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How Journaling Can Improve Your Life

How Journaling Can Improve Your Life

Would you like a simple and proven way to reduce your stress and anxiety?

Then welcome to the world of journaling.

“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.” — Robin S. Sharma

Keeping a daily journal can not only help you identify the ‘pain points’ in your life,  it can also help you to find ways to resolve them.

Before I give you some guideposts to starting a journal, let’s first look at…

What Exactly Is Journaling?

For most people, journaling involves spending a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at night jotting down their thoughts.

It’s a way to dive into your emotional and mental states, and uncover things that may be holding you back. 

On top of this, journaling can help you to discover answers to your issues, and put you firmly on track for a balanced, healthy and fulfilling life.

Journaling is actually nothing new; people have been doing it for hundreds of years (think Samuel Pepys, Henry David Thoreau and Virginia Woolf). And, its popularity is for good reason.

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Check out some of the benefits that journal keepers have found:

• Reduced stress

• Management of anxiety

• Power over depression

• Help in prioritizing and overcoming problems and fears

• The ability to track issues day-to-day, enabling triggers to be recognized

• Opportunities for positive self-talk

For example, your journal (or diary) could help you control your diet. 

Let’s say you wanted to cut back on the amount of junk food you’re eating. The first step would be to write down how much junk food you ate every day. After a week or two, you could analyze just how much junk food you’ve been eating (you might be shocked by the amount of calories and fat you’re consuming from these products). If you then decide you want to cut back on junk food, then you would write down how much you want to reduce your intake by, and then keep a daily track of your efforts.

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In this case, your journal will prove most helpful on the days when you eat more junk food than you intended to or should have. By writing down in detail what caused you to eat more, you’ll soon notice a pattern that reveals the triggers to your excess junk food eating. And once you know the triggers — you can then work out how best to avoid them!

Of course, journaling can be used for much more than sticking to a diet. You can use it to help with your career goals, build better relationships, and to improve your mental and emotional health.

The latter benefits often result from following something called ‘journal therapy’ (aka writing therapy).

How Journal Therapy Can Change Your Life

As you might imagine, journal therapy is simply journaling for therapeutic benefits. Unlike traditional therapy, however, journal therapy is accessible to all and costs nothing but time (although some therapists use this technique as part of their practice).

Why should you consider journal therapy?

Well, firstly, it’s a great way to accelerate your personal growth. It can do this by keeping your thoughts, ideas and actions focused on specific goals — such as learning a new language or setting up your first company.

But, journal therapy can also do much more than this. When practiced regularly, it can help you release your creative genius, give you control over your life, and fill you with a wonderful sense of empowerment.

And, according to Positive Psychology, journal therapy has proven effective in aiding conditions like:[1]

• Post-traumatic stress

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• Obsessive-compulsive disorder

• Substance abuse

• Eating disorders

• Low self-esteem

If you’re wondering how journal therapy differs from ordinary journaling, then let me explain… 

Typical journaling involves recording events as they occurred in a diary or journal. While journal therapy, takes a different route. It involves thinking about, interacting and analyzing the events. 

For example, in standard journaling, you might simply make a note of an argument that you had with one of your colleagues at work. But, with journal therapy, you would use your writing to try to ascertain what caused the argument — and what could be done to prevent a repeat of it.

This approach is much more active and directed than that of standard journaling; and in my experience, it’s much more powerful.

Journal Therapy: How to Get Started

The Center for Journal Therapy has come up with a great way to get started with journal therapy.[2]

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It’s five easy steps under the name WRITE:

• W — What do you want to write about? Think about what’s going on in your life, and how you feel about it. Then decide which topic is most important to you to write about at that moment.

• R — Review or reflect on it. Relax by closing your eyes and taking two or three deep breaths to put your mind into focus. To help you out, you may want to start with phrases like: “Right now…” “I want…” or “I think…” or “I feel…”

• I — Investigate your thoughts and feelings. To do this effectively, simply start writing and keep going. If you find yourself getting stuck, close your eyes for a moment and bring yourself back into balance. Then go back over what you’ve already written and continue putting your thoughts down.

• T — Time yourself. There is real power in deadlines, which is why when practicing journal therapy, it’s a good idea to set aside a specific time for writing. This could be 5 minutes, 15 minutes or more. Use the timer on your phone or tablet to make this effortless for you.

• E — Exit.  How? By re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it. You can do this by jotting down a sentence or two that captures your thoughts on what you’ve written. You may also want to note down any action steps to take.

Journal therapy really is as easy as putting pen to paper — or fingers to keys — and then starting to WRITE!

Want to experience the power of journaling right now? Then simply write down a list of stuff that you need to complete. Upon finishing this, I guarantee you’ll immediately feel a stress release.

Try it and see.

Featured photo credit: Aaron Burden via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

How to Use Deliberate Practice to Be Good at Almost Anything

I first came across the principle of deliberate practice in the book Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. According to Anders Ericsson,[1]

“Deliberate practice involves stepping outside your comfort zone and trying activities beyond your current abilities.”

What that means is breaking down the skill you want to acquire into separate components and developing your skills, so you master each individual part of the skill. Deliberate practice is not practicing something over and over and not pushing yourself to improve.

In this article, you will discover how you can make deliberate practice work in your everyday life and achieve your goals faster, even when you lack innate talent.

