If you don’t have a regular practice of writing in a diary or a journal, right now is an especially good time to start.
One of the most tried and true communication methods — writing it out — is one of the single best things you can do for your mental and physical health, and because your story matters.
The great thing about keeping a journal is it has an audience of one: you. So you can quite literally do it any way you want.
In many contexts, especially when something is complex or challenging, writing is the way of sorting, figuring, and contextualizing the mental churn and chatter we all carry around with us. This is especially important if you feel unsure, anxious, depressed — which I’d guess is just about all of us, at least to some degree, these days.
WRITING IS GOOD FOR YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Right now, during a time of immense change and instability, taking stock of what you’re feeling, what you know, and working through ideas in your head is really important. Writing it out makes manifest the ideas and feelings in your heart and mind.
Over just a short time, journal writing can quite literally relieve stress and generate a feeling of control, stability, and clarity — for two reasons:
- It creates order to a chaotic world, and
- It helps you hone for yourself what you’re really thinking and feeling.
Sometimes things feel scary because they are nebulous and ill-defined, and lack connection and context.
Writing, even for just a few minutes, helps you get out of your head and create more space to breathe. It also gives you a built-in way of bringing more positivity into your life in noting what you’re grateful for and in writing about yourself in a positive way.
YOUR STORY MATTERS
Keeping a journal also means you’re recording for yourself, and possibly others you’re close to, this moment in history. Each of us has stories to tell, and everybody’s story is important and contains wisdom to offer. The wise and the best leaders draw connections, identify patterns, and provide context. Journaling helps you identify those. This is especially important for teams in organizations undergoing a lot of change.
Education and sharing stories has been a part of the human experience long before writing and printing presses were invented. Sharing your story gives you an opportunity to go back and reflect, to remember where you came from, identify trends, and educate future generations.
PRACTICAL JOURNALING TIPS
- Paper vs. Technology: Write if you like to write with pen and paper. Treat yourself to a nice journal with paper you like, or you can use any notebook you have. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Paper allows you to draw and access a part of the brain we use less as we use technology more.
- If you’re more of a technology person, I love the Day One app as a way of recording thoughts, voice memos, photos and memories. This allows you to keep a record of thoughts, images and sounds as you go through your day.
- When should I journal? Pick a consistent time of day. The habit makes it easier to keep. I like early in the morning, when I’m freshly rested before looking at my phone. Many people like end of the day as a way of reflecting. Since this is for you and only you, maybe experiment and see what works for you.
- What do I write about? Anything you want. Write free-form, stream of consciousness. Draw images. If you are more of a structure person, use consistent self-reflection questions. I have posted several to get you started here.
- Don’t sweat it. It doesn’t matter if words are misspelled, if you even use full sentences, what it looks like, how it sounds, what you say. This is for you. So give yourself a break.
- Be curious. What themes start to emerge? What do you notice about how you feel before and after you write? Over time, what becomes clear and what patterns do you notice?
Give yourself the gift of reflecting. It will make you a better leader and a better communicator. I’d love to hear what you write about.