Keeping a diary, or journaling (as we refer to it post-puberty), can feel like the territory of pimply, hormonal teenagers crazed with fantasies about their first crush or grappling with their own quest for self-identity.
Believe it or not though, some of the world’s greatest leaders were and are regular journal-keepers, and chances are that Winston Churchill didn’t and Barack Obama doesn’t merely record their brushes with love or musings on the popular clique.
If they did, however, it would be okay. After all, that’s the beauty of keeping a journal: there’s no wrong way to do it. And, of course, there are these ten other awesome benefits that will genuinely improve your life.
1 You’ll be able to better clarify your thoughts.
Some cognitive psychologists argue that writing is thinking. Others believe only that it can transform your cognitive processing. One point both sides seem to agree on, though, is the fact that writing forces you to examine your thoughts more critically and logically. In turn, journaling is an opportunity to work through and gain clarity on the ideas and notions that might otherwise exist as rolling tumbleweeds in your head.
2 You’ll be more organized and focused.
Journals often get boxed in as places for cheesy people to record their deepest, darkest confessions or reveal the most vulnerable parts of their inner selves. In reality though, they can simply be receptacles for to do lists, future goals, spur-of-the-moment ideas, random insights that you want to remember later, and more. By writing down this kind of information, you’ll be able to better order your life and hold yourself accountable even when you’re at your busiest.
3 You’ll happy-dance more.
Journals can also be vessels for celebratory accounts, and they can remind you of past achievements and milestones. If you’re feeling low, you can easily boost your self-esteem and paint a picture of your own awesomeness by paging through your accomplishments and moments of greatness.
4 Your mind will be quieter.
Offloading your racing thoughts onto a nonjudgmental medium that isn’t attached to punishment will allow you to get off the hamster wheel and onto a more mentally healthy track. Countless medical professionals and institutions have endorsed journaling as a method to pacify the monkey mind—that is, manage overwhelming emotions and reduce anxiety and stress.
5 You’ll get to know yourself.
Journals can also act as profound pools of personal reflection. Taking time to shut out the loudness of the outside world and reconnect with your thoughts can lead to incredible self-discovery. The process of pouring out your unadulterated ideas onto a blank page may very well reveal some diamonds in the rough that would otherwise have been swept out the door with the ordinary dust of the filtered mind. Finally, by continually journaling, you give yourself the privilege of tracking your own evolution and the power to acknowledge how you’ve changed and grown.
6 You’ll gain perspective.
While journaling may inadvertently help you find solutions to troubling problems, one of the more important functions it serves is granting you the ability to gain perspective on your thoughts and feelings. So rather than fixing emotional challenges straightaway, writing about them simply changes your relationship with these life hurdles, which can make them more conquerable in the long run.
7 You’ll lose weight.
Not literally (sorry if we got your hopes up), but you will feel lighter. Journals have long been touted as platforms of cathartic release, and as social psychologist James Pennebaker has proven, writing expressively about traumatic events or situations can uplift both your mind and body.
8 You’ll be a fitter fiddle.
Building on our last point and Pennebaker’s conclusion, it’s also worth noting that you’ll be physically healthier if you use journaling as a productive emotional outlet. Journaling has been shown to alleviate the negative effects of stress on the body, and, also according to Pennebaker, it’s been proven to strengthen the immune system’s cells.
9 You’ll improve your memory.
It’s not only true that scientists have found that writing expressively (the way we often do in a journal) improves working memory, it’s also a fact that recording the ins and outs of your life in a journal gives more permanence to an often fleeting past. It’s often thought that journaling is only for posterity, but you can just as easily argue that it’s a brilliant way to keep sight of what happened behind you as your forge ahead.
10 You’ll harness your creativity.
Everyone is creative, but few have the power to unlock that creativity and cajole it out into the open. Journaling, especially stream-of-consciousness journaling, is a great way to tap into our creative genius. Not to mention, once you get a great idea out into the light, you can nurture what was a small seedling into a sequoia of brilliance.
Break down the stigma and show your support for journaling by sharing your own experience with the process in the comment section below or via our Facebook or Twitter feeds.