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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 September 22, 2020

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

How to Wake Up Early: 6 Things Early Risers Do

You have probably heard the success stories about people who wake up early. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Oprah Winfrey, and Olympic medalist Caroline Burckle all talk about the positive impact of waking up early on their lives.

Even though many assign a portion of their success to waking up early, many find it difficult to make the switch. While most people know what needs to happen to change their life, they find then difficult to implement consistently. To understand how to wake up early, you need to tap into the wisdom of those already doing it.

Here are the 6 things early risers do:

1. Stop Procrastinating

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn how to wake up early is to go to sleep earlier. Stop procrastinating. You will find it much easier to wake up when you are getting the proper amount of sleep. Set a bedtime that allows you to get 8-hours of sleep and hold yourself accountable.

The problem most of you will have at first is how tired you will feel. If you are someone who goes to sleep after midnight, waking up by 6 a.m. will not be easy. The reason you need to push through that initial difficulty is that you are going to be very tired at the end of the day. Realistically, you probably would fall asleep at your desk or doze off on your lunch break. Either way, waking up early no matter how you feel will motivate you to go sleep at the proper time that night.

Think of it as someone who procrastinated until the night before their project was due. Having done this myself, you do what you need to do to complete the project, whether that means working all night or cutting some corners because you don’t have time to triple-check your work.

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After you turn in your project, you feel both exhaustion and jubilation. After you make it through the workday and crash at home, you promise yourself you’ll never wait until the last minute again. This same feeling will happen when you force yourself to wake up early no matter what time you went to sleep. You are going to promise yourself you will go to bed at the right time.

Most people don’t go to bed when they should because they know they will ultimately make it up in the morning.

2. Pace Yourself

If you want to start waking up a couple of hours earlier each day, you may not be able to make that change all at once. It stands to reason the more drastic the shift, the more difficult it will be.

So, instead of trying to adjust your sleep pattern by several hours, start in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals.[1] If you wake up 30 minutes earlier each week, you will be a morning person by the end of the month. This may feel like you are drawing out your goal but in reality, you are accomplishing it much quicker than most. Most people who are naturally night owls find it difficult to completely change their sleep habits overnight.

Think of it as someone who is trying to quit drinking coffee. Outside of the fact you may enjoy the taste of coffee, your body is used to operating with a certain amount of caffeine and sugar. Some will be able to quit overnight and their body will adjust accordingly. And if you are one of those people, then do what works for you.

However, if you were to take an incremental approach, then you may first start drinking your coffee black. Then, you could switch to decaf before slowly lowering the amount of coffee you drink each day. As you can see, this approach will help minimize the feeling of withdrawal while getting the results you want.

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3. Watch Your Lighting

Light reduces your body’s production of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone. In practical terms, your body naturally wants to be awake when the sun is up and go to sleep when the sun is down. This is called your circadian rhythm.

In the technology-driven world we currently live in, you likely look at a screen or two before bed. Studies show television and phone screens trick your body into thinking the sun is up. As a result, your body starts producing less melatonin. To help you fall asleep, you should stop looking at screens at least an hour before bed.

This can also mean that if you want to wake up before the sun, looking at your screen when you wake up can help you to stay awake.

Peter Balyta, the President of Education Technology for Texas Instruments says he wakes up at 5:20 a.m. and scans his emails before starting his day. This is also true for M.I.T. president L. Rafael Rief. He wakes up around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and checks his phone for anything urgent.[2]

4. Make It Worth Your Time

Have you ever woken up early but went back to sleep because you didn’t have a reason to stay up? To put it another way, have you ever fallen asleep because you didn’t have anything better to do?

If you want to be excited about going to sleep and waking up early, then you need to give yourself a reason to be excited. You can accomplish this by listing the three things you want to accomplish the next morning. Notice I said “want” and not “need” to accomplish. You don’t want to be dragging yourself into the next morning kicking and screaming.

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Your list should not only include what you want to accomplish but also why you want to accomplish it. If you want to take it a step further, list the consequences of not waking up early.

People who have figured out how to wake up early are shown to be more successful, persistent, and proactive in their life. They tend to be happier and handle stress better. It is also shown that people who wake up early procrastinate less.[3] If you find any of these benefits something you want to add in your life, then waking up early is shown to help.

5. Avoid Binging

There is a difference between sleeping and getting a good night’s sleep. Sure, you can drink alcohol and fall asleep, but you will not be getting quality rest. You will wake up feeling as though you slept for only a couple hours.

It is best to stop drinking at least 4 hours before bedtime. Binge drinking is known to impact your sleep-inducing melatonin hormone levels for up to a week. The same holds true with eating a large meal right before bed. It is not that your body can’t process food and sleep at the same time. The main concern has more to do with the possibility of indigestion or heartburn than anything else.

If you find yourself dealing with either of these symptoms, then you may want to stop eating at least two hours before bed.

6. Get the Blood Flowing

Those who have mastered the technique of how to wake up early tend to start each morning with movement.

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Your first movement is to get out of bed. To help you get out of bed, have your alarm far enough away that you need to get up and turn it off. Before you allow yourself to contemplate going back to sleep, take a moment, and do 10 push-ups or 10 jumping jacks. Think of each exercise as you taking one step further from being able to go back to sleep.

Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments wakes up at 4 a.m. each morning. She starts each day by exercising. Her exercises include running, weight lifting, swimming, and cycling.

You decide for yourself how you want to get your blood flowing. Whether you want to go on a walk, workout at the gym, or do something at home, make sure you are scheduling time to exercise.

Final Thoughts

The key to understanding how to wake up early is to recognize that it is heavily driven by the actions you take the night before. You will wake up early if you go to bed at a good time and get the proper amount of sleep.

By taking the time to prepare yourself both mentally and physically each night, you can ensure you are positioned for success the next morning. Once you have taken the proper actions the night before, make sure you use that momentum to start your day, on time.

The goal is to make the actions you want to take as easy as possible. The key to changing your life is to discover a way to have the wind at your back, going in the direction you want.

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Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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