Journaling is often done with paper and pen. Some people prefer this, as they find they are freer and more creative when actually writing. There are some great journal books available (such as the highly popular Bullet Journal). Journals come in various forms including hardcover books, with simple blank pages inside, to allow for writing and sketching or doodling. Other journals are simply lined books. Still, other journals have prompts where they ask questions or inquiries.
Examples of questions could include:
- What are you grateful for today?
- What are your intentions today?
- What are you avoiding?
- How might you increase your happiness today?
Journaling can also be done online and is a popular option. Some of my clients find this a more convenient way to journal, as they just need access to a journaling app or program. With a cloud based-app/program you can journal on your laptop, tablet, phone or computer. Online journals/diaries are used for travel, tracking food or exercise, self-reflection and personal growth. Penzu, DearDiary and JRNL are a few popular journal programs available.
Whichever form you choose to journal – it’s a personal decision. My client Cheryl*, a busy executive and Mom of two boys, loves to use Penzu to journal. Penzu is a free app that allows Cheryl to log in from anywhere and record her thoughts. It is password protected, so your journal entries are kept private and cannot be read by others.
Four Benefits of Journaling
1. Accountability to yourself and your career/life goals
Journaling can provide clarity in both your career and life. It can show you what you’ve accomplished in the past and speak to your future goals. It’s also a great place to visualize what you really want in all aspects of your career and life, capture your goals and celebrate when you achieve them! Journaling is useful to reflect on your challenges and to help look at different solutions that you might not have thought of previously.
Cheryl* says, “For me, journaling has helped me remain grounded and accountable to both my personal and career development goals. It is my safe place to explore what’s working; what needs improvement and what I am proud of! If too much time has lapsed between my journaling that’s when I know I am not practicing life balance… it’s my cue to “get back to myself” so I can be a better colleague, parent, spouse etc. For me journaling is a personal investment that pays big time in terms of a more meaningful and fulfilling life!”
2. Focusing on the positive – gratitude journals
Studies show that when we are grateful on a daily basis our lives can benefit. Keeping a gratitude journal is one way to express your gratitude. It can be as simple as recording one or two things you are grateful for every day. When we focus on the positive, other areas of our life and career often benefit as well.
3. Reducing overwhelm
When my clients are overwhelmed in their work and family life I often recommend they do “brain dumps.” This is where they write down everything they are thinking about to clear all the messages from their head. It’s like taking the mental to-do list and getting it out and onto paper so to speak. First thing in the morning or before bed are good times to practice this. Often the result is relief that what they imagined was so overwhelming in fact is not as bad as they initially thought.
My client Jennifer* says, “Journaling is a way for me to tap into the sub-conscious. It’s a way for me to put pen to paper and pour my soul out, not exactly knowing where it will take me and often surprises me on what comes out. It’s also the best way for me to release something, for once it’s put on paper, it doesn’t have to take space up in my brain.”
Writing “morning pages” is similar to a brain dump. Conceived by author Julia Cameron, and discussed in her book The Artist’s Way.
Julia insists to do your morning pages correctly, you must write three pages a day (on paper) when you first awake in the morning – thus the morning pages. In a recent blog post she suggested, maybe her morning pages should be called mourning pages, since you are emptying your head of every conscious thought – both negative and positive.
What’s the benefit of doing this? By developing the habit of morning pages you clear your mind and get it all out on paper, you’re freeing up valuable brain space for other things and giving your productivity a boost. Deep-seated thoughts will come out, which frees up your brain to become more creative and you can begin to view things from different perspectives.
4. Health benefits
According to research from the American Psychological Association, journaling can help improve your immune system and reduce the symptoms of even life-threatening diseases. I think my friend, Barb*, whose husband and herself suffered from cancer says it best how journaling impacted her life:
“I need to write and write and write. Journaling is one of the ways I grow, one of the ways I heal and one of the ways I make room fro laughter and fun in my daily life. I couldn’t laugh and joke and skip and play if I didn’t journal. Journaling has let me talk to my dearest friends to loved ones that are no longer here. Journaling has helped me heal daily from the onslaught of medical problems. I can look back at the past __ years and recognize my own growth, like the height markings on the kitchen wall.”
University of Texas psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes that regular journaling strengthens our immune cells. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker contends that writing about stressful events in your life can help you come to terms with them and accept them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health and well-being.
Whether you prefer traditional journaling in a book or like the convenience of online, why not try journaling? Make the time today and see what the impact will be!
*Names changed to protect confidentiality
(Originaly posted on Noomii Career Blog)