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Published on September 9, 2019

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

If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can? How to Delegate Work Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide) Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone? How Journaling Can Improve Your Life The Lifehack Show Episode 7: Following Your Calling

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Last Updated on September 17, 2019

What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

Who says learning a language needs to be hard?

The better question to ask is: what is the easiest language to learn in the shortest amount of time?

How to Know Which Languages Are Easier to Learn?

Playing to Your Strengths

One way to hack this process is to first understand that as English speakers, we have in our hands one of the most connected languages that exists. It’s linked to many European Germanic languages by descent or influence, and over 50 percent of English words stem from Latin or French.

    This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to most, as the structure, alphabet, and makeup of the language is very similar to Spanish, Italian, French, and other languages from the latin root.

    Bestselling author and polyglot, Tim Ferriss, says that you should consider a new language like a new sport.

    There are certain physical prerequisites (height is an advantage in basketball), rules (a runner must touch the bases in baseball), and so on that determine if you can become proficient at all, and—if so—how long it will take.

    For example, it would a wiser choice and indicate a higher likelihood of success if a professional water polo player decided to transition into playing handball: similar structures, rules, and physical requirements.

    However, it wouldn’t be too wise if Kobe Bryant started to play professional ice hockey. It involves learning too many new rules, an entire new skill (skating), and the likelihood of success decreases significantly (or will take 10x longer).

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    Language learning is no different. As a “professional” language learner, we need to first breakdown our strengths and our understanding of existing rules and structures.

    If you already speak English, picking a compatible language with similar sounds and word structure like Spanish, instead of a completely different root like Mandarin, could mean the difference between reaching conversation fluency in 3 months versus 3 years.

    Follow the Golden Sentences

    If you want to determine which is the easiest language to learn, you should aim to answer the following questions first.

    • Are there new grammatical structures that will postpone fluency?
    • Are there new sounds that will double or quadruple the time it takes to acquire fluency? (particularly vowels)
    • How similar is it to languages I already understand? What will help and what will interfere?
    • All of which answer the question: How difficult will it be, and how long would it take to become fluent?

    An effective tool to use to answer all of these questions is called The Golden Sentences.

    It comprises eight sentences that expose much of the language, and quite a few deal breakers.

    1. The apple is red.
    2. It is John’s apple.
    3. I give John the apple.
    4. We give him the apple.
    5. He gives it to John.
    6. She gives it to him.
    7. I must give it to him.
    8. I want to give it to her.

    Here’s a directly translated version of these sentences in Spanish.

    1BObwE56jfMqAPOokV2IBsA

      There’s a couple of reasons why these sentences are helpful:

      • It shows you how verbs are conjugated based on the speaker (gender and number)
      • You can see a high-level view of the fundamental sentence structures, which helps you answer questions like: is it subject-verb-object (SVO) like English and Chinese (“I eat the apple”), is it subject-object-verb (SOV) like Japanese (“I the apple eat”), or something else?
      • The first three sentences shows you if the language has a noun case that may become a pain in the butt for you. For example in German, “the” might be der, das, die, dem, den and more depending on whether “the apple” is an object, indirect object, possessed by someone else, etc.

      If possible, I recommend you check with a language teacher to fully understand the translation of these sentences and how transferable your existing languages are.

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      As a rule of thumb: use The Golden Sentences as your guiding map, before you choose the vehicle (the method). It will help you achieve your goals in half the time.

      Difficulty Level for Learning the 7 Most Common Languages

      Now let’s dive into dissecting which of the hundreds of languages that exist, is the easiest language to learn.

      We profiled each of the languages we’ll mention into the following categories:

      • Speaking: This is based on the ease with which learners are able to pick up this language.
      • Grammar: Used as a criterion when ranking a given language as easy, moderately easy, or difficult to acquire.
      • Writing: In many languages, learning to speak first and write later makes the journey easier. Other languages are equally easy to speak and write. This item spells out the easiest languages to write alongside the most difficult. As with speaking, easy, moderately easy, and difficult were used to qualify each language.

      We’ve decided to rank the order of the languages from easiest to hardest to learn.

