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Why Journaling Can Change Your Life


I've been writing in diaries since I could write. Even before I learned to write, I loved putting pen to paper and scribbling on it. While journaling and writing thoughts down have been around for a very long time, there are so many ways to do it. And what a lot of people don't realize is that it can be really, really valuable, and yes, it can even change your life. I know, I know, a very big claim to make...


I've written a post about journaling before, which was more about my personal experience. If you like you can read that blog post here.


JOURNALING TECHNIQUES

In this post I want to cover 5 specific journaling techniques, but of course there are many, many more. If you'd like to read about more techniques, let me know, maybe there'll be a part two of this post :)


DIARY| describing the events of everyday life

The most classic form of writing is the diary. This is the way that almost everyone knows and that most people also start with. It is accessible and a good way to document memories. Research has also shown that writing about a stressful situation can help you process the events and emotions that come with it. (Ullrich & Lutgendorf, 2002) Keeping a diary, if done consistently, is also a good way to learn to recognize patterns. In your life, your day or your thoughts.


In a diary you simply write what happened on a certain day and possibly your view on it or how you feel about it. You can make it as detailed as you want or stick to a few lines.


REFLECTIVE JOURNALING | contemplating

Reflective journaling, as the name suggests, focuses on reflection. You take the time to rethink and reflect on a specific event or situation in your head. This is a way of journaling that can be extremely valuable for your personal development. Questions that can help you with reflective journaling include:

  • What happened?

  • Why did something go like this?

  • What could I have done differently?

  • Why should I have done something different?

  • How can I do this better in the future?

  • What went well?

  • Why did that go well?


Because reflection is about examining certain situations and looking for what went well or not so great and why, this form of journaling can be extremely valuable to learn. (Schwoegl et al, 2020) This form of journaling is valuable to improve the ability to think critically (Raterink, 2016) and reflecting on prejudices not only helps you to become more aware of them but also to influence the prejudices and possibly to shape them. (Oliver et al, 2021)


In short, this form of journaling is extremely valuable to become more aware of your own behaviour, thoughts and actions in order to be able to positively influence them in the future.


STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS | let it flow

Stream of consciousness journaling is where you write down whatever comes to mind. It is important not to dwell too long on what you write, but just keep writing. This form of journaling is very nice to "write it out of your head". It is a very valuable technique to get more peace in your head, you free up mental space, as it were, by putting all the clutter in your head on paper.


It can also help you gain insight into your thought processes. Then you could choose to do a reflection on it, but that is not the purpose of this form of writing.


GRATITUDE JOURNALING

A gratitude journal is an incredibly powerful tool for your mental health. It can help to positively influence your outlook on life by focusing on the positive things in your life and the things you are grateful for. This also makes it extremely valuable in reducing stress. (Ko, Kim & Kim, 2021) (Kim-Godwin et al, 2020) Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal can improve quality of life within 7 days. (Tan et al, 2021) A pilot study even shows that the health of heart patients may also improve through keeping a gratitude journal. (Redwine et al, 2016)


To get started, simply start by writing down something you are grateful for every day. The more the better! Going into detail about what you're grateful for isn't a bad idea either. It's about focusing on the positive things in your life. Here goes too, that practice makes perfect. By focusing more and more on the positive things, you will also see them more and you will be able to appreciate the small things more and more.


GOAL SETTING

In this form, as the name suggests, you focus on goals. You start by defining one or more goals, which you can then break down into smaller, more achievable steps.


It is useful to first take the time for self-reflection. Where are you now? Then you can focus on where you want to be. By first focusing on where you are now, you will be better able to see where you are regarding to your goals and how much progress you have already made.


It is helpful to use the SMART method when setting your goals. You then formulate your goals:

  • Specific: Make sure your goal isn't too vague. Don't make the subject too broad, but see how specific you can make it. Form as clear a picture as possible of what you want to achieve. What, where, when?

  • Measurable: How will you measure whether you have achieved your goal? Getting fitter, for example, is not really measurable. Half an hour of exercise, 4 days a week, is. You can track it, check it off and "measure". So see if you can link numbers to your goals.

