From great philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, to renowned writers such as Susan Sontag and autodidactic thinkers like Ben Franklin; from soldiers in the trenches of brutal wars, to sailors at sea, world travelers and explorers; from teenage girls in their bedrooms to famous Wall Street executives in the city – all sorts of people, down through the ages, have sworn by the benefits of keeping a regular journal.
A few minutes of journaling can be like a short blast of daily (and free) therapy! People report feeling lighter, happier, more clear-headed, focused, confident and excited about life after spending just a short while emptying their brains onto paper.
If the above hasn’t convinced you to start writing, here is our BUCKiTDREAM list of seven ways daily journaling will make you healthier and happier.
Empty Your Cluttered Brain and Destress Going about your day with a brain filled to the brim of clutter – messy unorganized thoughts, things you’re trying to remember (and things you’d rather forget), annoying songs playing round and round, meaningless words, phrases and visualizations, bizarre fantasies, etc. – can be, to say the least, a bit stress-inducing. Journaling will help to unclutter your brain. Getting the mess out of your mind and onto paper frees up mental space and gives your tired, over-stretched brain some respite and a chance to say, “Ahhhhhh.”
Look at Your Thoughts More Objectively We are all bothered by our thoughts on a fairly regular basis. Some more regularly than others. Many psychologists believe that in fact, the only thing that can really cause us unnecessary pain is our thoughts – because while things in the objective world can and do go against us, it is only our thoughts and perceptions about an event that actually have the power to affect us directly. In many cases we are right to feel pain – healthy anger and healthy sadness are helpful when felt at the right times.
However, much of our depression, anxiety and psychic pain is the result of irrational thinking – such as feeling we are ‘losers’ when we aren’t, thinking we’ve been rejected when we haven’t and thinking that a small business or personal reversal is ‘the end of the world’. Writing these thoughts down on paper gives us a chance to examine them more objectively and to hopefully see where we are irrationally disturbing ourselves by making mountains out of molehills, or to see where we’re inferring negative things that in reality, do not have any evidence to support their existence.
Form a Compelling Vision for Your Future It can be difficult to be disciplined and do the necessary work to get to where you want to be, unless you have a compelling vision that excites you and drives you forward. Journaling about your hopes and dreams for the future can keep you on track when falling by the wayside and being lazy gets particularly tempting.
Set Specific Goals and Targets Every big accomplishment is made up of a series of tens, hundreds or thousands of smaller accomplishments. It is important to have an accurate map of where you are going, or else you will get lost. Your journal is an ideal place to work out what specific steps you need to take to get to where you want to go, and to make plans and hold yourself accountable for hitting your targets.
Make Coherent Sense of Your Past Most people carry painful emotions and memories from their past. Guilt, shame, anger and fear can all linger in our hearts from events that occurred in our lives up until this point. Often our pasts are shrouded in mystery – vague memories, assumptions, feelings and indistinct echoes create an unclear picture that can be confusing. What are we to make of our past? What effect is our past having on us today? Who are we, and where did we come from?
It is extremely helpful to create a coherent narrative about your past. Writing your life story can put the present in much clearer perspective and allow you to forgive others and yourself, heal old wounds, and move on.
Build Discipline and Consistency Committing to journal every day, even for just a few minutes, and then actually sticking to that commitment, is a wonderful way to build discipline, consistency and positive momentum. You will learn how to do what you say you’ll do, and this positive behavior will pass over into other areas of your life, creating an upward spiral of positivity, productivity and happiness.
Make a Record The speed of life changes when you are traveling. Experiences become much more vivid and intense, and fascinating things happen all the time. An adventure in an exotic location will usually be packed full of novel experiences that you will want to remember for the rest of your life. Journaling while you travel is the best way to record all the interesting, cool and scary experiences you’ve have while exploring the world. Reading back over journals you wrote when you were traveling in far off lands in years to come will undoubtedly be a fascinating and poignant experience.
Hopefully, this list has made you feel you want to give journaling a try. You can even share some of the cool and exciting epiphanies that come to you while journaling with fellow BUCKiTDREAMERS on your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. After you do, go check out some amazing bucket lists like the Best Cycling Trips in the World and the Greatest Safaris in the World, and fill up your journals with more happy thoughts and exciting adventures!