In the Journaling for Growth series we tackle the benefits of journaling, how I have used journaling to change my life, and how you can get started journaling too.
Ever since starting the site, I have been struggling to discern what my single most valuable habit is. All things considered, journaling is a top competitor.
Wanna see the other nominees? Check out the top 5 habits I do every day here.
Journaling has changed my life.
Journaling is by far my favorite tool for intentional living. I have found no other resource with the flexibility, reception, or straightforwardness that journaling has to offer.
And I am not alone. Success can be challenging to pin down. But when it comes to journaling, the benefits are numerous and clear. Let’s look at three pieces of evidence that demonstrate the power of journaling.
Timeless information has been gathered and preserved to cherish the valuable lessons we have learned from the personal accounts of the greatest minds of human history.
Biologist Charles Darwin, Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin realized the merits of a journaling practice as a tool for introspection. To them, journaling was a method of recording insights, faults, and ideas that would be reflected upon for the future.
Charles Darwin’s journal is credited with assisting him in writing his description for the ancestral linkage of all living beings. Darwin recorded numerous examples of how the happenings of family, friends, or even voyages fit into his theory of natural selection. He constantly questioned himself, nitpicking for any abnormal organism that would splinter his theory.
His private writings reflect on human evolution. During a time of religious hegemony, Darwin would ruin his reputation if he publicly contradicts creationism. With these fears in mind, he continues to write to himself, seeking clarity of mind about the Homo sapiens place in evolutionary history.
Marcus Aurelius was debatably the greatest Roman emperor of all time. A leader who tirelessly fought to rule his external and internal world. Marcus Aurelius would write to himself extensively in his personal notes.
He understood that fortifying his mind would prepare him for the uncertainty and mortality of his future. Although Marcus Aurelius never intended to publish these notes, after his passing, his personal writing where gathered and published.
Known as Meditations, it provides a look into the mind of someone who scrupulously reflected on themselves as a means to improve.
Benjamin Franklin disciplined himself to a strict schedule each day. In Ben’s autobiography, he reveals 13 virtues he attempted to enforce into his character by developing a tracking system he kept with him at all times. By constantly keeping tabs on himself, Ben Franklin was able to gradually transform his mannerism into what he imagined to be a man of moral perfections. No other tool in his notebook brought as much fulfillment as his journaling method.
To take a lesson from the greats, we need to accept that top performance means keeping an accurate reflection of our lives over time.
Looking for more examples of eminent figures throughout history who used a journaling system? Check out The Art of Manliness — a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man.
Mind & Body
The laundry list of journalers is just the beginning. We now have empirical evidence of the merits of written exercise on our emotional, physiological and psychological states.
In a study done by the University of Iowa, students were asked to journal for one month about thoughts and emotions. The researchers found that students developed greater awareness of the benefits of stress-inducing events when they were reflective during writing sessions.
Research published by Royal College of Psychiatrists found that participants who wrote about traumatic or stressful topics for 15-20 minutes on 3-5 occasions were in better physical and psychological conditions compared to those who wrote about neutral topics.
James Pennebaker, social psychologist and author of Writing to Heal, discusses the merits of written exercise on our immune system. Through writing, we are providing ourselves with a mechanism for uncovering ‘emotional blockages’ that are anatomically harming us.
Like a puzzle, known and unknown pieces are riddled through the contents of our mind. Until we take the time to flip them, we’ll never uncover what the picture is. That’s what writing does. As we write about traumatic experiences, we flip the unknown pieces. With a picture in mind, we can start putting the puzzle of our lives together piece by piece.
Financial Guru Peter Drucker said it best. What we track, outline, and write down will not be forgotten. A study conducted at Dominican University split participants into several groups and instructed them to record goals in various ways. They found that those participants who wrote down their goals had higher success rates.
“What gets measured get managed”
Peter Drucker, Businessman
The best method for recording our goals is, you guessed it, a journal.
As an organizational tool, having a single location for our personal aspirations streamlines our focus. Imagine trying to remember every time we hit a mark for our achievements. How far have I come? What patterns do I notice? Where did I write down that game plan?Working towards a goal is a lot easier when you formally record your progress, and the best method to breed your success is keeping it all in a single place; your journal.
Writing something down also has a memorizing feeling to it. When you put something to paper in a meaningful place it makes it real. It’s much harder to back out of a commitment you make with yourself especially if it is solidified in writing.
Start a commitment with yourself today
With the power of journaling clear, join me next week where I give you never before access to my 2017 journal. Find out what journaling strategies I use to contemplate intentional living.
Are you ready to get started? Check out my Top 5 Habit I Do Every Day to see if you’re on the right track towards forcing your habits towards intentional living!