One of the first steps toward finding a spiritual path is to engage in some practice on a regular basis.
Age-old practices such as meditation and prayer help enhance presence and self-awareness. For those who would instead engage in a practice involving motor activity, we will explore here the benefits of journaling.
Most of us have done some form of journaling, whether it was for an English class assignment, or maybe to rant a bit about some hidden frustrations or judgments. By putting something in writing, it sometimes feels as if we addressed a friend with whom we share stories, moments, and deeper states of mind. Some may find refuge in the empty pages of a journal, where words function as the battle cry after a long, dreary day or as a cheer of joy after reaching some milestone.
In our childhood, penning texts was first and foremost a grammar practice. We grew out of this even before the global digitalization divorced us from our white friend the paper.
In this new, paperless world, the blank sheet squints at us with a quaint abandon. It must wonder: “Will people still find the time to tattoo me with ink and lay their hearts out in the intimacy of my two-dimensional space? Am I still relevant to them?”
The answer is YES.
Especially for those who have a desire to ‘know thyself’, journaling could open a new door.
5 Reasons Why You Should Start Journaling
When we think of meditating, we usually conjure up an image of a bald Zen monk, with legs tucked in the perfect stillness of zazen position, a serene expression of intense presence. Yet this monastic “prototype” is not the only way to “meditate”. Journaling appears as one of the easily accessible forms of meditation, allowing us to observe the. Proprioceptive writing, a very powerful tool, is the act of exploring our minds through writing. It raises our awareness, alleviates mental burdens, and allows us to deeply connect with our inner wisdom.
2. Finding Clarity Through Brain Dumps
Jumbled-up emotions and thoughts are a common occurrence for us, modern people. But there is a tool that will save you a lot of valuable real estate in your head. It is called a “brain dump”. Brain-dumping is the act of jotting down whatever comes up in your head — regardless of the content’s consistency, grammar, and organization. Although it doesn’t really guarantee instant clarity, it does pave the way towards higher lucidity by slowing down the thoughts and sometimes helping to decide the priorities.
3. Daily Reflection and Self-Awareness
Introspection is one of the most crucial human instruments that can be employed to develop empathy. Daily journaling helps you reflect on who you were that day, even if it’s just a glimpse. Your journal is also your safe space, where you can jot down every unfiltered thought you have without having to worry about an audience. Your self-awareness is enhanced as a result.
4. Foster Creativity and Improve Writing Skills
It is self-evident that writing a lot is the most surefire way to improve your writing skills. This will be easier to achieve if you keep a journal and attend to it on a daily basis. It is a work in progress. Any creative ideas you capture in your daily journal can be utilized and elaborated on in the future. How exactly will it help you improve? In all sorts of ways. Consistent writing improves your skills by helping you harness the ability to shape and convey complex ideas. It will also help you retain more information.
5. Achieving Your Goals
Use the journal to create a clear vision of your long-term future self. What is it that you want to be, to do, and to have? Most people are living day to day, bouncing from one event to another, with no defined idea for their future. Journaling helps to visualize, narrow down, and map out a plan for your goals. It also helps to track your progress, especially in your venturing toward long-term endeavors.
How Does Journaling Change a Life?
Journaling helps you connect to your values, emotions, and goals. Whenever we have problems, or when we are about to face one, we can use our journal to start the process. This is where we empty our minds of all burdens — right onto our journal’s empty pages. Writing in a journal brings clarity to a certain extent, which will then open up space for more meaningful thought processes to take place.
Why is that? Because, unlike the fleeting thoughts that occupy your mind, full phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs impose on us a semantic structure that will inevitably submit to implacable logic. Having written something, we more easily detect inconsistencies, ambiguity, or contradictions. It thus helps us move our way through all that mental clutter, approaching ever closer to understanding what the core beliefs, salient feelings, and ultimate goals really are. Gradually, we become more self-aware.
Journaling improves insights and understanding. In addition to improving your mental clarity, you also become receptive to insights that are completely new or that you might have missed out on. Writing your thoughts out is like having a conversation. It puts you in a similar space where two people are working together to understand each other more deeply, which opens you to new insights and points of view.
Journaling tracks overall development. Life happens quickly and then it accelerates. We don’t always take the time to stop and take a gander at what is going on around us. We don’t get to witness the progress we are making in our own lives. So, what tends to happen? One day, you wake up, with no idea how you have ended up “here”. Writing a journal allows you to track your progress through time, allowing you to identify where you excelled and where you faltered. The beautiful thing about keeping a journal is that you’ll know exactly what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future—all because you have recorded it. This is how we learn from our mistakes.