      1. Spanish

      • Speaking: Very Easy
      • Grammar: Very Easy
      • Writing: Easy
      • Overall: Very Easy

      As English speakers, we can be thankful that Spanish pronunciations are one of the easiest to learn.

      Overall, Spanish has a shallow orthographic depth – meaning that most words are written as pronounced. This means that reading and writing in Spanish is a straightforward task.

      With only ten vowel and diphthong sounds (English has 20), and no unfamiliar phonemes except for the fun-to-pronounce letter ñ. This makes learning how to speak Spanish the easiest out of the bunch, and may give you the best return on your time and investment, as 37 per cent of employers rated Spanish as a critical language to know for employment.[1]

      2. Italian

      • Speaking: Easy
      • Grammar: Easy
      • Writing: Moderately Easy
      • Overall: Easy

      Italian is the most “romantic” of the romance languages. Luckily its latin-rooted vocabulary translates into many similar Italian/English cognates, such as foresta (forest), calendario (calendar), and ambizioso (ambitious).

      Like Spanish, many of the words in Italian are written as pronounced. Moreover, the Italian sentence structure is highly rhythmic, with most words ending in vowels. This adds a musicality to the spoken language which makes it fairly simple to understand, and a spunky language to use.

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      3. French

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderately Easy
      • Overall: Moderate

      Despite how different French may appear at first, linguists estimate that French has influenced up to a third of the modern English language.

      This may also explain why French’s Latin derivations make much of the vocabulary familiar to English speakers (edifice, royal, village). There are also more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table).

      But it’s not all easy.

      Pronunciation in French is especially difficult, with vowel sounds and silent letters that you may not be used to in English.

      4. Portuguese

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderate
      • Overall: Moderate

      With the Brazilian economy ranking 6th in the world, Portuguese has become a powerful language to learn. One great element of the language is that interrogatives are fairly easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You Like This?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.

      The main difficulty with the pronunciation is the nasal vowel sounds that require some practice.

      5. German

      • Speaking: Difficult
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderate
      • Overall: Moderately Difficult

      For many English speakers, German is a difficult language to pick up. Its long words, four noun case endings, and rough pronunciation gives your tongue quite the work out each time you speak.

      German is recognized as a very descriptive language. A good example is how they use the noun by combining the object with the action at hand.

      Example: das Fernsehen – the television, combines the words fern, far, andsehen, watching, lit. far-watching.

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      On the other hand, German can be a fun language to learn and its use of grammar is considered to be quite logical, with many overlapping words in English. Just watch out for the exceptions to the rules!

      6. Hindi

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderately Difficult
      • Writing: Difficult
      • Overall: Moderately Difficult

      There are many familiar words in English which are either Hindi or of Hindi origin. For example guru, jungle, karma, yoga, bungalow, cheetah, looting, thug and avatar. Hindi also uses lots of English words. They are read and pronounced as they are in English, but are written in Hindi. For example, डॉक्टर is pronounced doctor and स्टेशन is pronounced station.

      This shows that while learning the vocabulary and pronunciation of Hindi may not to be too difficult due to its similarity to English, writing in Hindi is a different ball game.

      7. Mandarin

      • Speaking: Difficult
      • Grammar: Difficult
      • Writing: Very Difficult
      • Overall: Very Difficult

      Last, but not least: Mandarin. We mainly put this here to show you the contrasting difference between the easiest language to learn (Spanish) and the hardest language to learn, for English speakers.

      While language learners won’t struggle as much on the grammar, mastering the tones can be very difficult. Mandarin is a tonal language, which means the pitch or intonation used when a word is spoken impacts its meaning. For example, tang with a high tone means soup, but tang with a rising tone means sugar.

      Learning Mandarin has its rewards though, providing cultural insights and knowledge. But according to the BBC, you’ll need to memorize over 2,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper![2]

      What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?

      Winner: Spanish

      The clear winner for the easiest language to learn is Spanish. Everything from writing, grammar, and speaking will come more naturally to the English speaker: similar rules, structure, and latin roots.

      It’ll be like going from playing football to ultimate Frisbee.

      More About Language Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

      Reference

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