If you would have asked me a year ago to crack open a notebook and start writing, I’d tell you that my hand gets sore after two minutes and that my writing is so bad, I can’t even read it sometimes (I did not get the girly writing gene). Journaling was something I did as a kid, and I distinctly remember keeping one on the first computer I ever had – I would talk about my day at school and how I was feeling, and at the end I would put an emotion as to how I feel that day was overall. Snaps for school-aged Jillian.
But as I became older and the digital age became more and more prominent, I wrote down my feelings less and less. We became consumed with things like social media, television, and other distractions that kept us occupied. This meant less time to think and ponder our thoughts. When I became a coach, I would see so many of my mentors in the entrepreneurial community talk about how beneficial journaling was; but still, I never jumped on the bandwagon.
Finally, when I started going to therapy to address some issues around my own self-acceptance and self-worth (and I think anyone who works in self-development should do the work on themselves, first and foremost), my therapist suggested I start journaling, even just for a couple minutes a day. She wanted me to write down some of the thoughts I was having so I would remember them for my next session.
I have to be honest with you – I am a seriously regimented person, curated through years of the education system and writing academically. The sheer fact that my journal would be a bunch of random thoughts that don’t make sense and that there would be no order to my entries was enough to drive me C R A Z Y.
But I wanted to get an A++ in therapy, so I started. And I didn’t feel anything at first – I was indifferent towards it. But once I started doing it on a daily basis, I started to notice emerging patterns and thoughts that I didn’t even realize I was having. It brought on a whole different level of self-awareness that I didn’t even think was possible, or necessary.
So now, I am going to share with you three ways that journaling can improve your life:
1) It's therapeutic to write down your thoughts & feelings.
Psychologists have deemed that writing down your thoughts & feelings is the equivalent to saying them aloud. When we’re going over the same thoughts over and over again, we can feel isolated and begin to question ourselves and what we’re thinking – but when we say how we are feeling out loud or write them down, we are giving certainty to our thoughts in the way of yes, I am having this thought. What do I make of it? Most of us don’t make it past thinking the thought because not all of us are taught to process our thoughts and emotions. Writing them down in a journal allows us to process what we are thinking in a more healthy and self-aware manner.
2) Journaling about your goals will make them more attainable.
Consistency creates the habit. Our brain activity is 95% subconscious – which means we are unaware of the hundreds of thoughts we have on a daily basis, implanted there over time from experiences in childhood and other socialization factors. Journaling about our goals and where we want to be and then looking at these words on a daily basis means that our subconscious recognizes these goals and begins to turn them into reality. If you are constantly faced with a goal that you are trying to achieve and are reminded of it everyday, you are more intentional about your actions and tasks that will lead you to achieving said goal.
3) It improves your memory and sparks creativity.
Writing triggers a different part of the brain than listening or visualization does; therefore, people who journal have reported better memory retention and more awareness to what they are putting down on paper. For example, I journal after my therapy sessions so I am able to process through what I learned about myself in the session, as well as anything poignant that my therapist said that felt like a shift in the right direction. I retain this information better by writing it down, as I am experiencing it for a second time.
Journaling also sparks creativity by encouraging you to put all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper so you can see them. Some entrepreneurs do this in the morning when they want to get all of their ideas out – they call it a “brain dump”. This one was hard for me, because again, I thought my journal entries had to be neat and orderly. But when I started writing whatever came to my mind, I was not only writing down my thoughts and feelings, but I began thinking of creative ideas for my business and writing those down, too. This has been great for creating content such as blog posts, podcast episodes, and social media posts.
If you think that journaling is BS, I’m here to tell you that I totally thought that it was, too. But after keeping a journal as a child and then starting to do it again in the last couple of months, I can attest to the fact that I am able to process my thoughts and emotions in a healthier way, I am more on track with my long-term goals, and my memory & creativity have never been better.