Over four decades ago, Richard Branson started a lifelong habit of listening intently to what others had to say, and diligently noting down any interesting remarks they made.
As a teenager, Branson interviewed the famous novelist John Le Carre for his magazine, Student. Although he usually brought a tape recorder to his interviews, it was old and rarely worked.
As such, he began diligently noting down his interviewee’s responses. And the behavior stuck. These days he has hundreds of notebooks, filled with his own and others’ reflections.
And it’s not just Branson whose career has benefited from a policy of careful listening and note-taking. In the 1990s, for instance, Branson gave a speech in Greece about his business.
During the question and answer session with the audience, one young man stood out. Not only did he ask excellent questions, but he also listened intently enough to ask great follow-up questions, and even wrote down Branson’s answers.
Who was this eager young man? Back then he was simply the son of a wealthy shipping magnate. These days he is Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of one of the UK’s most successful airlines, EasyJet.
To Branson’s mind, Ioannou’s incredible success just goes to show how far a thirst for listening, and a passion for note-taking, can take you.
In fact, studies have shown that journaling allows and encourages you to achieve your goals, as well as improve the quality of your life. Journaling helps you connect your behaviors with your feelings and thoughts, and helps you gain a better insight into who you are as a person.
Are you ready to reap the massive benefits that come from journaling?
Here are 30 surprising benefits you’ll get from keeping a journal.
Understanding of Self
There’s no better way to learn about yourself than to keep a written record of your daily thoughts and feelings. It allows you to review your time and recognize patterns and behaviors that may be negatively impacting you. It’s your chance to search deep within yourself to find out what you value, what matters to you, and what you want out of life.
Tracking Small Changes
If you’ve ever learned how to play an instrument, then you’ll understand this. You know you’re terrible when you first start. You don’t tend to notice the incremental improvements you make as you practice and get better. But you’re improving daily. The same can be said for maintaining a journal. You’re benefiting from incremental changes in your vocabulary and grammar. A journal will show you a record of those small changes that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
As you build your journal, you can cast an eye back on the many topics that you’ve chosen to write about. When you allow yourself to write freely, reading back allows you to take a look at the feelings and issues that you poured your heart out over. This is where you’ll gain an insight into yourself. It opens the doors to awareness and it’s an opportunity to learn things about yourself you never realized before. You might not have realized you feel guilty about spending time at a job you hate and missing out on hanging out with your kids. But it was there in the back of your mind all this time.
When you learn how to play an instrument, the increased neural activity in your brain triggers the thought process to connect in different ways. The same can be said for the process of writing. Journaling makes you more creative. You might find yourself doodling poetry or thinking of lyrics when that wasn’t something you did before. You might start looking at mundane tasks in a different light. Either way, journaling will help you improve as a writer and also improve your language and communication skills.
A Safe Space
We all need a safe haven to escape to and not all of us can afford the luxury of regularly visiting a therapist. Journaling is a safe space to let your emotions and frustrations run wild on paper. You don’t need to keep it all bottled up.
As you write you’re processing your feelings. You can look back on those difficult times and interpret your raw emotions more objectively. The end of a relationship, missing out on a job promotion, losing your job. They’re all negative life experiences. They hurt. When you look back at what you wrote about them in the heat of the moment, you can view it in a new light. It’s this fresh perspective that will highlight just how beneficial the journaling process is to your healing from that event.
It’s much easier to solve a problem when you can process it properly. Journaling does just that. You’re looking at a problem or goal and determining how best to solve or proceed. As you write you’re processing and exploring problems and finding solutions to them. It gives you a chance to take a step back and look at the reality of a situation. When you’re writing in a journal, you’re very much in the moment as you do so. And that’s what will allow you to improve your problem-solving skills.
Life often feels like a constant battle. You’re always fatigued and wondering if everyone else is experiencing the same struggles you are. Journaling provides a relief from that battle. You’re indulging in one-way communication to process your thoughts and feelings on a subject. This is going to buoy you as you head into “battle” and prepare you to communicate better and find common ground. Why? Because when your emotions are running high so are your stress levels, and that makes it difficult to communicate effectively.
Finding Your Meaning
Journaling shows you your meaning, why you’re living, when you’re wallowing, and when you need to make changes. Life can take on new meaning when you allow your own words to light your path. It will highlight the actions you took to get to where you are right now and how you can effect change in your future path.
When you write in your journal you’re allowing all of your experiences and energy to flow. This is a particularly helpful exercise when it comes to getting in touch with your spirituality. You don’t have to be religious to get in touch with your spiritual side. It’s all about having a greater understanding of the universe and your place within it.
When you review your past journaling, it provides you with direction. It’s also an incredibly effective way to let go of negative feelings and experiences from your past. You can choose to keep the pages and reflect on your negative experiences. Or you can tear them up and throw them away. That’s what you should be doing with hate and negativity.
Your journaling has allowed you to explore your emotions, thoughts, and ideas. It’s also allowing you to explore your dreams. Our dreams are usually telling us something, but they seem so weird we write them off as nonsense. Try paying more attention to the messages they might be trying to communicate to you. You might soon find there are dots to connect between your dreams and what you journal about.
How can the written word improve your verbal communication skills? The process of journaling helps you improve your ability to express yourself. Being able to look at your own words in front of you on paper helps you identify, and therefore correct, communication issues you might have. The more you journal the more effective you’ll become at communicating with others.
