Advertising
Advertising

Published on August 7, 2018

15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Help You Sharpen Your Brain

15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Help You Sharpen Your Brain

Journaling is a powerful tool that can help sharpen your brain and mind so that you can become more successful, think more clearly, and reach their goals.

Journaling is one of the top strategies that contribute to many entrepreneurs and high achievers’s success inside and outside the workplace.

Maybe you’re unsure of how to get started with the habit of journaling, or maybe you’re looking for ideas for using journal to sharpen their brain to maximize your productivity and happiness.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 15 journal ideas you can use to sharpen your brain:

1. Set a structure for your journal

If the idea of opening a blank journal and trying to figure out what to write for the day seems daunting to you, then have no fear. One of the simplest ideas to avoid having to think about what to write about in your journal is to create a structure that works well for you.

First, think about what your goal is with journaling. Is it to increase your productivity? Be more creative? De-stress?

Knowing the reason why you are journaling will help you create a structure for your own journal. You can create a list of questions that you want to answer every day or action steps.

For example, you may structure your journal like this:

  • What am I grateful for today? (Give 5 meaningful examples)
  • What are the top 3 tasks I need to accomplish today?
  • What goals am I currently working towards?
  • How do I want to better myself today?

Get inspiration from other people who journal and start implementing the structure that works best for you. Having a set structure that you use every day can make journaling more effective and easier to stick with.

2. Use to-do lists to hack your dopamine

Many people use journaling as a way to manage their tasks and to-do lists. One brain hacking strategy is to cross out your accomplished tasks with red ink.

It may seem silly, but when your brain recognizes the bright red ink crossing out a task that has been performed, it helps stimulate a release of dopamine, your reward and motivation neurotransmitter.

Dopamine is what allows you to feel the reward of accomplishing a task, but it also will help increase your motivation, which can help you become more productive, focused, and motivated to continue journaling.

3. Write just one sentence (seriously)

For some, the idea of having to sit down for more than 5 minutes and write a long entry every single time can make journaling feel more like homework than a helpful habit.

Advertising

There are no rules or requirements for journaling. You don’t need at least 500 words with an introduction, body, and conclusion. If you want, you could even do as little as just one sentence.

Maybe it’s a busy day and you simply don’t have the time you usually do to sit down and journal. Writing just a sentence or two can help your brain continue the habit of journaling so that it can stick. It can also take some pressure off of you from feeling like you have to write more, just because that’s what you are “supposed” to do.

Also allowing yourself to write less forces your brain to hone into what’s important. If you only have a few sentences to write, most likely you won’t write about what you want to have for lunch, you’ll focus on what’s truly important at that moment.

4. End your entry with your top goals (day, month, lifetime)

A great idea for seamlessly transitioning from journaling to starting your day is to end your journal entry with your top goals or tasks. Typically, you’ll write out your current goals for the day ahead, whether they be for work, diet, or fitness. This helps to prime your brain to look forward to the day ahead.

You can also include your bigger goals for the month, year, or even for your life. By writing your goals down on regular basis, it helps orient your brain and your decisions toward the direction of your goals.

It’s the steady reminder of what you are working towards so that you can achieve it as quickly as possible.

5. End your day with journaling

Many first-timers to journaling are under the impression that you need to journal first thing in the morning. Although journaling first thing in the morning is great, it is not necessary.

Many people choose to journal in the evening as a way to decompress from the day and set the tone for the next day.

Journaling at night also can help you de-stress and write down anything that may be bothering from earlier that day, so that you can get it off your mind, onto paper, and be able to get good sleep.

6. Practice gratitude

Studies show that practicing gratitude actually helps your brain become better. Practicing gratitude helps activate your hypothalamus, which is part of your limbic system, to help you better regulate your emotions, behaviors, and even improve motivation.[1]

Practicing gratitude first thing in the morning helps your brain gain a positive perspective to start the day. It helps your brain look for the good in the day, rather than only preparing for the worst.

This idea is incredibly simple to implement. Just write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. You can express gratitude for people, experiences, circumstances, events, or blessings that you may be thankful for.

The more gratitude you can feel the better, which means you want to try and come up with responses that truly resonate with you (the recent job promotion that allows you and your spouse to travel more) instead of finding generic reasons (food, water, shelter). Although you may be grateful for those things, they may not resonate as deeply.

Advertising

7. Write one positive thing that happened in your day

What you focus on becomes powerful in your brain. Have you ever had a good day but you couldn’t seem to get past the one bad event that happened that day?