How Deliberate Practice Works in Everyday Life

Imagine you want to become a better presenter. Deliberate practice requires breaking down the presentation into different sections.

For example, you could break down the presentation into the beginning, the middle, and the end. Then, you would work only on the beginning one day. You would practice the tone, the pauses, and even your movement at the beginning of the presentation. On another day, you might practice the transition from beginning to the middle, etc.

The opposite approach would be to mindlessly run through the presentation over and over again until you memorize the script. This type of practice might help you to memorize your script, but you would not necessarily deliver a great presentation. It would likely sound forced and over-practiced instead of dynamic and natural[2].

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Do Lots of Deliberate Practice

    In my teenage years, I was an aspiring middle-distance runner. During the winter months, we ran a lot of long distances on the road as well as cross country. The purpose was to develop our overall stamina and basic strength.

    As the summer approached, we transitioned onto the track and did a lot of 10 X 600 meters with 60 seconds rest between runs. Here, we were working on our speed endurance, a key factor in performing well at middle-distance running.

    Six hundred meters was not my racing distance. I ran 800 and 1,500 meters, but those 10 x 600-meter training sessions were a form of deliberate practice to develop the necessary skills to be able to perform at our best in a crucial part of the race—the middle.

    How to Use Deliberate Practice

    There are specific steps you can take to get good at deliberate practice and achieve a high level of performance for a specific goal.

    1. Break it Down

    Whatever skill you want to acquire, you need to break it down into different parts.

    Imagine you want to become better at writing. You could break down the writing process into creating eye-catching beginnings, strong middles, and inspiring endings.

    If you were to work on the beginning part of the writing process, you could practice different types of introductions. For example, you could try starting with a quote, a detailed description, or a personal story.

    Anything you want to practice can be broken down into smaller steps. Identify them and put them in a list to make sure you stick to the right order of things.

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    2. Create a Schedule

    Now that you know the steps, you should create a schedule to keep yourself motivated. Studies have shown that having a set deadline helps improve motivation by offering feedback on how close or far you are from a goal[3].

    For example, if you want to learn to play the guitar, try scheduling an hour each day to start practicing the chords. You can set yourself a deadline to learn your first song within three months.

    Find what schedule feels doable with the lifestyle you have. This will help you experience continued improvements through purposeful practice.

    3. Get a Coach

    One key part of deliberate practice is toget feedback from teachers or coaches.

    In our writing example, you could ask a friend or a person you know who reads a lot, and ask them what they think of your beginning. Ask them how you could improve it. With the feedback in hand, you can then go back and rewrite the introduction to make it even more eye-catching.

    If you were to develop your presentation skills, you could practice your opening with a colleague or friend you trust, and ask them for feedback. The key is to listen carefully to the feedback and then to go back and fine-tune your practice so you push your skills further.

    If you do not have access to anyone who can provide you with honest feedback, you can video yourself performing your presentation and do a self-critique. It is hard to watch yourself at first, but after you get over the initial shock, you can watch dispassionately and see how you move, sound, and perform.

    Do you use your tone and energy to make it interesting? Are you conveying your message clearly? Are you using too many filler words? All these questions will help you to improve your craft and skills.

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    Earlier this year, one of my communication clients asked me to review and coach his senior leadership team on a presentation they were to give to the CEO of the company, who was visiting Korea. After going through their individual presentations with them, I felt there was no passion, no emotion, no pride in what they had achieved over the previous twelve months.

    Because they had rehearsed their presentation alone with no coaching or feedback, they had focused too much on the script and missed the important energy and passion.

    I advised my clients to look at their scripts and think about what they were proud of and what they were excited about in the coming year. That one, small shift in perspective quickly put the energy and passion into their presentations.

    Getting feedback is an important part of getting the most out of deliberate practice.

    4. Use the Internet to Get Anonymous Feedback

    Another way you can get feedback is to put your writing skills online in the form of a blog post and ask people to give you feedback on your writing style. Or, you could record yourself and upload the video to YouTube. I began a YouTube channel three years ago, and this allowed me to improve my presentation skills through self-analysis.

    I have also received a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, which I reviewed and corrected where I felt the criticisms were justified. An example of this was my introductions to my videos. When I first began, my introductions were long and rambling.

    I received a lot of feedback about this, and I soon shortened them and learned to get straight to the point. It has helped me to sharpen my message.

    Bonus Tip

    The role of deliberate practice is

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    to accelerate your learning skills. With learning languages, for example, traditionally we would buy ourselves a textbook and learn grammar principles and long lists of vocabulary. Once we had some basics learned, we would then practice speaking and writing sentences.

    If you were to apply deliberate practice to your language learning process, you would find someone—preferably a native speaker of your target language—and talk to them. They would correct you and advise you where you can improve your pronunciation and intonation.

    Chris Lonsdale talked about this when he delivered his TEDx Talk on how to learn a language in six months. All the advice he gave in that talk was based on the principles of deliberate practice:

    Final Thoughts

    Whatever it is you want to master and improve your skills at, when you use the power of deliberate practice, you can quickly become better than the average and achieve top performance.

    Developing your skills in the area of communication can give you huge advantages in your workplace. Learning and mastering anything new can give you the skills to stay relevant in your industry.

    As we go through the disruptive changes of the “fourth industrial revolution,” the onus is on you to develop yourself, and engaging in deliberate practice is one way you can give yourself the advantage.

    More to Help You Learn Faster

    Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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