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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Very Best Version of You

How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Very Best Version of You

Let’s start with the problem:

You get back from work. You’re tired. It was a long day. You know there’s things you could do, to get out of the rut you’re in.

But, let’s be honest. You really would rather relax, sit down and chill for a bit. Grab a snack. Watch your favourite show.

By the time you’ve done that, the day’s over. There’s just not enough time. To make this worse – you don’t have the energy or willpower to make changes in your life today.

So where do you go from there?

What you need are some easy to apply actions that are proven to work.

This article is going to give you 4 steps on how to make changes in life so you can follow today and get closer to success – even when you are feeling tired and lazy.

These steps have proven to work for me, and many of the coaching clients I work with privately.

1. Squash inconsistency by giving up motivation

Now most people, when they want to make changes to their lives, focus on making lengthy to-do lists and plans. They think over and over again about what is going wrong, what is going well and what they want, etc.

All in a bid to push themselves to getting more motivated.

Guess what? This isn’t going to work.

Willpower and motivation are feelings. Feelings are vague and unreliable.

Instead what you should do is focus on putting your flawed unpredictable self in the best possible environments.

If you do one thing first from this list, it’s THIS:

Find and go to the best possible environment for the area of your life you want to change.

For example:

  • If you want to get fit, make your first goal to show up at the gym three times a week.
  • If you want to find a new relationship, show up to a meet up in your city for single people.
  • If you want to be productive and make your business idea work, don’t work at home, go to a co working space nearby.

The reason people fail to become the best version of themselves is because they underestimate the power of environments to influence behavior.

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Accept that you are flawed, prone to distractions and your motivation and willpower will fail you.

The best hack at your disposal? Show up to “change inducing” environments and get out of your comfort zone (physically)!

OK. Next step.

2. Recruit an elite team to help you (for free)

Open up any social media platform you’re active on that contains some positive connections you have.

Send this message to one person you already know and trust ton help you make changes to your life:

“Hey [first name]. Can I be really frank and honest with you? I’m having one of those – ‘OMG I NEED TO MAKE CHANGES TO MY LIFE!’ moments.

And I was browsing the internet, looking for tips and this article I came across suggested accountability. So here I am, messaging you to be part of my accountability system.

My ask is simple.

Can we sit together once a week at [x place] but do absolutely no socializing? I’ll buy the [coffee/food] and it will be a space to force me to do [x thing]. You literally have to do nothing other than eat the free coffee/food I pay for lol. But it will keep my accountability high, which is what I need.

What you reckon? Can you help? Thanks!”

Now obviously, change the language to suit you but you get the idea.

Not only are you going to environments that will help you make changes, but by bringing a friend (or two), you make it even likelier that you will succeed. It doesn’t even have to be in person, it could be a video call.

People fail to make changes to their lives because they try to do it all themselves.

It doesn’t really work in long term, and it doesn’t have to be this way.

You can recruit and “enlist” people to help you. By doing this, you’re taking care of the up and down motivation you have.

Not only are people happy to help, when they see this type of behavior, they’re also inspired and motivated to change their lives. Pretty soon, you end up creating change in not just your life, but other people’s too.

So when the next dip in willpower comes?

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You have a friend sitting right next to you, watching your every move, making sure you get things done anyway.

3. Build good habits effortlessly

Changing your life means changing your day to day habits.

Habits are automated behaviors you do everyday, like how a clock works, without thinking or motivating yourself to do them.

Some habits help you to change, others can stop you. One of the best ways to replace your ‘bad’ habits with good ones is to treat them like old clothes.

What happens when your t-shirt gets old, faded and out of fashion? You replace it with something new and improved.

Do the same thing with your habits – upgrade and replace them with something better. Start small, then slowly graduate to higher levels of difficulty.

Let me give you a clear example of what I mean:

A few years ago (before it became mainstream), I was trying to start my own habit of meditating every single day to help boost my productivity and mindfulness. I’d done a mind blowing course called Vipassana. It involved 10 days of deeply powerful meditation combined with noble silence in a remote part of the UK.

Now it was easy to do when I was there (#1 – environment!) with all those other meditators (#2 – people helping me). All I could do was meditate. There were ZERO distractions. I had NO CHOICE.

When I got home however, after a few days of sticking with it, I quickly caved.

Those extra 30 minutes of sleep were just so much easier than waking up everyday at 4am for a long one hour meditation.

So what did I do to build this really important habit?

Like with most things, I wanted to make changes to my life. I wanted to become my best self.

I knew how important it was. I just couldn’t follow through consistently and kept failing over and over.

Then, it hit me.

I needed to start small. I made a tiny change, that made all the difference.

I made a tiny change, that I could stick to – without fail – that has me meditating daily every single day now.

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What was it?

Instead of trying to do something BIG inconsistently (1 hour of 4am morning meditation) and failing again and again. I decided to do something small consistently.

Building any good habit really just comes down to repetition. The way the brain is built works in favour of this.

My new habit became:

When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will sit cross legged for 30 seconds with my eyes closed.

Eventually, once I did this consistently for a few months. I increased difficulty.

When I wake up, I will fold my bedding neatly. Then I will meditate for 10 minutes.

Why does this work?

What’s important here is that the behavior you want (meditating) is tied to another consistent habit (folding your bedding).

I attached my new habit to one that already is consistent.

Making it more likely to happen.

Secondly, I aimed for consistency, not perfection. This is where a lot of people fail. They have an idea of the change they want, but things become all or nothing.

When you do this, you fail to realize the power of consistency. The brain you have loves patterns. In this case, I trained my brain to repeat a set pattern every morning when I fold my bed.

There was no motivation or willpower required.

This training has gone so far now that if I miss a day of meditating, I really feel uncomfortable. I’m just as conditioned to meditate as most people are to checking their phones in the morning.

If you want to learn more about quitting bad habits, Lifehack’s CEO also has a guide on it:

How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

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4. Create more time by quitting social media

You know the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity and it took me 30 seconds to do?

I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked them on my laptop.

Then, to reinforce it, I told all my friends and followers on Facebook (my most used platform) I wasn’t using it for a while.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with my social media. Social media is a tool. Tools are neutral. It’s how we use them that is “productive” or “distracting”.

We each have to judge how healthy our usage is – especially when weighed against unlocking our best self.

That said. For most people reading this, including me, I think limiting our usage is a very favorable advantage.

One of the best ways to make changes in our lives is not to add new tools or tricks. But simply remove things that distract us.

Social media is something I use heavily for both my businesses. Technically I’m a “social media influencer” and “YouTuber”. I need to be posting constantly, right?

Our situations are unique, so I came up with a unique solution for this. After deleting and blocking these apps from my devices, I installed a social media management software that still allows me to post my updates.

The big difference however, is I cannot spend any time scrolling and being distracted.

Summing it up

Change is not always about more. Sometimes it’s about doing less and getting rid of what distracts or blocks you.

Trying to do things by yourself is a good way to fail. Share your goals and pitfalls with people, no one helps until you ask.

Start with small changes consistently instead of big changes failed at consistently. The momentum will give you results over time.

So what to do next to make changes in your life?

  1. Write down where you are going to GO to create the changes you want.
  2. Message 3-4 people on social media and ask them to help you using the message template I gave you.
  3. Choose one small habit to get started with immediately and upgrade it over time.
  4. Delete all, or at least most social media apps on your devices, and notify people you are leaving to make it stick.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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