If you were to ask me a year ago if I journaled, the answer would have been “No.” And I might have even followed up with, “I don’t have time for that in my life right now.” Yet recently, I’ve come to realize that journaling doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a full-page or two each time you do so. Even short recordings of your thoughts can be a valuable tool for helping you live more fully, and when I began viewing it from this perspective, I realized that actually, I have been journaling for years.
Here, I share how I incorporate journaling into my daily routines and the benefits I have come to recognize from doing so. In particular, I have found that journaling has helped me to recognize more joy daily, to live more mindfully, and to find greater balance in my life. When done with intention, journaling can help you capture what may be useful to retain from the past, encourage you to live more in the moment, and spur you to utilize your reflections when planning your week ahead. Here’s how I use my journal to facilitate achieving these benefits.
It can be easy to move through our day-to-day activities so quickly and with so much focus on what we need to finish next that we miss celebrating our small wins and the beauty of life happening all around us. If we don’t slow down enough from time to time to look for and recognize what brings us joy, we begin to realize that we’ve made a habit of missing these moments entirely. Taking as little as five minutes at the end of each day to reflect back on what made you smile will trigger your brain to begin noticing these things as they happen. As you do so, you will bring more attention to the present moment and be able to more fully appreciate these special moments and the beauty around you. I like to end each day by noting in my journal the following three things:
- My Best Win of the Day – Making a habit of looking for and celebrating your small wins builds self-confidence and makes it easier to keep a positive mindset. As your confidence grows, you will feel more capable of and even excited to take on greater challenges. Acknowledging these small successes on a daily basis gives rise to feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and pride.
- Beauty I Noticed – Fully appreciating the beauty of a child’s smile, the vibrant color of a flower, the intricacies of a snowflake, or even the clean look of a well-organized desk can prompt a warm smile inside. The more I notice the beauty around me, the more beauty around me I seem to notice. I’ve found that my gaze has become increasingly curious on my walks, and as a result, it is seldom I don’t stop at some point along the way to be amazed at the little wonders in nature. Then later, when you take the time to reflect back on your day and remember these views, you get to experience the beauty of that moment a second time.
- What Gave Me Joy – Tuning into the moments that spark joy in your life and recording them can give you a roadmap of what you want to intentionally include more of in your life. This could be physical things such as fresh-cut flowers on your desk or it could be recognizing how much you enjoyed a walk through the woods.
Living in a Mindful, Intentional Way
Beginning each day by listing what you are grateful for can have profound and lasting effects on your wellbeing. It is well accepted that a daily practice of gratitude can produce positive emotions and feelings of happiness. Listing abundance in your life can have a similar effect and for this reason, I like to alternate daily between cultivating a grateful attitude and having an abundance mindset by listing my thoughts on each in my journal. I find it interesting that by doing so, I am also more mindful at the moment in time of when the things for which I am grateful for occur, and I have a tendency to slow down and appreciate them more often as a result. So, it seems that the practice is somewhat cyclical in nature. By listing my feelings of gratitude and abundance, I notice all that I am blessed with more frequently.
I also use journaling to find clarity in my thoughts and opinions, particularly when I notice I am feeling anxious or unsettled about something, but can’t quite fully interpret why and can’t shake the feeling. This portion of my journaling practice doesn’t happen every day, but rather when I feel it would be useful to further explore my viewpoints and the beliefs I hold about an event that has taken place.
When I find I am able to work through a disagreement or stress about a situation intellectually, but my emotions remain charged, I like to take some time to explain what occurred or what I am worried about in my journal. Quite often as I allow my thoughts to flow unrestricted on paper, concepts begin to form and insights are revealed that would not have otherwise come to light.
By more fully understanding my own reactions in this way and the impact of my actions on others, I am better able to notice and be mindful of my own triggers and strive to act in a more intentional manner. I’ll be honest that catching myself before acting or speaking doesn’t happen overnight. Though with practice and the repetition of bringing new viewpoints about the things that I am working on to my attention through journaling, I find gradual improvement over time.
Finding Balance in Life
Each week, as I begin to make plans for the week ahead, one of the first things I like to do is reflect back on what worked well the previous week and what could have gone better. These thoughts too, find a home in my journal and are quite useful in strategizing how I want to approach the coming week. As an example, recently I jotted down that I had been much more successful incorporating exercise into my days by carving out small 20-minute workouts instead of only working out when I had a full hour to do so.
Each week as I reflect back and describe on paper what was worth repeating, as well as what needed to change, I am better able to plan my week in a way that I am more efficient, more effective, and consequently, able to find greater balance in my life.
By using both consistent journaling prompts as I have described above, as well as using more free-flowing writing for working through issues, worries, and uncertainties, I have found journaling to be a very valuable tool in my life. And the beauty of it is that it doesn’t require you to go anywhere or pay anything to access it. All you need is to put pen to paper for a few moments of your day and let your thoughts flow from your brain into your journal. You’ll benefit from doing so whether you ever take the time to go back and read these daily musings or not.