an overview photo of a person writing in a journal on a desk

The Benefits of Journaling

A young person shares his journaling practices and how it has helped him.

Mental health and wellbeingHobbies and Interests
By VoiceBox ·

Sidharth

I'm Sidharth, a 22 year old freelance writer who's into things like history, politics, fitness and gaming. I often like watching videos that criticise shows and movies then watching them myself. You can connect with me on Instagram @pillsintheplastic

I've been journaling every day for nearly two months. Here’s how it's helping me:

If you’re into self-care and personal development, then it’s very likely that you’ve been advised to take up journaling. Many believe that it helps you develop self-awareness, make plans and keep track of any self-help journey. I came across journaling in the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The journal described here involved writing about their interactions every day and summarizing them every weekend. So I made my own personal journaling method which is a lot more detailed than just a weekly review. I actually started doing it last year, but due to feeling burned out in college, I was pretty sloppy in following through with it. However, by the start of this year, I had already graduated and recovered my energy, so I decided to meticulously follow a more detailed and extensive program.

The journal is split into three main sections: a review of each day, week and month. Alongside that, I also keep a to-do list for each day. For the daily review, I write out the day's highlights before bedtime. I also note down the amount of time I’ve spent productively, which I record through a timer extension on my browser called Toggl. The weekly reviews are written on Sunday, and are a summary of the daily entries. Finally comes the monthly reviews. At the beginning of each month, I lay out my goals, which are divided into two groups based on priority: the first group is my primary priorities, numbering less than five goals that need to be accomplished within the month. The rest are of secondary importance, all of which cannot be realistically fulfilled in a month. At the end of every month, I list out any positive developments and accomplishments as well as the goals for the next month. With this, I also write down a summary of the month, where I summarize the reviews of each week. This system is more of a cross between a diary and a journal. If you’re wondering what the difference is, this article explains it.

Here’s an example of one of my entries.

You might be wondering how I’m managing to keep following such an exhaustive chore. For a start, it really doesn’t take much time. The most time I’ve spent writing a daily entry is 15 minutes. When it comes to longer entries, such as weekly or monthly summaries, I sometimes split the work into two days. The next reason, which I think is the most important, is that I began to enjoy it. Importantly jotting down my progress and goals helped give me an idea of what to do, and where to go, which provided me with a sense of reassurance. On days when things don’t go too well, the journal provides a valuable outlet for me to vent. The important thing here is that I built a habit. If you want to establish a journaling habit, it’s important to simply do it regularly; even writing a few lines will do.

I’ve personally experienced some benefits from journaling. As I already mentioned, the habit frequently made me self-reflect, giving me an idea of what goals to make, how far I was from reaching them, and what steps I needed to take next. The monthly reviews significantly helped me prioritize what I need to focus on in the short term. When counting all our problems, the sheer number of them can feel like they’re impossible to overcome. However, knowing which issues are the most pressing and then working on them first, then moving on to other problems makes this a lot easier. Finally, it helps build self-awareness as I often have to focus inward, understand how I work, and what my problems, weaknesses, and strengths are. Analyzing my actions and consequences regularly helps me get more out of the practice. 

Journaling also has other benefits. If you’ve got any mental health issues such as anxiety, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, etc. then it helps you keep track of what triggers your symptoms and how to deal with them. Also, the repeated self-expression in a journal helps build communication skills. It also helps in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Journaling in detail about stressful experiences helps in stress management. Finally, it improves your memory. These are just a few examples of the several benefits of journaling.

My form of journaling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You may find other types of journals more suitable to your needs. Some of them are designed around specific goals. One such example is a Gratitude Journal which helps you if you’ve had difficulty seeing the positive side. It involves writing down whatever you’re grateful for every few days. It could even include small things such as a pretty sunrise, or being glad you avoided a mistake. If you’ve ever felt like simply writing for the sake of it, then Morning Pages are ideal. Every morning you simply write down whatever comes to mind. While we mentioned that mental health greatly benefits from journaling, physical health can too, with a Health Journal. If you have any health-related goals, you can track your progress. For example, if you wish to watch your diet, then keep a journal on your nutrition intake. A final example is a Project Journal which is suitable if you are involved in any major projects. Keeping a journal of your work helps you better organize your efforts, reflect on your experience and apply that knowledge to future projects.

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