By Andrew Calabrese
For most of my life, it seems like I have heard or read about great people of influence practice this discipline of journaling. I always thought it would be something I would get to as I travelled further down life’s road, but the more I have travelled, the more I have realized this was something that would benefit me greatly right now.
In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy said, “Journaling is a powerful therapeutic and healing tool.” From my experience, that statement is a fact. Here are some ways consistently journaling has helped me, and if you choose to make it a part of your life, these are also ways it could be a help to you too:
1. Journaling provides greater self-awareness.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman, has proposed a popular definition of self-awareness in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.” Thus self-awareness is the ability one possesses to monitor their inner world, as well as their thoughts and emotions as they arise.
Self-awareness has been labeled as the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence. The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are, and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
I’m not really sure how to articulate this, but the more I journal the more self-aware I become. It helps me monitor the condition of my heart like nothing else. Solomon instructs us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” It’s hard to guard your heart when you lose touch with it.
Writing would help anyone disentangle their thoughts, but journaling takes it to a whole new level. It allows you to really wrestle through issues you are facing, feelings you are experiencing, and thoughts you are thinking.
In addition to that, journaling would help one understand the context of what is going on in their world. Life happens so quickly, and we may be tempted to think we don’t have time to stop and reflect on where we are in the bigger story. Journaling has a way of helping you discern the difference between the trees and the forest.
2. Journaling causes you to process the past and cherish memories.
One of my mentors has said, “What happens to me is not as important as the meaning I assign to what happens to me.” Journaling will help you sort through what you have experienced and intentionally interpret it the way you would like to.
When I journal, I like to record things about my wife and children that I will cherish forever. I can reflect on those happy memories for years to come. Oftentimes, when I have had a “bad day,” I find myself scrolling through my journal entries, reflecting on happy memories, and it lifts my spirit. Having a journal as a resource is invaluable to me. It can shift my mood from negative to positive in a matter of moments.
3. Journaling fills the heart with gratitude.
Part of my journaling exercise is listing three things I am grateful for as well as three things I am thankful for specifically regarding my spouse. This has helped me in astronomical ways! If you write down a list of three things you are grateful for, your brain will be forced to scan the past 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought laughs, feelings of accomplishment, a strengthened connection, or a glimmer of hope for the future. The more opportunities for positivity we recognize, the more grateful we will become. Journaling in this way will unequivocally fill your heart with gratitude, and as a result you will be happier and healthier.
4. Journaling allows you to record significant lessons.
In general, humans are pretty unskilled at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never re-read what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.
Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged as opposed to when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from non-important information. However, writing creates spatial regions between important and non-important pieces of information — allowing your memory to target and ingrain the important information you want to remember.
Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.
Journaling is one of the most important things to do in your life. If done effectively and consistently, it will change your life for the better. You’ll become the person you want to be. You’ll design the life you want to live. Your relationships will be healthier and happier. You’ll be more productive and powerful. I hope you choose to make this important, powerful practice a part of your daily routine.