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Why you should keep a journal - and how to make it a habit

Why should you keep a journal?

Some of the most important people in history have kept journals. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison and Leonardo di Vinci. These journals have been tremendously helpful for historians in getting an insight in to how these people worked.
Even if you don’t think you will end up in the history books along with Albert Einstein of Leonardo di Vinci, journalling can be an incredibly valuable practice. Journalling is a great way to exercise the creative muscle, it can also be rather cathartic.

Benefits of journaling

A study published in the Advances in Psychiatric Treatment found that writing about traumatic or stressful was found to improve both physical and psychological health. Participants were asked to write about these challenging events for 15–20 minutes on 3–5 occasions. Those who did so had better physical and psychological outcomes than those who wrote about neutral topics.

A study in the cancer publication the Oncologist reported that “cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.” Research has also shown writing “improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients.”

A study at the University of Iowa found that journalling about stressful events was a very useful tool in helping people deal with the events they experienced. They found the key was to focus on what you are thinking as well feeling (as opposed to just your emotions.

Writing can also serve as a form of meditation when you get in “the zone. It can also, unsurprisingly, improve your writing skills.

How to journal

There are several tools you can use to write a journal.
Good old pen and paper.
Notetaking tools like Evernote or Google Keep.
An app like The 5 Minute Journal.
I suggest picking the tool you are most comfortable with. The best one is the one you will use.

Make a new entry for each day and write down big events for you during the day and what you thought and felt at the time. If you need some inspiration, these three questions borrowed from The 5 Minute Journal are a great start:
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What was good for today?
  • How could I have made today better?
  • How to make journaling a habit
Start by picking a time each day. If you are a lark make it in the morning and if you are an owl make it at night. The best time to journal is when you will do it.

Make sure you spare at least 10 minutes and set your reminder. You could set an alarm on your phone or computer or you could put a note by your journal in a place you will see it. Whatever works best for you.

Now here is the important part, make a commitment to write your journal every day for a month – no excuses! There will be mornings\nights that you don’t feel like doing it initially but once you have done it every day for a few weeks you will look forward to your journaling time.