Effective journaling is an opportunity for you to reflect meaningfully. When you reflect on your life in such a way it allows you to identify what you’d really like to achieve in life. It isn’t always easy to identify your goals. We often allow the expectations of others to weigh heavily on our shoulders. We chase the goals that others want for us instead of reflecting on what we want. Your journal is a safe space for you to explore the goals you’re pursuing and whether they’re the right ones.
It requires focus to journal. There’s a level of concentration necessary to put pen to paper and articulate your thoughts, even if you’re just free-writing and letting it all pour out. When you journal regularly, you’re improving your overall focus.
Your journal can be a space for you to list your bad habits and work on breaking them. You can journal about your progress and as you track the process, you’ll find it easier to break bad habits. We often engage in our bad habits out of routine, never realizing we engage in them. By bringing awareness to your bad habits it allows you to overcome them.
It’s difficult to find yourself in the moment when you’re caught up in your unprocessed emotions. Instead of carrying those around in your head, journaling provides you with an outlet to process them. Which means it’s much easier for you to be present.
We all think about the future and what we want ours to look like. We think about what we’d like to have, what we’d like to do. A journal is a good place to put down all these desires. It’s also a place for you to come up with concrete ideas and plans on how to make sure your desires come to fruition.
The biggest lesson you can learn is that your past shouldn’t dictate who you are. But it can play a role in who you become. As you look back on your memories, whether they make you laugh or cry, they should always provide you with a lesson. Keeping a journal allows you to look back on past experiences and find a lesson to walk away with.
Purging Pent-Up Frustrations
While technology offers us a place to escape the real world, the problem is we often escape into a world that’s just as fraught as reality. So when you choose to escape into social media for example, you’re most likely ramping up your anger and frustration. Your journal however, is a place for you to truly purge the pent-up frustrations you’ve been dealing with in life. It’s a productive way to channel your feelings.
Gratitude is important and it’s easy to lose sight of the things we have to be grateful for. Your journal is an excellent place to inject more gratitude into your life. Make a point of noting at least three things you’re grateful for daily. This might feel difficult at first, especially if you tend to be a more pessimistic person by nature. But take a look around. You’ll soon see that you have so much to be thankful for. As you do this, you’ll start to become a more optimistic person. You’ll eventually start to look for the silver lining in any and every situation.
As you get to know yourself, you also start to recognize the fallibility of others. It’s much easier to empathize with others when you recognize that they’re walking their own journey just like you are. The troubles you experience, the feelings of frustration and hurt, they’re are all part of the human condition. We’re all just trying to get through each day.
As you process your emotions and learn to communicate better through journaling, it’s going to positively impact your relationships. Not just your romantic relationships, even the relationships with your family, friends, and colleagues. Things will improve as you learn to park your emotions and respond appropriately when communicating with others. Your increase in empathy will also play an important role in building and healing relationships.
A Truer You
Something we all do is wear masks. While it’s appropriate to adopt a persona in certain situations, like when you’re at work versus at home, you should be able to be your true self. The process of journaling strips all that pretense back and allows you to get to know your true self.
It’s fairly common for us to carry trauma from our childhood into our adult lives. Often, we don’t even realize the trauma is present. It manifests in a variety of ways and it isn’t until you take time to journal that it starts to make itself known to you. You can’t underestimate how powerful these traumas and troubles can be in your life. You’re being influenced by this pain that you’ve been carrying. Writing in a journal is your chance to make peace with this trouble and let go of the trauma.
Clarity of self. Clarity of thoughts. Journaling offers you clarity on just about any issue that life has presented you with. You can journal to clarify your emotions, your feelings, your thoughts. There’s nothing quite as intense as the moment of clarity when you suddenly see what’s really possible for you.
Laughter is the best medicine and journaling can often help you see the funny side of a situation. You might start writing in anger, only to find yourself laughing by the time you reach an end. We often react in the moment and our emotions are fueled by our feelings rather than reality. When we take a moment to look at the reality of a situation, we see the overreaction for what it was. Laughing at yourself is good for the soul.
What better way to motivate yourself than by writing in a journal about what you want from life and how you can make it happen. When you journal you’re giving yourself a voice, allowing yourself to be heard, all while listening. Journaling is empowering. Period.
There’s No Judgment
This isn’t just beneficial to how you treat yourself, it’s also beneficial to how you perceive and treat others. When you journal, you do so with zero judgment. Taking off your judgmental glasses and allowing yourself to look at things objectively will positively influence so many aspects of your life.
As you get to know yourself you’ll recognize the many incredible traits that make you who you are as a person. It will also highlight areas that could use a little work. Ultimately, as you journal you’ll reveal more and more about yourself and your life. You’ll learn more about your thought process, and how it’s influenced by your feelings and other factors in your life. This will only benefit your journey for personal development and self-improvement.
Before You Go,,,
To ensure you’re journaling effectively:
- Create a dedicated journaling spot. It should be a retreat that’s private and free from distractions.
- Your aim should be to write on a daily basis, but you aren’t limited to just once a day. If you have the time and inclination to write more often, then feel free to do so.
- Allow yourself reflection time following a journaling session.
- The structure isn’t particularly important, just do what feels right for you.
- Your journal is for you. You don’t have to share it with anyone.
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank