I have kept a journal since my college days. Journaling can be an extremely powerful activity—and I would recommend it as a daily pursuit.
Journaling can help you tap into your subconscious and your own inner wisdom (click to tweet). And this is where you will find your authentic voice—the one who knows who you really are, what you want, and how to get there. This is how you will develop a strong mind that can continue to lead in changing and volatile environments.
Journaling can be a scary process for some because it will expose your vulnerabilities as it peels back layers of your personality. It has been a truly transformative process for me and I know it has been for many others as well.
One of the reasons that journaling is so effective is that it forces you to slow down and become more grounded (click to tweet). You get so busy with life that you can no longer hear that inner voice. You still have the answers to your own questions but you don’t slow down enough for that voice to be heard. This is why different forms of meditation are so popular; your breathing slows, your shoulders relax, and your head begins to clear.
Journaling is a form of meditation because you must be present in the moment, getting in touch with that part of you who is wise and authentic. You let go of everything else in your life and just BE. I have found that target practice with my gun is also a form of meditation. It is a discipline of the mind because it requires the shooter to be present and to let go of errant thoughts and distractions. Both journaling and target practice require a single focus of thought.
Journaling can gently guide you toward a more positive attitude (click to tweet). Begin each session with this single sentence: “What am I grateful for today?” It’s amazing what happens when you direct your thoughts in a positive way. Asking specific questions as you write can also help you get clarity about what you want and help you set or keep your eye on your goals. Writing out thoughts can help give you direction during a major life transition when you need to sort out your feelings and thoughts.
Journaling helps you notice your feelings and gives you time to connect with your heart. I tend to think my way through an issue rather than feel my way through. Over the years, I’ve come to trust my mind over my heart. I firmly believe that the only way to be a more authentic person is to pay attention to the inner voice that is strongly connected to heart, mind, and gut instinct. One should not be dominant over the other and neither should one be shoved into a place of less importance.
Journaling helps you notice your feelings and connect with your heart so your mind does not dictate your behavior.
I have specific requirements for my journal. I buy flat bound notebooks that are thin so my hand rests well when writing. I don’t like ringed notebooks that impede handwriting across either page. I do not use computer journals because the act of writing helps me to disentangle my thoughts. I allow myself to wrestle through issues, process events, and interpret conversations. This helps me to understand the context in which these things are happening in my life. Life happens so quickly that, unless I journal, I don’t take the time to stop and reflect on where I’m heading.
My Journal Rules
I want to make sure the journaling process was as easy as possible, so I have no excuses. These are some of my rules that have worked very well for me:
- Set aside time. I keep my notebook where I have coffee in the morning. Since I’m a morning person, it’s logical that I write in my journal when my mind is rearing to go. There is no better way to start the morning than with a cup of strong black coffee and a fresh page in a journal. It becomes part of the morning routine, before email or the newspaper.
- Create a sacred space. It’s essential for me to create a space in which I can write, and think, in private—without distractions of dogs or people. If you have the space, it could be an entire room. For me, it’s a chair in my family room, and if my miniature Labradoodle, Gus, joins me, he knows to curl up on the other chair. I have friends who journal in their car while waiting to pick up their kids from school. A park bench would be perfect, or a coffee shop—anywhere you feel you can be alone with your thoughts.
- Eliminate distractions. Except for my Labradoodle puppy, I am alone when I journal. If I have the time, I spend a few minutes reading scripture before journaling. Even Gus is a blessing in this time of reflection if he jumps up on my lap. At first I’m angry he disturbs my quiet time. And then, he leans into me and looks up at me with adoring eyes. He doesn’t need to do anything except communicate to me that he loves me, and I realize that is how God wants us to show up. Gus doesn’t do anything to earn my love; he simply shows up, trustingly lays his head on my chest, and slips into a restful sleep. I am overwhelmed by how simple a good and fulfilled life can be.
- Start slowly. Journaling is not the place to solve the world’s problems, though it’s a great place to starting solving your own. Sentences do not have to be complete. In fact, bullet points are an excellent way to get started. You will be amazed at how much your life will improve by simply spending a few minutes a day the things that you are grateful for.
- Focus. One of the most important aspects of journaling is that is a tool that helps me recognize whether I’ve focused on the important stuff during the day, or whether I’ve wasted it on worrying about the stupid stuff that withers like dried grass and blows away.
- Get out of your own way. Don’t be the elephant in the room. Don’t be the one thing that is never discussed but cannot be avoided. Let your words flow onto the page without passing judgment on yourself or others. Don’t worry about censoring your thoughts and concerns. Remember that this journal is just for you—no one else will see it. Feel safe in putting the real you out there on paper. If you’re worried that your deep, dark secrets will be discovered, destroy your journal later on.
Life is a journey—perhaps the longest journey most of us will ever make. Journaling is a companion in that journey to help you toward personal growth, self-awareness, and empowerment. The best journeys are the one in which you find yourself.
How has journaling helped you on your life’s journey? What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from journaling? What suggestions can you offer to those who are interested in journaling?
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