I bet you’ve heard of this many times before – journaling can change one’s life.
Because it is a process of learning and UNLEARNING about yourself.
Journaling brings your focus to the bigger goals instead of the busy-ness of your everyday life.
Journaling creates a space for you to vent and be honest with yourself.
Like many other good habits, it takes time to test and tweak the best journalling method that suits you.
My journey of recording my life
I have been obsessed with recording my life since I was a kid. I used to have diaries of pink covers, and I would write about everything and nothing. In high school I still wrote my journal every day. As a teenager, having some sort of outlet to vent is crucial. Back in the days Internet just started to get more popular. I would occasionally post one-line stupid statuses on Facebook and Twitter. Due to privacy issues and the hassle of storing physical journals, I stopped journaling when I entered Uni. I had photos and videos that reminded me of my Uni life, but I enjoy reading what I was thinking and feeling more. Eventually I started journalling again on Google Docs in 2018. Soon I realised I needed a system to label and store my entries. There was no way I could locate what I want to reread just based on dates. In late 2019 I discovered Notion, and since then I have moved my journaling habit and system there. Keep reading or scroll to the bottom for my daily journal template.
Yes, I do think everyone should journal, but I also understand that it isn’t for everyone. For overthinkers like me, it feels so good to conceptualise my messy thoughts, lay them all out in front of me so that I can analyse and reshape my thoughts. That being said, you don’t need to write essays every single day. Find your own journaling method. Bullet points, voice memos, pen and paper, even drawing. We all need some form of outlet to express ourselves. Find the medium that is the most accessible to you.
Here’s 5 things journaling taught me.
1/ Self-awareness is the foundation of self-growth
As Steven Bartlett said, there is no self-development without self-awareness. To raise your awareness, you need to pay attention to your life, your thoughts and emotions. You cannot grow when you operate on auto-pilot. And there is no better way to train your awareness through journaling. Using a few bullet points to sum up what happened in the day, describe your emotions, express gratitude, and set the intention for next day. You will start seeing and living your life differently. I guarantee that.
2/ Happiness lies in the tiny moments in life
Speaking of perspective change, gratitude is perhaps one of the most powerful yet underestimated tool that everyone should have. We are constantly being fed by the society that we should be purchasing more, consuming more, owning more etc… that got us into a hedonic treadmill. We are not happy even when we are earning more. We are not satisfied even when we live in mansions and drive sports cars. Have you ever experienced tranquillity when you were surrounded by nature – the woods, the mountains, the lakes? Think about our ancestors before civilisation – human beings were once satisfied just to have food in their tummies when they lived in the jungle with all kinds of species.
Here’s the truth: we DO NOT need another pay rise, apartment, fancy headphones or whatever’s on the trend to make us feel happier. If you think that you can only be happy AFTER you acquired certain things or achieved certain level, you will never be happy. It’s a trap. You can be happy seeing that toddler smile back at you after you winked at him. You can be contented holding a cup of hot chocolate, staring at the window on a rainy day. But we often overlook these little moments in life. And this is why journaling is so powerful – similar to mindfulness, if we pay more attention to what we are thinking and feeling at the moment, we will be more grateful on a daily basis instead of thinking we need another purchase to satisfy our “wants”.
Start small. Just name one thing you’re grateful for before you start your day, and name one amazing event that happened at the end of the day. In no time you will be reaping the benefits of practising gratitude.
3/ How habits are formed (and how to change behaviours)
Journaling gives you a bird’s eye-view of how you spend your days. When you reflect on your days, weeks or months, you will spot patterns that you don’t realise you have. That also applies to your thoughts and emotions. We all have patterns and triggers everywhere. Through journaling, you get a clearer view of your current life. From there, you can design your environment to change your habits and routines so that you become your future self faster. Journaling helps you keep track of your changes as well. Through constant reviews, you adjust your methods and experiment something new next week.
The process of changing your bebahviours can be daunting. I used to be in the same position – constantly unsatisfied of my progress and always wanted to get results the next day. This is why I have designed a personal development program for you to gain clarity and courage to help you achieve your goals and become your future self. I have a step-by-step guide based on science and my personal experience to help you do the same. Find out more at http://findyourforte.carrd.co/
4/ How to express yourself in your own way
Understanding your emotions is a huge part of personal development. Sometimes we are not aware of what we are going through emotionally. It is healthier to regularly clear our thoughts and emotions so that we can full immerse in this experience called life. Journaling not only helps us express emotions that we might have ignored, but also lets us explore ways to express our feelings. For example, you might draw what you’re feeling or use colours to express emotions rather than words. You might also pick a song that describes what you’re going through. It opens up a lot of opportunities for you to “vent” and express yourself in a creative manner.
5/ The CBT triangle - how one affect each other
There is a reason why keeping a thought record is so common in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Basically, your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are related and could affect one another. When you record them, you can easily find common themes in your life, like “I’m always bad-tempered when I’m hungry”, or “I get easily affected by others’ opinions of me and that makes me lose motivation and energy”. Journaling helps us become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours and makes it easier to spot our unhealthy patterns. Yes, journaling is totally therapist-approved. And from my personal experience, it even turned my overthinking behaviour to my strength because I am simply good at observing and analysing.
It’s all about raising your self-awareness. Before you make a change, you first need to know what you have to change right? The same applies in personal development. Journaling is a good habit to keep for life. Always interrogate your thoughts, behaviours and emotions. Question why you are doing or thinking certain things. Be open to change. You can be more resilient and flexible.
Check out my journalling template here.