I just finished a journal. I mean, the pages in my physical notebook are full. Full of my handwriting. Full of my deepest secrets and insecurities, and full of my most profound insights and aspirations.
In celebration of that fact, I want to delve even deeper into the magnificent art of pouring your heart out onto sheets of processed wood chips.
I guess the most obvious question to ask when starting any habit would be why should I?
And that’s perfectly valid. You should have at least some idea of what you want to get out of something before you put in precious time and energy.
However, I want to try my very best to convince you that keeping a journal is definitely worth the effort.
The benefits of keeping a journal are too numerous to count, but a few have become exceedingly obvious (and welcome!) in my own life. Here are my top three:
Increased emotional intelligence
My understanding of my own feelings and emotions has improved so drastically in the past few years that I can hardly believe it. I’m sure many factors have had roles to play, but journaling stands out to me.
I feel like keeping a journal has given me a chance to really get to know my thought patterns. And following my thought patterns, analyzing them and breaking them apart has allowed me to gain great understanding of what drives me, what scares me, even what horrifies me.
I keep hitting new walls in my own self-inquiry, even if I feel like I’ve finally got it all figured out. These new walls can sometimes be circumnavigated, sometimes I can jump over them quickly, but some walls need to be broken down, brick by emotional brick.
Using a journal to lay out my fears and expectations in a clear way has enabled me to end toxic relationships, push myself out of my comfort zone and travel to distant countries. It’s even helped me to discover my own negative thought patterns, and subsequently to break them with affirmations.
Writing in a journal is like polishing a mirror. The more you polish, the clearer your reflection, and the better you will be able to know who you are and why you’re here.
Which brings me to point number two.
Clearing the path
Journaling has been a way for me to discover what it is that I truly want out of this life, this existence on planet earth. Not to say that I’ve got my life all figured out, but I’m way closer than I was before I started keeping a journal.
Before I started serious self-inquiry and meditation, my negative beliefs and thought patterns were like tangled branches in a forest, blocking my view of the stars.
They drastically limited my possibilities for happiness and fulfillment, and my trusty journal has helped me to sneak some pretty profound peaks through the foliage. In some cases I’ve even been able to remove them completely.
A clear path, and a strong sense of direction in life, have been some of the most powerful benefits from my daily writing habit. Never before have I been so driven to accomplish anything in my life.
Every day, my sense of purpose becomes stronger and more tangible. I want to serve. I want to provide others with value, the same value that I’ve discovered for myself through my own hard work. I want to be free. I want to be happy.
It seems simple when I put it like that, but it took a long time to realize these truths deep in the core of my being.
And that’s the essence of my last point:
Profound inner change
If you take home anything from this article, let it be this: deep personal transformation is possible through hard work.
If I were to meet a five years younger version of myself today, I would not like that guy. There was just so much not to like!
But through difficult emotional work and hours of frantic writing, I’ve transformed myself into someone I not only like, but LOVE unconditionally. And I know that anyone can do it, with the right mindset and the right tools.
I broke a terrible addiction to video-games, healed my crippling need for external validation, and cleared out the mental cobwebs preventing me from functioning as a healthy human being.
So many things have changed and improved. And every day they get even better. All thanks to journaling, in large part.
When you’ve managed to remove all the unnecessary stress, all the limiting beliefs and negative thoughts, everything becomes clear. Awareness expands. Consciousness manifests where none was to be found.
The proof is in the pudding. You will never know the wonders and sheer bliss of journaling without trying it for yourself. I really hope you will.
The real challenge is to just start. Just find a piece of paper if you don’t have a notebook at hand, and a pen, and start writing. Anything! Flow of consciousness. Write what comes up into your mind. If you can’t think of anything to write about, write “I can’t think of anything to write about”.
You just need to get the habit started. Like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, gaining momentum and speed as it goes along. Keep it short and sweet at first, just a few lines if you don’t feel like writing at all.
I promise you, if you stick with it, you will be richly rewarded.