Our brain is trained to look towards the negative as a natural protective response, but you can retrain your brain to focus on the positive.

When you write down one or more positive things that happened that day, it helps your brain reframe the day in a positive light and actually helps to train your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your day rather than the negative.

8. Affirmations

Your thoughts can change your brain. Affirmations are a useful tool for retraining your brain. Affirmations are positive reinforcements to push your brain in the direction you desire.[2]

Do you want to be more confident? You can write down a list of affirmations as a way to retrain your brain to believe what you want to believe. Here’re some affirmations examples:

  • I am fully confident and secure in myself.
  • I am beaming with confidence and self-assurance.
  • I don’t let my insecurities prevent me from reaching my goals.

Write down a few pieces of gratitude every morning to direct your brain in the direction of your goals to start the day.

You can find more affirmations ideas here:

7 Positive Affirmations To Tell Yourself Every Day

Or you can try one of these affirmations apps:

10 Uplifting Positive Affirmation Apps That Help You Re-Center on the Go

9. Restate your purpose and mission

Why did you wake up today?

What’s the purpose and mission of your day? Are you currently working towards a specific goal?

Being able to state your mission and purpose helps to set the intention for your day ahead so that every action and choice you make during the day is directed towards your purpose and mission.

Advertising

This allows you to be able to say no to activities that may be taking you away from your goal. Then you can stay focused on the activities that will keep you in alignment with your purpose and mission.

10. Unload your stress

We all have those difficult and challenging events that life inevitably throws our way. Often times, we have a tendency to hold onto that stress and ruminate over it. Holding onto that stress can begin effect not only our work life but our personal life as well.

Chronic stress is one of the biggest killers of brain health and performance. Research shows that chronic or extreme stress can actually cause your brain to shrink.[3]

Have you ever felt less stressed after talking to someone about the challenges you are facing? Unloading your stress into a journal entry is a similar strategy.

By unloading your stress into your journal, it can help your brain de-stress and even help you get a different perspective on the problem.

11. Reflect on old journal entries

If you were trying to lose weight for several months and felt like you didn’t get the results you were hoping for but then you decided to weigh yourself, you might realize you actually lost more weight than you thought.

Change happens slowly and often times we don’t realize how much we have actually grown in the months or years that have passed.

A helpful aspect of journaling is that after you have been practicing the habit for some time, you can reflect back on old entries.

Reflecting on old journal entries gives your brain an overview of that change that has occurred from the old entry until now, which can help motivate your brain to keep going.

12. Brainstorm

Are you currently feeling stuck on a problem and not sure what’s going to be the next best step? Journaling can help your brain get more clarity on the best solution.

Being able to lay out all aspects of the problem on paper can help your brain better work the problem so you can get to the best solution quicker and easier than trying to process just in your head.

Looking at the same problem through a different lens gives you a whole new picture that can help you solve it.

13. Tell a story

Creativity is like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Your brain loves routine but if you do the same journal routine over and over, your brain doesn’t change.

Advertising

Instead of your normal routine of journaling, mix it up by telling a story. This trains your brain to become more creative, adaptable, and changeable.

Writing a story helps your brain break free from routine and start thinking outside the box. This can help improve your creativity in other aspects of your life as well.

14. Check-in with your goals

As we discussed earlier, many use their journal as a place to write down their goals. As you progress, you can use journal entries to check-in with yourself to see how you are tracking towards your goals.

Maybe you realize that you are not as close to your goal as you hoped. Below your discovery, write down a few action steps to get you back on course toward hitting your goals.

15. Create compelling vision

If you want to become more motivated, then you need something compelling to look forward to.

Unclear goals or destinations rarely get reached. The clearer the vision, the easier it will be for your brain to visualize and attain that outcome.

In a perfect world, what would your ideal future look like? Where would you live? How much money are you making? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you get to travel?

Creating this compelling future is a fun idea to help your brain become more motivated to achieve that goal.

Give journaling some time

Just like anything else, journaling gets better with time and practice.

At first, it may feel a bit awkward; but over time you’ll find your rhythm and routine that best suits your goals, your lifestyle, and your personality.

If you’re ready to take your journaling to the next level, start incorporating these 15 journaling ideas to take your brain power to the next level.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford Academic: The Neural Basis of Human Social Values: Evidence from Functional MRI
[2]The Annual Review of Psychology: The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention
[3]CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2006 Oct; 5(5): 503–512.: Stress and Brain Atrophy

More by this author

Dr Brady Salcido

Dr Brady is a Doctor, Podcast Host, and Brain Optimization Expert sharing how you can use your lifestyle to upgrade your life.

