“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” — J.M. Barrie
You know exactly what you want in life. But you can’t seem to get there. You have all these resolves.
- You’re going to get healthy.
- You’re going to write that book.
- You’re going to be more present with your loved ones.
- You’re going to start that home-based business.
- You’re going to learn another language.
- You’re going to be more patient and happy.
- You’re going to get out of debt.
- You’re going to be more organized.
- You’re going to be a better friend.
- You’re going to overcome bad habits.
- You’re going to beat PTSD and the hold it has on your life
- You’re going to going to do the homework the therapist sets you every week
The list goes on.
But the problem is: Doing these is really hard. And it gets harder every day. Some days, it seems more realistic to just give up entirely. The whole taking one step forward and one or two steps backward pattern is getting old. You’ve been telling yourself for a long time “Today is the day!” only to fall into old ways before the day, or if you’re lucky, the week, is spent. When there’s a gap between who you are and who you intend to be, you are incongruent and unhappy. You’re torn, mentally exhausted, and regretful. You always slightly feel like a fraud to yourself, and probably to the people around you.
Conversely, Gandhi has said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
The Need For A Powerfully Transformative Keystone Habit
If you try to tackle everything wrong in your life, you’ll quickly burn out and quit. It’s happened many times before. Life is super busy and particularly if you are unwell with a mental illness it is double hard.. You don’t have time to focus on a thousand different areas of your life to change. That’s exhausting, and frankly, not helpful. More effective than microscopically analysing your sabotaging behaviours, is nailing down a “keystone” habit — which tightly locks all of your other habits in place. Without the keystone, everything falls apart.
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes keystone habits as, “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”
A person might start exercising once per week, and unknowingly begin eating better and being more productive at work. If they have found it hard to get out of the house they may start finding it easier as the week goes by and the habit is formed. She begins smoking less and showing more patience with her colleagues and loved ones. She uses her credit card less, feels less stressed, and has increased motivation toward her goals. The ingrained patterns in her brain reform and she becomes an entirely different person. All because she started exercising once per week.
You acquire one of these habits and everything in your life can change. Keystone habits spark a chain reaction of other good habits and can rapidly alter every aspect of your life.
Journal Every Day
“Keeping a personal journal a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.” — Stephen R.Covey
Journaling daily is the most potent and powerful keystone habit you can acquire. If done correctly, you will show up better in every area of your life — every area! Without question, journaling has by far been the number one factor to everything I’ve done well in my life.
The problem is, most people have tried and failed at journaling several times. It’s something you know you should do, but can never seem to pin down.
After you read this post, you’ll never want to miss another day of journaling again. You can call it writing your diary or blogging if you prefer but just the accountability of writing and reviewing your day each and every day.
Journaling Optimises Your Creative Potential
Most people live their lives on other people’s terms. Their days are spent achieving other people’s goals and submitting to other people’s agendas.
Their lives have not been consciously organised in such a way that they command every waking, and sleeping, moment of their life. Instead, they relentlessly react at every chance they get.
For example, most people wake up and immediately check their phone or email. In spare seconds, we hop on Facebook and check the newsfeed. We’ve become addicted to input. Or in other words, we’ve become addicted to reactively being guided by other people’s agendas.
On the other hand, Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning, wakes up and immediately writes in his journal for 30 minutes. He does this because while he’s been sleeping, his subconscious mind has been brewing, scheming, problem-solving, and learning. So when Josh wakes up, he rushes to a quiet place and engages in a bust of intellectual and creative flow. I recently wrote about the importance of morning routines. If I were to re-write that post now, I’d include my journal. I’ve been doing this the past few weeks and its reframed my entire approach to life. Additionally, I’ve never before had so many productive ideas crystallise. Producers focus on outputs rather than the general populace who focus on inputs. In their free moments, creators utilise their subconscious breakthroughs. Their days are filled with creative bursts, making them incredible at their craft.
If you want to have more creative flow in your life, stop checking your social media and email so much. Check them once or twice per day. Detach from the addiction to numb your mind and escape reality. Instead, get lost in the creative projects you’ve always wanted to do.
Journaling Accelerates Your Ability To Manifest Your Goals
As part of your morning creative burst, use your journal to review and hone your daily to-do list. Review and hone your life vision and big picture goals.
As you read and re-write your goals daily, they’ll become forged into your subconscious mind. Eventually, your dreams and vision will consume your inner world and quickly become your physical reality. A lot of therapy work is about goal setting so journaling is a fantastic way of managing your therapy aspirations, goals and monitoring your progress no matter or big or small. Recording the smallest achievement at the end of the day can give you an enormous boost that might go unremarked if not for a journalling or blog process.
Journaling Creates A Springboard For Daily Recovery
People struggle drastically to detach from work. More now than ever, we fail to live presently. Our loved ones are lucky to experience a small percentage of our attention while they’re with us.
However, utilising your journal can curb this mismanagement. At the end of your work day, re-open your journal and review your to-do list from that day. If your morning journal session was excellent, you’ll have likely gotten everything done you intended to do. Private victories always precede public victories. Journal sessions are your post-work reflection time. Account to yourself what you got done that day and what needs to be moved to tomorrow. Write the things you learned and experienced.
