woman sitting on the beach writing in a journal

Reasons to Journal

Just as there are a lot of benefits to journaling, there are many reasons to journal, and all of them offer benefits to your mental and emotional well-being. Even if you know this, sometimes it can be hard to get started because you’re not sure why or how you should journal.

Mental Clarity

This is probably the most common reason people begin journaling. Life gets overwhelming, which causes emotions to run high. When you have problems to work through or can’t process emotions, therapists often suggest journaling. Journaling is an effective way to gain clarity.

How does journaling create clarity?

It allows you to express your feelings – Many times, we feel stifled when trying to express how we feel. We worry that others will judge us. A journal doesn’t judge and it doesn’t talk back. It’s there just to listen. The act of writing down your thoughts and emotions helps clear your mind so that you can process the issues in your life.

It allows your mind to problem solve – Our brains are designed to solve problems. It’s the way we’re wired. But sometimes, our emotions get in the way of letting our brain do its thing. Writing about the situation or problem gives our brain the chance to work through it to find solutions.

It allows you to come up with a plan – Once you give your mind the chance to work through a problem and you have expressed your feelings, you’ll start to feel better. Once the weight is off your chest, you’ll be able to start seeing the next steps of what you have to do. Figuring things out gives you peace. Your sleep and confidence will improve and you will be able to focus on important things.

reasons to journal - pen with a notebook

Track Progress

If you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally, you might not need to write that out. Another reason to journal is to track your progress and growth.

What kinds of things should you track?

A journal can track anything that has a multitude of steps. It’s a way to record your journey toward something. When you have a goal, the best way to ensure success is to break it down into smaller goals or steps. A journal is one method you can use to see how successful you are.

As you see your progress, the journal can build your motivation. It can also show when something isn’t working and you need to change course to achieve your goal.

When you have a rough day or have missed a milestone, having a record of how far you have come can help bolster your confidence to get back on track.

Instead of just writing in a notebook, you can use some other ways to track your progress:

Take a weekly photo

Record a daily or weekly video journal

Create a graph or chart to fill in

Learn Something

A common trait among the most successful people is that they consider themselves lifelong learners. If you view yourself as a student, you will be more open-minded, which can lead to more success. Journaling is an excellent learning tool.

How do you use a journal to help you learn?

First, throw out the idea that learning has to look like it did in school. When you are learning to broaden your horizons or because you are passionate about something, it doesn’t matter what shape the learning takes. There is no test.

  • Note-taking – Okay, so this is the obvious one. I mention it because if you want to use a journal as a learning tool, this might feel most natural because we grew up taking notes in a notebook for class. But now, these notes are just for you. Write down the things you think are important or that you want to remember.
  • Cliff notes/Spark Notes – Depending on your age what you call these time savers (or cheat notes, depending on how you view them) might vary. Those of us who are of a certain age (I’m looking at you, Gen X), we used Cliff Notes. When things went online, Spark Notes became the same thing. Whatever you call them, they are quick guides to learn material.  If you create your own Cliff notes, you’re just keeping the most important information at hand.
  • Comparisons – If you are trying different products, methods, or strategies for something, a journal is a good way to record how each is working and what your reaction to each is.
  • Create a manual – If you’re learning something new, a new process, keeping a journal of the ins and outs and steps can help as a reference tool.
woman sitting on the beach writing in a journal

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment. So much of our lives are about rushing around to get to the next thing that we often miss out on the here and now. If you’re having dinner with your family but thinking about the laundry that has to get done or your schedule for the following day, you’re not really present at the meal. Much of our time is spent on autopilot and we don’t pay attention to our surroundings.

Journaling can help you stay intentional and focused on what matters most. Writing in a journal can open your mind and restore peace. Keeping a mindfulness journal is about noticing the positive things in your life daily.

If you place your focus on positive things, you will experience more positive things simply because you will be paying attention and looking for them. Even on a totally shit day, you can find something positive to journal about. That’s what you choose to write. Don’t give the negative thoughts space.

In order to do this, just ask yourself, “What was awesome about my day?” Then ask yourself, “What else?”

Before you know it, you’ll be able to recall a whole list of positive things.

Be Creative

Journals can be used to express or cultivate creative thinking. Writing things down without judgment allows you to think outside the box.

Mind maps are one way to be creative in your journal. A mind map uses symbols and images to represent ideas. Each idea is drawn in and then more are added and arrows and lines are used to connect them. Mind maps free your brain to see connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Prompted journals are another way to be creative. Some are silly and fun and others require you to think a little more deeply. You can find journals that make you draw (even if you’re not an artist) and others that will offer story starters and you need to finish the story.

Regardless of the type of journal you choose, or what your reasons to journal are, the important thing is to be consistent. Consistency is key to reap the benefits of anything. Running a few miles every now and then is okay, but if you really want to strengthen your heart and stamina, you need to be running regularly.

Journaling works the same way. When you first start, it might feel awkward, just like the first time you do anything new. It just takes practice. Building journaling into your routine is easy if you create a specific time and place daily. Have your favorite tools handy to make it a more enjoyable experience.

Before you know it, you’ll be filling journal after journal.

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