3 ways writing a journal daily has helped me.

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”
Christina Baldwin

I have accidentally discovered my favorite habit of this year yet: writing in a journal daily.

Unlike my other habits (reading, money-saving and eating healthy) that were all deliberately planned after reading about their power, I didn’t discover the effectiveness of keeping a journal in any self-help book but really from my own experience.

One day right after my morning meditation, I accidentally started journaling on my morning commute and it became clear quickly that this would be so therapeutic for me. Ever since, I’ve been doing this practice for about 3-4 months now and I look forward to it every day.

I don’t do anything fancy like documenting each and every moment of my life in an autobiographical nature. I jot down what things I am grateful for, what kind actions others have shown to me in the last 24 hours and a few affirmations about the kind of person I am and want to be. This exercise is so re-assuring and sets me up for the day perfectly.

The benefits are enormous and multi-dimensional. I thought I’ll share a few below to encourage someone new to start this habit:

First, it slows time down.

A lot of us wake up and are rushing to our work in the morning. It can feel a bit of a frenzy and because we woke up only a few hours ago, our mind is not ready for this pace. Journaling slows the pace down — especially since you are jotting your thoughts down one after the other. It can help give perspective at the point of your writing. It can set up good intentions for the day, prime you to be grateful for the positives in your life and encourage you to meet any challenge with an open mind. I recommend incorporating some sort of a list of things you are either grateful for or you have already accomplished in the recent times so you can keep your anxieties at bay.

Second, it helps you feel all your raw emotions but without expressing them to a person.

Many of our embarrassing actions can be traced back to acting on our impulses. There is a time and place for acting spontaneously on your whim (maybe helping a homeless person, buying something off a great deal etc) but our impulsive behavior usually betrays us of wisdom. It makes us act out of extreme self-interest without a care for others’ point of view. Emotional impulses like anger, retaliation and sadness are harder to be subdued. When met with raw emotions like right after an argument with a loved one or accidentally making a pricey mistake at work or failing to meet a desired goal, I become upset. But instead of dumping those feelings on someone, I have learned it helps a lot to write them down in a journal. In fact, after writing them down, there is a sense of clarity that I notice in my own thinking. The real pain doesn’t disappear but I somehow a new path lights up in my mind. Introspection and reflection have the power to show you the solution but it’s impossible to be introspective while emotions are driving you crazy, so use journaling to gather your balance.

Third, it records your mental footprint so you can identity patterns of your thinking.

An incredible by-product of taking authentic notes about your feelings is the data you collect over time. You can see your own mental patterns developing that explain what triggers you, what your first instinctual response it, how you get a grip eventually and what the lesson is. This can be so powerful in understanding how you operate. It sounds silly but I think we don’t know enough about us in an objective way. We mostly live our lives day-to-day but when you have data encompassing months and months of what goes on in your mind, you can catch yourself slipping in familiar trends and hopefully prevent the same suffering from repeating. You get so much clarity in whether your behaviors are setting up for success or not. What can’t be measured can’t be improved. So if you are looking to improve life factors like time without stress, outside activities, eating habits — anything really should you should watch what goes on in your mind and a journal can help.

Anyway, I hope these pointers help. I would love to hear if you have the same habit and/or what suggestions you have.

“Documenting little details of your everyday life becomes a celebration of who you are.” — Carolyn V. Hamilton