5 Tips on How to Write a Journal
- Choose your kind of journal: Select a notebook that is sufficiently simple to feel comfortable messing around with it by filling it with the most random thoughts imaginable. It helps when it is small, so you won’t feel encumbered by carrying it around. You can even pick some fun gel pens to sparkle extra creativity. If you opt to choose software, there are tons of journaling apps ready to be installed. Still, we recommend handwriting. There is some evidence from neuroscience that complex handwriting results in improved memory when compared to electronic note-taking.
- Date your entry: Dates are very important in remembering valuable moments in our lives, so always date your entry. Likewise, if your lifestyle or work involves a lot of travel, mark the name of the place where your journal entry is generated.
- Tell the truth: Your journal is a safe haven, and your only audience is yourself. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, even if it’s hard. It becomes easier with practice.
- Write down the details: To fully preserve a memory, activate all your five senses in reliving it as you write it down on the page.
- Write a lot or a little: It doesn’t matter, really. Whether it’s three sentences or three pages, if that’s what it takes to let something out of your heart, so be it. Not a single day is alike, so if you are short on time and your notes are concise (e.g. one sentence), vary this input, so that to avoid mindless repetition of set phrases. Simply writing “today nothing interesting has happened” carries important information only occasionally.
On Journaling: Types of Journal
- Gratitude Journal: What we focus on, expands. Write down three things/reasons that you’re grateful for each day—whether it’s the morning sun or the foggy dawn, your coffee’s aroma wafting through your room, or your family. Scribble it down and set out on your day with a heart full of gratitude.
- Intention Journal: Setting objectives for yourself—and writing them down—is a terrific way to invoke a future identity that you’re not confident to acquire just yet. You can use the journal to envision how you want to live your life, and to assess if you’re making time for things that truly matter. You’re stating your goals and putting them on the page as a reminder to follow through.
- Reflection Journal: This form of journaling focuses on observing yourself and your surroundings. Take a bit of time to sit quietly and analyze your thoughts and your heart’s longings. Analyze your environment too. Pull up a chair outside and write notes on what you see, hear, and smell. Capture the fragrance of your garden or the breeze blowing through the trees. Count the sirens of the passing ambulances and measure the intensity of the baby’s cry next door.
- Poetry Journal: Even if you are not able to express yourself verbally with the agility of Edgar Alan Poe, a simple poem may help you express your feelings. By connecting lexical elements in a non-banal, novel way, poetry writing assists us in discovering deeper, more subconscious elements of ourselves. Allow yourself to freely associate words and observe the results. There is no ‘correct’ method to place the words together; it is a personal preference. And who knows? Maybe a rhythm will unfold, rhymes will converge and alliterations accidentally amaze. If an existing poem fits your mood, fill your journal with it. Your rules are the rules.
- Dream Journal: Exploration of your dreams may provide a sign prodding you in a spiritual direction. Write down the details of your dreams. Look for signs, and patterns, or compare them to your ‘real’ life, you might realize something about a situation you’ve been thinking about or a person you’ve been worried about. You might even learn something about yourself that you didn’t know before.
10 Journal Prompts
- What’s on your mind right now?
- What are you worried about (today or in general)?
- What truly excites you (today or in general)?
- What type of person do you want to become?
- What are the things you hope to achieve?
- What are you proud of?
- What have you learned lately?
- Try retelling a story from the scripture or sacred text.
- Reflect on an image and write down your thoughts about it.
- What do you know for sure?
Now that you’ve caught on to the wonders of journaling, it might be beneficial to consider establishing a Journaling Ritual.
Here, popular tips abound. ‘The Artist’s Way’ proposes “Morning Pages” as a 3-page long-hand stream of consciousness style every morning. “The Five Minute Journal” uses proven principles of positive psychology to make you happier in 5 minutes a day, and is available in physical and digital format.
You can, of course, work with a life coach to design a ritual that fits the organization of your day- pick your own schedule, the frequency, and the environment. Make it special- light a candle, play some music, or sip your favorite tea.
Eventually, the time you spend with yourself (and your journal) will deepen the connection between your body, your emotions, your thoughts, and your spiritual experience.