By Amarachukwu Okpunobi
I have been journaling daily for a year and it has changed my life.
I always heard about how useful journaling is and how it can help you to get to know yourself and organize your thoughts. So, a year ago I challenged myself to journal every day and I have been journaling every single day ever since.
To help myself get started. I decided I will not limit myself to journaling in a traditional manner, that is using pen and paper instead I decided I will just try to write daily thoughts or document my day using google keep since it is easily accessible and synchronized on all my devices.
Once I started. I didn’t know what to write about, but I decided I will just pretend as if I am talking to a friend or thinking out loud. I wrote so much in the beginning, I would write how my day went and how I felt. I am an overthinker and I love to reflect but this method stopped me from going in circles in my head. It also made me feel like I am letting out my feelings and thoughts which helped me feel better in stressful situations.
How do I keep going?
Like any other habit, it is not easy to stay consistent. I decided I wanted this to be a daily habit so I tried to add it to my daily routine. Every morning as soon as I wake up I open google keep and create a new note titled today’s date. I also had a habit tracker, I tried to write every day whether it is a page or a single sentence. Eventually, journaling became a part of my daily routine. It took some trial and error but I got used to it. Since I could see how it was helping me in my life I started looking
forward to it. I caught myself randomly opening my notes app throughout the day and typing.
How daily journaling changed my life
- It helped me get to know myself
I was constantly trying to understand what I want to do with my life and my career. I found so many ideas flowing in my journal. I started noticing things that stress me out or things I don’t like to do, I also noticed recurring thoughts and ideas about specific things which made me detect patterns in my thoughts. This helped me make decisions.
- It made me more disciplined
The fact that I was always writing, helped me come up with lists and plans. I started expanding my notes into more sections like trackers, to-do lists, and monthly and weekly reviews. This soon developed into my very own personal system. This system made me more conscious of my time and it made me look at productivity differently. Being productive became more about doing things that are important to me according to my values. I like to think that journaling helped me become mindfully productive.
- It helped me reflect and look back
I found myself reflecting on past events to get to know my patterns and confront my flaws. This helped me become more open to change and begin working on myself. I started noticing negative thought patterns. I had entries that are dedicated to looking back on past friendships, relationships, successes, and failures which made me very self-aware. I started working on myself and I became more aware of my thoughts and feelings.
- My stress nearly vanished
So, ever since I started journaling, my head is very clear and I am no longer stressed and I don’t think it is a coincidence. A year ago I was very stressed out and there were so many things that I was struggling with, I had so many ideas and goals, I was mainly feeling very overwhelmed and I couldn’t put ideas into action but now all my ideas and thoughts are clear, I know what I need to do every day and I guess in a way I became my own best friend. Journaling became my very own therapy. I know how to encourage or calm myself, I know what triggers me and how to deal with it and I know which buttons to push.
- I started taking “smart notes”
How to take smart notes is a book by Sönke Ahrens, he described what he called the “zettelkasten” method, in short, he introduced a system that helps you take notes from any content you consume that is books or podcasts, or social media posts and remember what you learned from it. If you want to learn more about the smart notes method I recommend watching Ali Abdal’s video about it, he also has another video about “The second brain” and a productivity system that he developed based on this method, also Mike Grassin’s review of the book is very useful and explains the ideas of the book.
I had specially dedicated entries in my journal for any book I read or podcast I listened to. This made learning new concepts and understanding new ideas much easier and it made recalling those ideas easier. I now have a reference for every book I read, the ideas and concepts I learned, and my experience reading it.
How to get started?
If you want to start journaling don’t think about it too hard. Start with what is easy and comfortable for you, if you have a notebook use it, or you can just go digital on your pc, laptop, or your phone. The digital way was much more accessible and easy for me but it varies from person to person. Writing down or typing out your thoughts will help you, especially in times you feel stressed or overwhelmed. A lot of people find writing on paper therapeutic, I do write in my notebook occasionally but I mostly keep a digital journal. As time passes it will come naturally to you and you will start writing or typing whenever you need it. For my digital folks, I recommend using a simple application that is easily accessible to you I use google keep, apple notes, and obsidian. There are also several journaling apps out there that you can use.
Whenever you feel like you want to journal, you can use this as an opportunity to think about something in particular or use your journal to log events or feelings. Anything you write will help you, don’t think too hard about what to write or what you wrote, Some days I used to just write random stuff, and other days I got some profound breakthroughs so I think it is best to just go with the flow and let yourself explore your mind.
Journaling changed my life and I am always exploring more methods to maximize its benefits.
After reading the above piece, I had myself download Google Keep and started my daily journaling again, this time, I will be more consistent. Just with my phone, I will keep myself on track. You too can try this out! Thanks to the writer, Noura Bakry for reminding us the importance of journaling