Many of us have started writing a diary or journal at some points in our lives. And many of us have also stopped writing in them not that much later! Many famous artists, writers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and thinkers keep, or have kept, journals, and there are many different journaling techniques. For many, it's a creative necessity and outlet. For some, it's a place for exploration, and yet for others, it's an art form in itself.
Journaling can be enriching and fulfilling on many levels. It can lead to insights, personal growth, and setting and achieving goals. Journals record our thoughts, feelings and reflections. In doing so, they create a through-line in our life, a place of refuge and reflection, that we can visit and revisit.
Personally, I started journaling some years ago, as part of the Morning Papers practice of The Artist’s Way. I've written notebooks full of journal entries related to personal growth, gratitude, creative development, project ideas, personal insecurities, blocked traumas, to-do-lists, goals, dreams and much more.
I've tried different journal techniques for weeks or months at a time – and have also not journaled for weeks in between entries! Every time I come back to the practice and sustain it on a regular basis, I feel I can go deeper, explore things more explicit, and in the process, experience a wonderful journey to my interior.
So, what are the benefits of journaling? And what different journaling techniques can we employ? How do we go about starting and sustaining a journaling habit?
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Furthermore, studies show that keeping a gratitude journal offers some added benefits. People that keep a gratitude journal are happier, healthier, more balanced and generally more optimistic. They are less self-centered, and less susceptible to feelings of envy, more relaxed, better in decision-making, and more strengthened in their emotions and developed in their personality.
“There are many journaling techniques. For many, it's a creative necessity and outlet. For others, it's an art form in itself.”
Probably the most researched journaling technique is keeping a gratitude journal. For maximum benefit, take 15 minutes per day, three to four times a week, to journal what you're grateful for on that day. Be specific, choose depth of gratitude instead of breadth, and try to get personal (being thankful to people is more efficient than to things). Make a note of seeing good things as a gift, savoring surprises and unexpected events.
Journaling techniques: start putting pen to paper
A comprehensive method of journaling is using the intensive journal process. This copyrighted process, which can be learned in specialised workshops, enables the person journaling to get to know themselves on profound levels.
“People that keep a gratitude journal are happier, healthier, more balanced, and generally more optimistic.”
The Intensive Journal Workbook is a large notebook filled with paper and divided into four dimensions of human experience: Life/Time, Dialogue, Depth and Meaning. Each of these aspects is divided into several subsections to work through in the path that the method prescribes. Some of these paragraphs are used to write about our memory of the events of our lives as well as dreams and images. Others are more geared towards stimulating insights and creative activity.
Once you've developed a basic journaling practice, you can dig deeper and further expand it. Some commonly held beliefs and ‘best practices’ include:
Journaling is a powerful habit that enables us to get a more in-depth and clearer understanding of the thoughts, feelings and issues we're working through. Whether we use journaling to accompany our meditation, forgiveness, or gratitude practices, or to work through emotional trauma or creative stumble blocks, a daily practice enables us to focus and develop further. Trying different journaling techniques has given me many benefits in life. I wish you the same journey as you explore your journaling practice! ●
Images: Cathryn Laver, Ben White, Haley Powers, Estée Janssens on Unsplash
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Arlo is a filmmaker, artist, lecturer, and intermittent practitioner of metta meditation and morning yoga. When not dreaming about impossible projects and making them happen in the most impractical ways possible, he journals, listens to jazz, or cuddles with his better half.
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