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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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Published on April 12, 2021

How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

Did somebody just say the words “constructive criticism”? Great, just what I need—someone to tell me how to do my job, like I don’t know how to flawlessly execute on my job. Well, maybe not flawlessly, but I think I know what I’m doing thank you very much.

This is how many people react when they hear the term constructive criticism. And it makes sense, as most of us don’t like to have someone telling us how we did something wrong or how we can do better. We like to feel like we are good at the things we choose to do unless, of course, we are trying something new. We take a certain amount of pride in how we do our various jobs and don’t like to have our shortcomings pointed out to us.

Before we get too worked up, let’s take a look at what constructive criticism is and how we can utilize it to help us improve at work or wherever we want to. we will learn that constructive criticism can be used to our advantage.

What Is Constructive Criticism?

First and foremost, it would be helpful to make sure we have a good understanding of what constructive criticism is.

When we hear the word “criticism,” our minds typically think negatively and hostile—like one person is standing over another person telling them that the way they are doing something is all wrong. And that is being critical.

However, this is not the intent of constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a helpful way of providing feedback that provides specific and actionable suggestions. Instead of one person acting like a manager giving a team member general non-specific advice, constructive criticism is specific to the actions and situation. Given properly, it provides specific and clear recommendations on how to make changes and improvements that will lead to a more positive outcome in a given situation.

Accepting Constructive Criticism

As we just read, constructive criticism is provided to help someone improve in one manner or another. It’s not negative generalities or complaining, it’s specific actionable input provided with the intent of helping someone improve on something they’ve done so they get more desirable results the next time.

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This is exactly the context in which you should accept constructive criticism. It is meant to help you improve. Anyone who is interested in getting better and better at their job or craft should welcome it.

Think about a time when you got a big win at work or were part of a team that scored a big win. What an incredible feeling! Now, think about a time when a big project crashed and burned at work, or you didn’t land a huge new client, or your team played poorly and lost a big game—not a good feeling.

The way you handle these losses and learn from them to get better and score more “wins” is just like receiving constructive criticism. Learn from what went wrong to make things go right more often.

How to Handle Constructive Criticism

Now that we have a clear idea of what constructive criticism is, let’s look at the best ways to handle constructive criticism.

1. Stop Your Initial Reaction

When you see that some criticism is about to come your way, recognize it. Make yourself see what’s about to happen and tell yourself you will not react.

The key here is stopping any sort of reaction you are going to have when your brain realizes what’s about to happen. The challenge is that our first reaction is not generally a good one, and we don’t want to wear an initial expression that comes off as highly defensive or angry.

2. Don’t Take It Personally

I’m so happy I fully embrace and believe in the “don’t take anything personally” mentality. It’s important to remember that nobody is doing something to you specifically. They are sharing their personal experience and insights from what they’ve learned and seen. This does not make it universally right, it’s simply the way they’ve experienced it. And we all have different experiences that make each of our points of view unique. It’s not about you, it’s about the situation. Don’t take it personally.

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3. Remember the Benefit

This is a good thing to do when your first initial reaction of “no” comes into your mind. Receiving constructive criticism is a way to help yourself improve. Remember that you don’t have to digest and implement every single suggestion word for word. Take the parts that resonate with you and use them the next time a similar situation comes around. This is how we learn and grow.

4. Listen to Understand

Active listening

is very important here. Make sure that you are paying full attention to the speaker’s words and body language. You are attempting to understand completely so you are able to truly process the feedback and utilize it down the road. Keep your eyes and ears on the speaker and be present in the moment of receiving the feedback.

5. Be Thankful

It’s not easy to be thankful when someone is telling you how you could have done something better. This is where you put on your “big person pants” and tell them, “thank you for taking the time to share the feedback.”.

If you think about it, they most likely want the best for you. Why else would they be taking the time to share their insights and input with you? If they didn’t care or have a vested interest, why would they take the time? Exactly. Remember this when saying thank you.

6. Ask Questions to Understand Fully

This is where you want to ask clarifying questions to make sure you are fully understanding what the person is saying to you. Make sure you are on the same page as what they are telling you. If you don’t take the time to ask questions to clear up any confusion, then, in the long run, this feedback won’t be of much value to you.

Using Criticisms to Improve

Now, let’s take a look at how constructive criticism helps us improve, as we’ve read that reviewing when things don’t go right and analyzing why they didn’t go right help us figure out ways to change what we did to gain better results next time.

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1. Feedback Is Always Helpful

The first way you can use constructive criticism to improve is by acknowledging that feedback is always helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all feedback is beneficial to you. It just means that it’s helpful.

You may disagree wholeheartedly on part of the feedback you receive, and that’s fine. The main thing to remember is that it’s always helpful. Gathering data, reviewing, and listening to others help you look at situations from an angle different than your own.

Speaking of which…

2. You Get Another Point of View

A great thing about listening to someone provide constructive criticism to you is that you get another point of view. Too many times we base what we think we should do on only our own perceptions of something. It’s very possible to be so close to something that you don’t truly see it in an objective light.

I know from back when I was an artist, I could get very locked into a certain project or painting. When I finally would take a break and ask someone else what they thought, many times they pointed out things I’d never noticed or thought of. The same concept applies here.

3. It Shows You Are Worth It

When someone takes the time to provide constructive criticism to you, it shows that they care and feel like you are worth it. They wouldn’t take the time if they didn’t think it would matter or that you weren’t worth it. This is something to think about the next time your manager wants to offer you some insight or advice.

4. It Helps You Improve

If you are willing to truly listen to constructive criticism, it can help you improve greatly. I think about a wide variety of times when I’ve gotten feedback and constructive criticism. I am known to invite it.

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I look at it like this—we are all on the same team (whether that’s an actual team or work team) and trying to work towards the same goal. What can I do better that can help us collectively win as a team? I like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do. I also know that I can always get better. Help me to help you, which helps us both.

5. It Can Inspire You

Finally, constructive criticism can inspire you. Sometimes, the person providing you feedback will make you see something you never saw about yourself. This is how another point of view can be so valuable. This can be incredibly eye-opening and sometimes be even one of those “Aha!” moments.

Summary

We’ve looked at what constructive criticism is and how to accept it. We’ve seen how if we allow ourselves to listen and accept the feedback, it can incredibly valuable to our growth and improvement. Constructive criticism can help us get better and better at what we do. Not any less important, we’ve discovered how to take constructive criticism like a champ.

Remember, getting feedback from others is critical to our growth in many areas of our life. Use constructive criticism to improve yourself.

More About Constructive Criticism

Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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