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Why You Should Keep A Journal And How To Get Started

Why You Should Keep A Journal And How To Get Started

Keeping a journal might sound like something you should have outgrown in middle school, but that’s just a stereotype.

Writing in a journal is actually very beneficial, and recommended by many psychiatrists as an accompaniment to, or even a substitution for, therapy.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the benefits of keeping a journal and how you can get started journaling.

Why you should keep a journal

Here’s some information on why you should keep a journal, followed by some tips on how to get started.

1. Clear your mind

Writing down what happens during your day is a great way to clear your mind. You can write down what happened and how you felt about it, and then you don’t have to keep those thoughts in your head anymore.

Writing stuff down is often just as good as sharing with a friend because you’re getting it off of your shoulders.

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Sometimes writing is even better because you can be totally honest without worrying what the other person will think of you.

2. Improve mental health

Writing in a journal is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mental health because, as mentioned above, your mind is cleared.

You don’t have too many thoughts running around in your head because you’ve let them loose on paper. Studies have shown that even writing for 15–20 minutes on a stressful topic leads to significantly better physical and psychological outcomes.

The practice is so highly regarded by mental health professionals that there’s even a Center for Journal Therapy!

3. Boost creativity

You don’t have to keep a straightforward record of what happened every day or how you felt when something happened. Keeping a journal means you have the freedom to write what you want, how you want.

Hey, you don’t even have to write! Draw sketches – maybe the doodles help you get more down quickly. Write in bubble letters, or include photos and mementos of things that happen each day.

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4. Keep a record of your life

Whether it’s for yourself or for others, keeping a journal means you’re keeping a record of your life. If you’re only writing for yourself, you can use the journal as a look back at past mistakes, and use them as reminders to not do the same things again.

You can put a positive spin on it by writing down the highlights of your day so you’ll remember the good things. If you’re writing for others, like your siblings or children, you can write an autobiography so your stories won’t die with you.

5. Holding yourself accountable

Writing regularly is a great way to hold yourself accountable – for therapeutic writing, as well as other aspects of your life. It’s a fun exercise to try to write at the same time every day – either when you first wake up and want to share your hopes and dreams for the day, or before bed, when you can write about everything that happened.

Once you’re able to write regularly, you can apply this discipline and schedule structure to other aspects of your life. You’ll see the benefits in a variety of areas, but especially in your work life, where your written communication can improve and you will find yourself completing writing-intensive projects more easily.

How to start journaling

Now that you know some of the benefits to keeping a journal, I bet you’re itching to start your own.

Before you get started, think about the following items to make sure you’re going to journal in the way that’s best for you.

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1. Get a new notebook

This is my favorite part of starting a journal! I love going to the bookstore or stationery store to peruse the aisles of blank books.

You might want to pick a standard spiral-bound notebook so the defined lines will help keep your thoughts on track. Or maybe you want a beautiful leather-bound book with gilded pages to inspire your most creative thoughts.

2. Sign up for a blog

Maybe you don’t want to be bogged down by a physical notebook at all. In that case, a blog might be the best way for you to keep track of your thoughts. There are many different blog sites online, the most popular, and easiest to use, being WordPress and Blogger.

Be aware that these sites are public, and you might be easily tracked down by people who know your name or email address. You can use a screen name, or sign up for a blogging platform with a privacy control, but it’s still best to be careful with what you’re putting online.

3. Download an app

Maybe you want the freedom of a digital journal, but don’t want to post publicly on a blog. You don’t want to tote around a paper journal, but you already tote around your smartphone, so why not employ it?

There are countless journal apps for your smartphone that range from giving you the look of an actual journal page, to giving you a place to easily jot down notes.

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4. Let your thoughts loose

Once you pick your medium, let your thoughts loose. This is the one place where you don’t need to censor yourself, so don’t get bogged down with wondering who’s going to read behind you and how much you want them to know.

Regardless of how you’re trying to improve your writing skills, be careful with editing your journal. If you write a sentence, then pause to edit it, you’ll never get your thoughts down, and you’ll probably get easily frustrated.

Write everything down as it comes to you, without thinking of how it sounds or what word might work better. This is the best way to get therapeutic benefits from journaling.

5. Don’t set guidelines

Maybe one day you want to rehash an argument verbatim, but the next day you want to tape in some photos of your visit to the new art gallery.

You can even use a journal to keep track of your accomplishments at work or in your personal life, and get a self-esteem boost every time you look over it!

The looser you are with keeping your journal, the more excited you’ll be to sit down and work on it.

If you let yourself be creative and free, then you’ll be more likely to want to write every day, and then you’ll not only have a more complete record of your life and thoughts, but you’ll also feel better by getting all those thoughts out of your head and onto paper!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

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Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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