15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Help You Sharpen Your Brain The Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health What Foods Have the Most Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Mental Strength Why You Keep Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (And How to Fix It) Stress and meditation Anxiety Help Through Meditation: How the ‘Here and Now’ Enhances Your Life

Trending in Mental Strength

1Why Giving up Is Not an Option (And How to Stay Motivated) 2How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life 320 Coping Skills That Will Help You During Times of Stress 4How to Calm Down Anxiety When Your Brain is in Overdrive 5How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on August 15, 2018

Why Giving up Is Not an Option (And How to Stay Motivated)

Why Giving up Is Not an Option (And How to Stay Motivated)

We all get them – those feelings of doubt, fear, lack of self-confidence and lack of self-belief. Whatever it is we want to achieve in life, no matter how much we want it, there will always be times when you hit a challenging period, your motivation hits a wall and you feel like giving up.

When difficult times do stop you in your tracks, you need a way to push through, learn and understand what it is that’s truly demotivating you, what your mindset is telling you about the way you deal with challenges and coming out the other side a strong, successful person.

Video Summary

In this article you’ll learn that tough times make even the most motivated person consider giving up and this is completely normal. That despite the overwhelming feeling of wanting to just give up, it’s actually the most important time not to.

What makes you want to give up easily

Identifying the reasons why giving up seems like the best option is so important. There are many reasons why people want to give up and each is driven by different motivations. However, there are a few human instincts that come into play here.

  • Mistaking lessons for failure: Not being able to see the roadblock for the lesson it is and keep going anyway.
  • The outcome is more important than the journey: Putting more emphasis on the end result and dismissing the importance of how you’re getting to the end goal and growing along the way.
  • Seeing the failure before it’s even happened: Self-sabotaging yourself by creating the thought that it just won’t happen. This is usually down to limiting beliefs and lack of self-belief.
  • Lack of discipline: Realizing that achieving your dream won’t just fall into your lap within a few weeks but will actually take hard work and determination.
  • Not adjusting to changes: Not embracing changes in direction, the need to tweak ideas or finding things evolve differently to how you originally imagined it and taking it as a sign it’s not meant to work out, are showing you that you’re not open to changes and the natural evolution to something even more amazing.

People often say, the moment they almost decided to give up was the moment just before they had a breakthrough. While demotivation, failure and giving up feels horrible, there’s a reason for this; it’s because you’re giving up on something that deep down you know is possible. 

Why you should think twice about giving up

The power lies with your mindset and shifting this is key to keeping up the motivation you need when the going gets tough. This is why it’s important to realize why you shouldn’t give in and give up.

Instant success is a myth

It is a generation of instant gratification which creates the illusion that everyone needs what they want. People look at other successful people and assume they got overnight success but in reality it took hard work and a lot of failing to get where they did. Most never see the journey but only the destination, and they fall in love with this idea that they don’t need to work hard to get it.

Understand this is a myth. Don’t be deterred by this because actually the journey is where the magic happens and makes your end goal ever more sweet.

A different approach maybe needed

People judge themselves so harshly and assume that they are just not capable if they seem to be failing at something they want. It could simply be resolved by trying a different approach.

People are often so focused on the end goal and believe there’s just one or two ways to get there. In fact there may be a hundred more avenues that their mind isn’t opening up to.

Advertising

Open up and change your perspective. Are there other ways you can do it that feels better to you?

You’ll always wonder ‘what if’

That feeling of regret can hit you hard. What if I’d just stuck with it? I could have achieved it by now. What if I hadn’t given up, how different my life would be?

While regret is the number one thing you shouldn’t waste your time doing, before you quit your dream just imagine how your life could transform and where you could be in a year, two years or five years.

Don’t give your future self the chance to become regretful because of the one decision you make in the present moment.

You could be quitting right before your success

Many times, when people give up, they’re actually just a step away from success like this:

    The toughest times are a precursor to a major breakthrough to success. Think of it as being tested just to make sure this is exactly what you want.

    Decide yes, I still want this more than ever! You’re pretty much saying yep, give it to me now I deserve this after all I’ve done and this is usually the time it happens. Keep going! It’s all about trust that it’s going to work out.

    It’ll happen again and again

    Do you find yourself quitting things a lot?  By default, your habitual mindsets and thought patterns play out over and over again throughout your life if you don’t identify and change them. Don’t think, ‘I’ll have another go in a year’s time’ because you are really likely to repeat exactly the same pattern again.

