I once read a post on the things one has to do to be successful. And a lot of good points were included on the list. However, one stood out for me—keeping a journal. Not that this was the most important thing on the list, but because a lot of people who read the post referred to this as irrelevant.
I remember someone commenting that he “would not be proud to read stuff he did while he was 8.” And others replied in support.
This shows how most of us misunderstand the diary. It does more than just remind us of our pasts.
A diary is like a friend. Its pages are the ears and brain that records our disappointments, triumphs, goals, plans, and secrets. Although these things may seem trivial, they can serve as a springboard for success, transforming you both personally and professionally.
Considering its usefulness the connoisseurs have even created their own analog systems like bullet journaling (here are 40 bullet journaling ideas courtesy of The Creatives Hour) to show you the variety that's possible!
So let’s look at the benefits of keeping a journal.
1. Helps You Organize Your thoughts
The brain works like a computer, processing different pieces of data at the same time. In the end, you have ideas that resemble a spider web. Try making a decision in your head and you are bound to get lost in this maze.
Winston Sieck and Frank Yates of the University of Michigan studied how writing ideas helps in decision making. They discovered that it reduces the risk of making biased decisions. Additionally, you feel confident to have made the right choice.
Think 100 times before you take a decision. But once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man.
Writing ideas on paper simplifies the spider web I talked of. And it also clears your head so you have an objective look at your ideas and decisions. Looking at them on paper forces you to consider alternatives. You start asking why, why not, how, and more. This eventually leads to well thought-out decisions you will be proud to stand by.
2. Makes You Grow Into a Better Person
What does it take to become a better person? Is it treating others like you would want to be treated? Or is volunteering, which makes you experience the world from the eyes of others, the answer?
Whatever your answer, you will notice that it probably has an element of experience involved. That’s because to grow into better people, we need experience. This teaches us what’s wrong and what’s right. And eventually, we learn how to best conduct ourselves through trying, observing, and changing.
A journal is a great companion in this quest to improve. It records our good and bad experiences. Since we have fresh and objective perspectives when looking through a journal, thanks to the time that has passed, we easily find better ways to behave ourselves next times.
We learn how to best conduct ourselves through trying, observing, and changing.
This specifically applies to mistakes we have made. At the time of doing the wrong thing, it’s usual to paste the blame on external things, believing we erred because of things beyond our control.
An example of this is seen in people trying to lose weight by eating healthily. Those who keep food diaries lose twice as much weight than those who don’t. This was discovered in a research by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
The thing is that when you record the food you eat, looking at it on paper makes you realize that the power to make healthy choices is in your hands. With this realization, taking corrective measures becomes easy.
To simply wake up every morning a better person than I when I went to bed.
In another study, participants argued that keeping a diary gave them a new perspective on themselves as professionals and the things they needed to improve on.
3. Helps You Keep a Record of Great Ideas
Poets and songwriters have a reason for having a notebook wherever they go.
Good ideas are hard to come by. And they strike like lightning. If not recorded when they happen, they escape never to return again.
The moral of the story is that writing ideas in your head is dangerous, they fade with time until you forget them. In a diary, however, they will survive for years. A diary acts as a storehouse for all your great ideas which will inspire and transform you.
In a study, some students took notes as they watched a lecture while another group did not. In the end, while both groups remembered the same amount of information, the group that took notes remembered the most important facts.
Write what should not be forgotten.
4. Helps You Manage Your Health
The modern world is full of stressors. Making things worse, most of us indulge in activities that increase the effects of these and do little to indulge in activities that reduce the effects. A diary can be helpful in managing emotions and your health.
Something magical happens when you write about how you feel. Writing about negative feelings gives you a chance to look at them and convince yourself that they are no more than small stones on your way. You drain your worries onto the paper.
James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., the writer of “Writing to Heal” and one of the biggest speakers on the benefits of how writing improves health, argues that the simple act of writing about your feelings can enhance the immune system and improve recovery times.
Writing about your feelings can enhance the immune system and improve recovery times.
When you write about your negative thought processes, you free your brain. And its other resources can go towards helping you recover your health and also reduce stress. And we all know that stress is one of the biggest causes of behaviors that lead to poor health: poor eating, skipping exercises, smoking, aggression, etc.
In a study by a professor at the University Of California San Diego School Of Medicine, it was discovered that writing thoughts of gratitude improved heart health.
The words of kindness are more healing to a drooping heart than balm or honey.
5. Helps You Plan for the Future and Achieve Goals
At the beginning of every year, all talk is about New Year’s resolutions. Some say they want to lose weight. Some say they would like to find better jobs. Others say they will start businesses. And you too probably make your own resolutions. If only all these resolutions could be achieved, the world would be full of triumphant faces.
But that is not the case.
One of the solutions to this common problem could be a diary. Simply write down those resolutions and look at them daily.
In a study by Dr. Gali Matthews from the Dominican University of California, it was discovered that writing goals down increased chances of achievement by 42%. The study included 267 participants.
When you write your goals down, you orient yourself to do your best to achieve them. It’s like telling someone what you intend to achieve, an act that makes you do your best to be successful knowing you will be held accountable. You get motivated to do your very best.
But many mistakenly believe that motivation is all that’s needed to succeed. As it turns out, motivation alone does not help us achieve our goals.
In a study, 91% of participants in a group exercised after planning and writing their intention to exercise. Another group which was only motivated without any plans written down did not show the same level of success.
Writing goals down increases chances of achievement by 42%.
In another related study, women who wrote when and where they were going to perform a breast self-examination did it 100% of the time. Another group which did not write this did it only 53% of the time.
6. Helps Increase Intelligence
Who does not want to be intelligent? I would bet my foot knowing such people are as rare as the sky raining fish. While there are lots of ways on how to increase intelligence, one of them is as simple as keeping a journal.
When you write in your diary constantly, your vocabulary gets challenged. And you start taking note of new words you come along. And you also get good at communication.
But most importantly, journaling forces you to think deeply about subjects. You start asking questions you cannot think of when all your thoughts are locked in your head.
Journaling forces you to think deeply about subjects.
Other studies have shown that journaling also improves emotional intelligence. That’s because writing about yourself helps you understand your emotions. And you can later use this knowledge to understand others.
7. Improves Confidence
When you think negatively of yourself, your self-perception suffers. And this, in turn, sinks your confidence. The opposite happens when you think of yourself positively. In “The Success Principles,” Jack Canfield argues that in order to succeed, you have to believe that your goal is achievable. And you must also believe that you have the abilities to succeed. This boosts your confidence.
Believing starts a domino effect where positive thoughts pump your confidence.
A journal, since it is a collection of your memories, can help you re-live your triumphs. And these triumphs will prove to you that you are not a failure. This is especially useful when you are feeling bad about yourself.
In order to succeed, you have to believe that your goal is achievable. And you must also believe that you have the abilities to succeed.
Furthermore, a diary makes you feel that your opinion is valuable and that your existence matters.
Research has also found that journaling improves gratitude. And gratitude is known to improve self-esteem.
If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.
Success and good health are results of a combination of factors. Some of these are big, like learning, working hard, and exercising, while some can be as modest as writing in your diary every day. Journaling may seem like a waste of your valuable time. And you may feel dumb while doing it for the first few days.
But in the long run, you will realize how important it is.
Do you keep a journal? If not, what are your reasons? If you do have a journal, what benefits have you witnessed so far?