  • Acceptable: Do you stand behind your goal? And if it is a goal for several people, does everyone agree?

  • Realistic: Make sure your goal is achievable. If you only exercise for half an hour once every two weeks, then immediately switching to 6 times a week may not be all that realistic. If you do want to achieve that, make sure you set intermediate goals and build it up slowly that way.

  • Time sensitive: If your goal isn't time-bound, it's actually more of a dream. So make sure you have a clear idea of in ​​what amount of time you want to achieve your goal.


Once you've formulated your goal, it's time to break your goal down into smaller steps or goals. This can help make your goal more manageable. There are several ways to do this. You can think of what the first step is and work through to step 2, etc. Or you start with your end goal, to achieve that, what is the step that comes before that? What comes before that? You can experiment with this. Try both methods for the same goal, are there different steps? Is there a method that works better for you?


Once you've broken down your goal into steps, it's time to execute. Make sure you have decided for yourself when you are going to reflect on your goal. Reflecting in between ensures that you have a stick behind the door (not sure if that is also a saying in English...), but also that you see on paper what is going well and what you may still need to work on. Now it is very nice that you have made your reflection for your starting point in the beginning. You now have comparison material.


DIGITAL OR ANALOG | putting pen to paper

I myself am a proponent of analog working, putting pen to paper. To me, it feels like writing things out manually has more impact than typing them. In addition, I also find it more fun to look back in handwritten journals than in a file on my computer. You also have to think more about what you put on paper when writing. You can't just delete it again and that makes you think more about what you write and choose your words more consciously. This makes it feel like you are more aware of it. But everyone has his or her own preference and I recommend experimenting with this.


That was it for today. Do you already keep a journal? And do you find it helps you? Let me know in the comments underneath the post! For now, goodluck with the next steps on your bridge and I wish you all the happiness and an amazing rest of your day.

❤ Eva


 




 

SOURCES


Oliver, T. L., Shenkman, R., Diewald, L. K., & Smeltzer, S. C. (2021). Reflective journaling of nursing students on weight bias. Nurse education today, 98, 104702. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2020.104702


Schwoegl, E. N., Rodgers, M. E., & Kumar, S. S. (2020). Reflective Journaling by Second-Year Dental Students During a Clinical Rotation. Journal of dental education, 84(2), 157–165. https://doi.org/10.21815/JDE.019.170


Raterink G. (2016). Reflective Journaling for Critical Thinking Development in Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Students. The Journal of nursing education, 55(2), 101–104. https://doi.org/10.3928/01484834-20160114-08


Ko, H., Kim, S., & Kim, E. (2021). Nursing Students' Experiences of Gratitude Journaling during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 9(11), 1473. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9111473


Tan, T. T., Tan, M. P., Lam, C. L., Loh, E. C., Capelle, D. P., Zainuddin, S. I., Ang, B. T., Lim, M. A., Lai, N. Z., Tung, Y. Z., Yee, H. A., Ng, C. G., Ho, G. F., See, M. H., Teh, M. S., Lai, L. L., Pritam Singh, R. K., Chai, C. S., Ng, D., & Tan, S. B. (2021). Mindful gratitude journaling: psychological distress, quality of life and suffering in advanced cancer: a randomised controlled trial. BMJ supportive & palliative care, bmjspcare-2021-003068. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjspcare-2021-003068


Redwine, L. S., Henry, B. L., Pung, M. A., Wilson, K., Chinh, K., Knight, B., Jain, S., Rutledge, T., Greenberg, B., Maisel, A., & Mills, P. J. (2016). Pilot Randomized Study of a Gratitude Journaling Intervention on Heart Rate Variability and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Patients With Stage B Heart Failure. Psychosomatic medicine, 78(6), 667–676. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000000316


Ullrich, P.M., Lutgendorf, S.K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. ann. behav. med.24, 244–250 https://doi.org/10.1207/S15324796ABM2403_10


Kim-Godwin, Y. S., Kim, S. S., & Gil, M. (2020). Journaling for self-care and coping in mothers of troubled children in the community. Archives of psychiatric nursing, 34(2), 50–57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2020.02.005

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