    It’s important to sit down with yourself and identify why you have a tendency to give up. This may feel uncomfortable and you may feel resistance to doing the process. But once you actually work through your limiting beliefs, they can be released really quickly and help you to remove mental obstacles you didn’t know were stopping you.

    Advertising

    Struggle does not equate to failure

    We’ve been led to believe en mass that struggle is something to be ashamed of. It’s somehow a negative representation of our core character and ability to move through the world. I’m here to tell you it’s not. Never think of hard times as failure. In fact, just take failure out of your vocabulary. Stop caring about what others think and just know and believe you are capable of getting through it and coming out the other end.

    Struggle actually builds character. It’s there to serve you – to help you learn something you’ll need to use later on. Stop assuming struggle is negative but see it as a blessing on your road to great success.

    How to stay motivated

    The thing people tend to forget when all they want to do is give up is that failure doesn’t fix anything. Maybe for a moment you’ll feel relief because you no longer have to face that challenge, but the satisfaction will be fleeting.

    Whether you’re trying to quit smoking, drinking, or any kind of bad habits; or whether you’re trying to achieve a goal; the misery you were experiencing will be back, one way or another if you choose to give up at the most difficult time.

    The real challenge you’re experiencing in that moment is your own weakness manifesting in a physical form. When you accept that you aren’t worthy or good enough, that’s the mind set you will keep.

    No matter what challenge you are facing (be it work or play) you will struggle with maintaining your optimism, dedication and will power because you haven’t addressed the real issue: yourself.

    Imagine the Great Challenge as a big rock in front of you.

      If you choose to give up, you work around the stone just to go around it.

      Advertising

        Yet the fastest way to get over it is to break this big rock and go right through it.

          It’s the same with your weaknesses. You could continue to adjust your life to fit your fears (i.e. no longer job-hunting because you’ve accepted you will always fail), or you could keep sending out applications and calling to follow up and schedule interviews.

          No matter how great the challenge is, breaking it down is a must.

          In order to truly stay motivated, no matter how great the challenge is, you’ve got to learn to break the Great Challenge down.

            To truly overcome your weakness, you need break down the big rock into smaller pieces and deal with the small stones piece by piece.

              Right now it may seem impossible. It may seem like this is the hardest thing you will ever go through. But remember how often your threshold changes.

              Below are some tips that can help you take those first steps in keeping your chin up and truly facing the difficult choices in your life:

              Advertising

              1. Figure out what you lack

              No matter what the challenge you’re facing may be, there’s a reason it’s challenging to you. If it’s a job, why is it you aren’t getting hired? Go back through the job listings and skills required and find the common thread your resume doesn’t have. Is it not listed because you don’t have it? If so, work on doing something to give you that skill. Be it an online course or a volunteer project, do something to help push you closer to the “perfect candidate.”

              2. Be patient with yourself

              No one becomes a CEO overnight. If you have big dreams, you’re going to have to do big work to accomplish them. It’s okay to take time figuring out the best way to proceed, but it’s not okay to walk away because it’s challenging.

              3. Be proud of yourself for every small win

              Have you ever noticed how a small mistake can weigh on you for days? Whether or not you categorize yourself as a dramatic person doesn’t matter when it comes to the guilt we so often put upon ourselves. But when we make small strides in achieving our goal(s), we never seem to give ourselves much respect.

              When we fail to pat ourselves on the back for little victories, it decreases our motivation and makes it much harder to achieve big goals.[1]

              4. Remember that you aren’t the first to feel this way

              When we face difficult choices or events in our lives, we often forget that we are not the first/only/last to experience this. Everyone faces hard decisions – be it deciding to end a relationship, changing careers, moving to a different place and leaving friends behind. We all go through it.

              So don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends or family for a sounding board. In some cases, they may even be able to offer you advice you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

              5. Know that you will grow as a person just from going through it

              We build character through those hard times. The old cliche, “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is true. When you go through something challenging, you learn from it, regardless of the outcome. Recognize the opportunities for learning and personal development.

              6. Remember that you have choices

              No matter how hard the challenge you’re facing may be, one of the best things you can focus on is that you have choices. Only you can decide how you handle something and the steps you take. More so, only you can decide how you take the next step.

              You have the power to stand in your own way and to get out of it. Allow yourself to stay motivated by choosing to be stay motivated.

              Choose to see obstacles as lessons. Ask yourself, what is this showing me? What is it bringing up for me? In most cases, they’re there to point you in a direction you’ve previously not considered. Trust in this and keep going.

              Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

              Reference

              Read Next