Introspection – a method of gaining knowledge about your inner workings as a perfectly imperfect human being; including an in-depth examination of your mental and emotional processes. It’s something we all can benefit from, and something we can all learn.
Developing a habit of introspection can be challenging – you must strive to be honest with yourself, and that’s a quality that can be hard to express. Once you’ve overcome that hurdle, however, you must act on what you’ve learned and discovered.
One way to make this process easier is to develop a journaling habit – when you discipline yourself to write in your journal on a consistent basis, you’ll gain a greater perspective on your life, yourself, and other people. Journaling is a powerful tool for learning to think differently. Here’s why:
Developing a Better Perspective
Expressive writing, as journaling is sometimes called, can not only help improve your mood and memory but can also enable you to develop a more authentic perspective. Those who journal regularly are better able to assess the situations and relationships in their lives honestly and clearly.
Journaling helps to increase your optimism as well as help you gain and strengthen a sense of accountability for yourself, your feelings, and your actions. When you take the time to objectively write about yourself, and use your journal as a reflective tool, you can learn a great deal about yourself.
Create a More Complete Personal Record
Journals become a record of your habits, emotions, and decisions. Over time, your writing can help you identify patterns in how you’re feeling, assist in identifying self-sabotaging behaviors that could be affecting your ability to achieve your goals, and much more. Journals help you figure out where time is being used and abused, which people are more helpful (or harmful) to your emotional well-being, and where you are making the most progress toward your dreams.
Uncover and Understand Hard Truths
Journaling is a self-development process that involves the mental operations your brain uses to process information, and it can help you uncover hard truths about yourself. The more you write about what you are feeling and the sources of your emotions, the better able you are to understand why certain triggers are so strong and how you could better handle them.
While the act of writing in your journal helps develop perspective, you can also learn a great deal when you go back and read your journal from time to time. The more you think about your own thinking, which is known as metacognition, the more you understand what forces drive and influence you, where your thinking may be faulty, and what areas of your life seem the most likely to suffer from erroneous perspectives or ideas.
Journaling is a way to identify where you are right now. And until you know this, you can’t devise a proper plan for getting where you want to go. Gaining perspective through journaling is a wonderful way to make better choices that can help you achieve your goals.
Tips to Get Started with Journaling
If you are ready to start a journaling habit, here are some tips to help you get started.
#1. Find a journal you really love. The more it feels like yours, the more it attracts you and encourages you to pick it up and start writing, the more likely you will be to write in it every day. Some people enjoy decorating or customizing their journals, so they are more visually attractive and personalized.
Choose a cover that’s distinctive and helps you recognize your journal right away, look for paper that is smooth and not see-through-thin, and indulge yourself with a beautiful writing implement to encourage its use. I personally favor Cross pens for their style and materials, and I also use medium ballpoint pen refills for their smoothness.
#2. Create a journaling routine. Some people like to write at the same time every day. Some people like to write in their journal and tie their writing practice to the same activity each day (i.e. after breakfast, before bedtime).
Choose the time that works best for you, and then stick to that time. Put it on your calendar or to-do list if you need to – it’s an important appointment that you should honor and keep for yourself. To encourage your new positive habit, commit to that routine for at least 30 days.
#3. You do not have to write for extended periods, especially at first. Starting with just five minutes a day can get you going, help you see the benefits of journaling, and get you started in your new routine.
Once you develop the habit, you can build up your stamina by writing more until you find a period of time that works best for you. Some days a sentence or two will feel just right, and on other days, you may fill multiple pages.
#4. Don’t stress about (or over-analyze) what you write. Start with the simple stuff. What did you do today? What is your emotional state? What was something positive or negative that happened to you recently?
Once you get through the initial strangeness of your new habit, you will find more interesting and insightful topics. You’ll find yourself noticing things that you may have overlooked before, just so that you can add them to your journal.
You’ll find more of an emotional connection with your journal, especially as your brain begins to appreciate the opportunity of journaling to help you work through your feelings.