If there were a twenty-minute activity that could decrease your stress, improve your health and memory, strengthen your writing and problem-solving skills, and motivate you to reach your goals, would you do it? Would it help to know it’s also free and you don’t have to leave the house?
If you haven’t guessed yet, we’re talking about keeping a journal. Today, we’re going to show you how to find the journal that’s right for you and indicate why you’ll want to make journaling part of your daily or weekly routine.
Defining and Choosing Your Journal
Contrary to what you may think, a journal is not a record of the minute details of your daily life. Instead, it’s a private space for exploring what you think and feel about the people, events, or issues that are important to you.
Far from being a dry checklist of daily events, your journal reflects your interests, concerns, and talents. Your journal can take the form of a:
- Motivational journal that sets your day in a positive direction by reflecting on inspirational quotes
- Gratitude journal that lifts your spirits by focusing on the things you are grateful for
- Writer’s journal that prompts you to reflect on famous quotations, social issues, or literary themes
- Thematic or subject journal that invites you to record your thoughts and progress on specific problems or interest areas
- Success journal that documents today’s triumphs to help cheer you through tomorrow’s slumps
- Free-form journal that allows you to write about anything and everything, providing insights into how your thoughts and emotions unfold over time
Five Benefits of Keeping a Journal
No matter which type of journal you choose, it helps to understand what you can gain by journaling on a regular basis. Here are just a few of the benefits students can expect over time:
- Stronger, more confident writing. It probably seems pretty obvious that writing more will make you a better writer, but journaling offers some distinct advantages over other types of writing. Because you make the rules, your writing can flow more freely—building writing “muscle memory” that then makes all writing easier. Because you pick the topics, you can write passionately about the things that interest you—helping you to develop your own distinct writing voice. Because you’re free to experiment with different types of journals, forms, and prompts, you can learn to appreciate writing as a creative process—experiencing it as a joyful practice rather than academic drudgery.
- Improved memory and problem-solving skills. When you describe an event or an idea in your journal, you reinforce the memory of that event or idea. Just the physical act of writing about it, especially by pen rather than keyboard, creates connections in your brain that consolidate and organize your memories. As you write about issues that bother you, you learn to step back from a problem and see connections that may escape you in your first rush of emotion.
- Self-awareness. Keep a journal for a few days and you may get a better perspective on this week’s events, but keep a journal for months or years and you’ll get a better perspective on you. Over time, you can observe patterns in your own thinking and behaviors; changes in your relationships with family and friends; and where interests, strengths, or even fears originate and grow.
- Increased motivation. Journaling allows you to create and maintain a dialogue with yourself about your goals—what they are, how you’ll reach them, and your progress and challenges along the way. Articulating and tracking your goals in writing makes them real, increasing your motivation and personal accountability.
- Decreased stress, improved health. In several studies, researchers have found that writing about what we think and feel about stressful or even traumatic events can improve our psychological well-being, immune function, and overall health. Writing and thinking about a problem through your journal can give the distance and perspective you need to take control of the situation. That, in turn, reduces the physiological effects of stress that negatively affect your overall health and your immune system.
Have you ever felt better just talking about a problem with your friends or parents? Well, consider your journal as a friend who is always there.