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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

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Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 24, 2020

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

A Comprehensive Guide to a Smart Learning Process

One of the most crucial aspects of our lives is the ability to learn. We often take this skill for granted since not many of us pause and think about our learning process. In fact, if we did, we would probably uncover that we engage in ineffective learning mechanisms.

Think about it. Has your learning helped you recall things you learned last month? Go back a year and ponder.

A lot of how we learn was tucked away in school. Our exposure to school learning is the basis of how we learn moving forward. However, over the past few decades, learning has evolved into different stages of learning, and that becomes the main issue.

No longer are we looking at examinations of people’s characteristics about understanding and learning. Instead, scholars have created learning processes that use materials that support our interactions with others and our goals.

As a result, we can learn new things more smartly and effectively – which will be covered as we proceed further in understanding the learning process.

The Essential Steps of the Learning Process

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell states that the key to success is for us to practice 10,000 hours on a specific skill. It’s also worth noting that the skill needs the correct learning direction. If you’re learning how to do something the wrong way, you’ll continue to use it the wrong way.

But before understanding the learning process, we must understand the stages of learning. Written in the 1970s, Noel Burch created a model called the Four Stages of Learning. [1]

From there, we can use the stages of learning as a basis for how to learn effectively.

1. Unconscious Incompetence

Think of a skill that you are good at and that you use every single day.

Now think back to when you first developed that skill. Were you good at it? Probably not.

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You never heard of the skill or had a desire to learn of it until that point. This is the first stage: You know nothing about it.

2. Conscious Incompetence

Once you have heard of the skill, you begin to delve into it.

Driving a car is a perfect example. Before this stage, you never felt the need to learn how to drive. Nevertheless, once you became of legal age, you had to study to get your license. You likely made several mistakes on the driving test as well as during the written test.

This is the stage where you feel learning is slow, and you’re also aware of your mistakes.

3. Conscious Competence

By this stage, you know pretty much everything you need to know. At the same time, though, you are also aware that you need to focus and concentrate on what you are doing.

This stage can be that you know the rules of the road and can drive well. However, you feel you can’t talk to anyone, play any music, or look away from the road. You feel like you need total silence to focus and concentrate on driving.

At this stage, learning can be even slower than the previous stages. The learning isn’t consistent, nor is it a habit yet.

4. Unconscious Competence

By this stage, you’ve made it. You know everything in and out about the skill. It’s become a habit, and you don’t need to concentrate. You can relax and let your unconscious mind take over.

Exceeding the 4 Stages: Flow/Mastery

While Burch only covered four stages, there is another stage that exceeds it. This is the flow or mastery stage.

You may have heard of something called a flow state. [2] It’s the mental state where someone is performing an activity and is fully immersed in it. They feel energized, focused, and get a sense of joy from doing this activity.

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Flow or mastery can stem from all kinds of activities like Writing, reading, jogging, biking, figure skating, and more. It’s also characterized as complete absorption in what you’re doing, making you unaware of space and time.

Different Types of Learning Process

Another aspect of the learning process is the types of learning. While every person goes through those stages of learning, how we learn is different.

Having covered four learning styles in 4 Learning Styles to Help You Learn Faster and Smarter, I’m recapping the different types of learning in psychology.

Psychiatrists have narrowed how we learn down to seven learning styles as below:

  • Visual (spatial): Learning through pictures, graphs, charts, etc.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): Learning through sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): Learning through spoken or written words.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): Learning through the body, hands, and a sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): Learning through logic, systems, and reasons.
  • Social (interpersonal): Learning through groups or talking to people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): Learning individually through self-study or individual assignments.

You may be asking why all of this matters and actually how we learn plays a significant role. How we internally represent experiences stems from how we learn. What we learn not only establishes how we recall information but also impacts our own word choice.

It also influences which part of our brain we use for learning. Researchers uncovered this through various experiments.[3]

For example, say you’re driving to a place you’ve never gone before. How you learn will determine which method of learning you’ll use. Some will ask people for directions, while others will pull up Google maps. Some will write the directions out, while some won’t and merely follow street signs.

Knowing how to learn to this depth is vital because once you know what style you use, you can then develop a learning process to be a more effective learner.

How To Become an Effective Learner?

The learning process varies from person to person. Generally speaking, though, consider the following steps and considerations:

1. Improve Your Memory

Learning doesn’t only require that we learn information, but to retain it. If we are to learn something, we will have to learn and relearn. This means recalling and having a sharp memory to keep that information.

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Improving our memory can range from a variety of things. From memory palaces to practicing other memory improvement tactics.

2. Keep Learning and Practicing New Things

Learning a new skill takes time, but there is nothing wrong with learning a few other things. International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training[4] reported that those who juggled between learning different topics increase their gray matter which is associated with visual memory

3. Learn in Many Ways

While we have our own go-to style, delving into other types and stages of learning can be useful. If you learn by listening to podcasts, why not try rehearsing information verbally or visually?

It will not start great, but by improving your skill to describe what you learned orally, you are further cementing the knowledge in your mind.

Judy Willis MD, M.Ed in her publication on Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success[5] states how the more regions we keep data stored, the more interconnection there is in the collection information that we later process.

4. Teaching What You Learned to Others

It doesn’t have to be in a tutoring situation, but this method is still a reliable way for two people to grow.

Regardless of learning styles, we retain the information we tell others more effectively than if we keep it to ourselves. Was there a random fact you told someone a few months ago? You are more likely to remember that information because you brought it up to someone.

5. Use Relational Learning

Relational learning is relating new information to things you already know.

A typical example of this is remembering someone’s name. You can better recall that person’s name if you associate that name to something or someone familiar.

6. Gaining Practical Experience

Nothing beats learning than trying it for yourself. Sure, seeing information does have its strong points -and most learning styles benefit from exposed information – there is something to be said about getting your “hands dirty.”

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7. Refer Back to past Info If Need Be

The learning process is not perfect. We’ll forget at certain points. If you ever struggle to remember something, make a point of going back to your notes.

This is key because if we try recalling, we risk ourselves learning or relearning the wrong answer. And again, there is a difference between learning the right way and the wrong way.

8. Test Yourself

While this step may seem odd, there are benefits to testing yourself. Even if you think you know everything about the topic, going back and testing yourself can always help.

Not only does testing improve our recall, but we may realize that we learned a concept or task incorrectly. That knowledge can enhance our effectiveness in the future.

9. Stop Multitasking

While we should be learning new things all the time, we shouldn’t be trying to do several tasks at once. We ought to focus on one activity at a time before moving onto other tasks.

By trying to multitask, we are learning less effectively and are only hindering ourselves. Check out how multitasking is merely another way of distracting ourselves.

Bottom Line

Psychologists define learning as the process of a permanent change in a person’s behavior resulting from experience. The understanding of the learning process is up to us, but do consider the bigger picture. Be aware of what style works best for you, and work to improve it while enhancing other learning styles. The only way we can advance a skill is to learn continuously. Even in the skills you have mastered, there are always new developments.

You can learn more about how you can cultivate lifelong learning and attain an edge in every niche that you get associated with today!

Featured photo credit: Aliis Sinisalu via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gordon Training International: The Four Stages of Competence
[2] Habits for Wellbeing: Flow: the Secret to Happiness: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
[3] Training Industry: How the Brain Learns
[4] International Journal of Science – Nature: Changes in grey matter induced by training
[5] Judy Willis MD, M.Ed: Review of Research: Brain-Based Teaching Strategies for Improving Students’ Memory, Learning, and Test-Taking Success

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