Journaling is not just for writers. And it's also not simply some silly outpouring of a middle school girl's heart. Recent studies show that journaling not only holds the key to powerful insight and creation but also to increased happiness.
As I sat down in a local coffee shop this past Saturday afternoon, I fully intended to catch up on reading, start hashing out a paper and start writing my weekly opinion piece for The Daily. None of these things happened. I felt overwhelmed, not only with the homework ahead of me, but with the general busyness of life. I'm sure you've been there; there are never enough hours in a day to accomplish all that we want to.
I kept feeling the urge to clear my mind, so I could focus on the tasks at hand. And that's when I remembered a blog post I had read recently about journaling. I had only skimmed the piece, but when I went back and reread it, I realized just how powerful journaling can be.
"Writing Makes Photographers More Creative — 5 Easy Tips," by Chase Jarvis, is a piece written by a Seattle-based photographer about the power of journaling. As an artist, he focused on the creative inspiration journaling can provide, but the benefits he described extend to a wider audience and describe the potential for increased happiness.
Jarvis described a research-backed book: "59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot" by Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire. Wiseman basically distills a multitude of scientific studies on happiness into a simple solution — journaling. In his blog, Jarvis described the five main types of journaling as such:
1. Expressive writing. Put your thoughts and feelings onto paper.
2. Gratitude journaling. Take 15 minutes to list things which you are grateful for.
3. Describe your perfect self. Write about a time in your life when everything "clicked" and you were content.
4. Affectionate writing. Write to a person you love or care about and tell them what they mean to you and why.
5. Progressive review. Record what is going well in your life. Note progress towards goals you've set for yourself. Don't dwell on negative setbacks.
Taking time to journal like this everyday can truly change your perspective. With meditation and self-reflection, we can unlock tremendous amounts of creative potential and inspiration within ourselves. Expressing our feelings and gratitude, as well as clearly envisioning our goals, can make us happier.
Another great blog post I read about this concept was called "The power of Visualization." It was written by Martin Prihoda, an advertising and fashion photographer working in Mumbai. First, Prihoda described his preconceived notion that wealth and happiness only come from struggle and hard work, but then he realized this attitude was incorrect. We have control over our lives; we just need the right mindset.
He went on to describe his "yogic" philosophy, which recognizes that everything shall pass. Emotions are in a constant fluctuation, and situations change continuously. What I want to highlight about his philosophy is the role journaling plays in his life. He wrote that when you change your mindset, your life naturally follows the new path. To make this shift, he suggested the following journaling exercises:
1. Write down three things you’re grateful for.
2. Write down three "impossible" goals.
3. Write down three things on your mind that you would like to resolve immediately.
4. Take a few minutes to meditate on one of your goals. Picture the goal with crystal clear clarity and imagine that you have attained this goal.
Like the types of journaling Jarvis suggested, these exercises seek to help bring vision and clarity into our lives by allowing time for self-examination. Journaling can help raise our self-esteem and self-respect, which ultimately allows us to look forward and stay positive.
Want to unlock your creative potential and become happier? Start writing.