster recommends starting with bullet points — words or phrases you enjoy — and then seeing where they take you. Set a timer for 10 minutes, put pen to paper and let it flow.
Read more: 9 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Introverts
Writing helps you remember.
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You'll retain more information.
Have you ever read a book and tried to summarize the information for a friend, but you just couldn’t seem to pull out the key points? Journaling while you read can help you retain the information and actually make use of it. "A profound book (and sometimes even a bad book) can send my mind in a million directions," says writing coach Connor Habib. "Journaling helps me follow as many of those directions as I’d like."
According to a study in Intech, “The movements involved when handwriting leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, which helps the person recognize letters and establish a connection between reading and writing.” In another 2014 study, researchers found that a group of UCLA college students who took notes longhand did significantly better in a standardized test.
Fly through your to-do list.
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It helps increase productivity.
Experience is the best teacher, but research shows that doing can be more effective if it’s accompanied with reflection. Setting aside 15 minutes to reflect and write at the end of your workday can improve performance. In one study, participants wrote what went well that day and what didn’t. The employees that recorded their thoughts reported 23 percent higher performance.
At the end of the workday or before going to sleep, record what went well that day and where there’s room for improvement. Perhaps record a few action steps you’d like to implement the next day and see if you get different results.
Read more: 10 Daily Habits to Increase Your Productivity
Make a list of what matters most to you.
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You'll get your priorities in order.
According to Psychology Today, “Too much information freezes our brain’s dynamic frontal lobe capacity to engage in clear thinking and discerning decision making.” Taking time out of your busy schedule to analyze what’s actually on your schedule for the day and how you plan to tackle it allows you to be more intentional with each day.
Ask yourself, "What would I like to accomplish today?" says sports neuropsychologist Douglas Polster. It works much better than making it up as you go along. In the morning, jot down your schedule, where you need to be at what time, your top three to five priorities and what must get done today to feel satisfied. For example, make an important phone call, meet a deadline or make it to your workout.
Maybe you'll discover a new passion.
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Journaling sparks your creativity.
The creative process can be tricky. Sometimes it’s flowing; sometimes it’s not. The good news is you can turn the creative faucet back on. Using your non-dominant hand activates the right brain, which is known to be home to visual processing, imagination and creativity. Sure, your penmanship may not be fantastic, but what comes out may be a work of art.
To take it to the next level, carry a pen and small notebook with you when you’re on a walk outside. Some of the best ideas come when you’re moving around outdoors. Another way to spur inspiration is to write morning pages. Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” recommends writing three notebook-size pages in a stream-of-consciousness style in the morning. This can serve as a “mental dump” if you feel stressed or creatively blocked.
Better you, better us.
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It can help enhance your relationships.
It can be difficult to keep your cool when you feel frustrated or angry with a friend, co-worker or significant other. Instead of getting all fired up and saying things you may regret, make a habit of writing them in a journal like a letter to that person, says sports neuropsychologist Douglas Polster.
Journaling about the situation and what you'd like to say can help you gain more clarity and perhaps empathy for the other parties involved, even though you never actually talk to them about it. You’ve resolved the issue within yourself for your own peace of mind. Or it can help you organize your thoughts before you do approach them for a conversation. That way, you can be direct and compassionate in your communication.
Read more: 9 Ways to Ensure Your Relationship Is Built to Last
Kiss stress goodbye.
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It reduces anxiety and stress.
Suppressing emotions can be very harmful psychologically. When you relive a traumatic experience or imagine the fear over and over again, it can cause your body to release the same chemicals as if it were actually happening (adrenaline and cortisol, for example). This can lead to physical pain and stress-related conditions.
When you feel stressed, it's important to have an outlet. Sports neuropsychologist Douglas Polster uses a technique called “worry it out.” He has his patients take 30 minutes a day to "write it down, visualize those negative thoughts coming out of your head, through the pen and onto the paper, and let them go." When your 30 minutes is up, that’s it! Time to move on.
Read more: 21 Stress-Reducing Techniques
Time to be thankful.
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Journaling is a way to express gratitude.
Numerous studies show that the simple act of being thankful can boost your health and happiness. For some it can be difficult to think about the things they’re grateful for or when they do something they’re truly proud of. But just as working toward self-improvement is important, so is self-appreciation. Noticing the small wins can help you stay motivated and cultivate confidence. Each day write down things you’re grateful for, and don’t forget to include things about yourself!
Read more: 30 Days of Thankfulness Challenge
Tell us what you think!
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What Do YOU Think?
Have you ever kept a journal? Do you currently keep a journal? What other ways do you express yourself? How has journaling helped you transform your life? What differences do you notice on days when you journal versus days you don’t? Do you track a certain goal, record your thoughts or write down your hopes and dreams? What else do you use your journaling time for? Share your thoughts, stories and suggestions in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!
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