Lastly, direct your subconscious by writing about things you want to focus on tomorrow. As you put work behind you for the evening, your subconscious will be preparing a feast for you to consume during your next morning’s creative and planning session.
This end of the workday journal session need not be as long as the morning session. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, recommends writing far less than you want to — only a few sentences or paragraphs at most. This will help you avoid burnout. A primary objective of this session is to mentally turn-off work-mode. Just as in physical training, you need to rest and recover between work days in order to get stronger. Use this session to completely unplug and detach from work. Make no mistake about it therapy is work. Very hard work so it is vital to be able to find a way to allow it to take a back seat for the day. This is your time to recover and be present with your loved ones — there is more to life than work. The higher quality your recovery, the more potent and powerful your productive sessions will be.
Journaling Generates Clarity And Congruence
This keystone habit has so much power! By journaling in the morning and evening, you’ll quickly see the incongruencies in your life. You’ll see crystal-clearly what needs to be removed and what should be included in your life. Journaling is a beautiful and powerful facilitator of self-discovery. My own journaling is how I’ve come to form my sense of identity and path in life.
Not only will you have more clarity about your path in life, but journaling improves your ability to make small and large decisions along the way. On the pages of your journal will be the future world you are creating for yourself. You are the author of your life’s story. You deserve to be happy. You have the power to create whatever life you want. As the designer of your world, get as detailed as you desire.
Journaling Clears Your Emotions
Several research studies have found that writing in your journal reduces stress.These benefits include:
- Reducing scatter in your life
- Increased focus
- Greater stability
- Deeper level of learning, order, action, and release
- Holding thoughts still so they can be changed and integrated
- Releasing pent-up thoughts and emotions
- Bridging inner thinking with outer events
- Detaching and letting go of the past
- Allowing you to re-experience the past with today’s adult mind
When you are in an intensely emotional mood, journaling can help you more fully experience and understand those emotions. After you’ve vented on the pages of your journal, you’ll quickly find a release. Objectivity will return and you’ll be able to move forward. Without a journal, intense emotional experiences can be crippling for hours, days, and even years. However, an honest and inspired journal session can be the best form of therapy — quickly returning you better and smarter than you were before.
Journaling Ingrains Your Learning
Humans are bad at retaining information. We forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never re-read what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory.
Neurologically, when you listen to something, a different part of your brain is engaged than when you write it down. Memory recorded by listening does not discriminate important from non-important information. However, writing creates spatial regions between important and non-important pieces of information — allowing your memory to target and ingrain the important stuff you want to remember.
Furthermore, the act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work out problems in unique ways, intensifying the learning process. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write about the things you’re learning.
I became a writer through journaling. While I was on an admission to a Mental Health Clinic for my Complex PTSD, I wrote in my journal for one to two hours per day. I got lost in the flow and fell in love with the writing process. It let to writing a blog and eventually a book. If you want to become a writer one day, start by journaling. Journaling can help you:
- Develop strong writing habits
- Help you discover your voice!
- Clear your mind and crystallizes your ideas
- Produce gems you could use in your other writing
- Journaling Records Your Life History
I started journaling in 2012 after reading an article about the importance of journal writing and with encouragement from my therapist. In the article, the author described how much journaling had changed her life. She said that after all these years, she now has 38 recorded volumes of personal and family history. After finishing that article, I have never stopped writing in my journal. In my family room on a bookshelf are 20-plus journals filled with my thoughts and experiences. I’m certain they will be cherished by my ancestors as I’ve cherished the writing of my loved ones who have passed on.
Other Benefits Of Journaling
Some other benefits of journaling include:
- Heals relationships
- Heals the past
- Dignifies all events
- Is honest, trusting, non-judgmental
- Strengthens your sense of yourself
- Balances and harmonises
- Recalls and reconstructs past events
- Acts as your own counsellor by helping you process events
- Integrates peaks and valleys in life
- Soothes troubled memories
- Sees yourself as a larger, important, whole and connected being
- Reveals and tracks patterns and cycles
- Improves self-trust
- Directs intention and discernment
- Improves sensitivity
- Interprets your symbols and dreams
- Offers new perspectives
- Brings things together
- Shows relationships and wholeness instead of separation
- Strategies To Enhance The Experience
- Write about the people in your life — you’ll get breakthroughs about how to improve those relationships
- Write with confidence and power — use this to strengthen your resolves
- Write “Today is going to be the best day of my life.” — read that over and over until you begin to believe it
- If you can’t think of what to write, try writing about minute details of your day or recent history
I dare say that journaling is one of the most important things to do in your life. If done effectively, it will change everything in your life for the better.
It will help you become the person you want to be.
It will set you on the road to designing the life you want to live.
Your relationships will be healthier and happier as you are able to process them.
You’ll be more productive as you take more control over your day through better organisational skills.
What you learn in therapy you can reprocess through journalling and reinforce the work you do there.