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How to Practice Journaling to Reduce Stress and Think Clearly

Retired equity trader who enjoys helping others improve and get the most out of their lives.

Do You Feel Stressed?

If so, journaling can help.

Journaling is the practice of taking a moment each day to write down all the things on your mind. It can be your fears, your doubts, your feelings, your thoughts, or your decisions.

It's a daily date with yourself where you examine your thoughts and put things in perspective.

Many intellectuals, scientists, and inventors have used this exercise to organize their ideas and gain clarity, notably Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Marc Aurèle, Charles Darwin, and Marie Curie.

In this article, you will find out what journaling is, its benefits, and how it works.

What Is Journaling?

So what is journaling?

It is an exercise in introspection, which consists in writing down daily what is going on in your head. This mindfulness training allows you to unload your thoughts, better manage your stress and maintain good mental hygiene.

The journal can focus on external events, that is, on what happens to you. So, for example, in your journal, you will write:

Today I was overwhelmed at work. As a result, I did not have time to progress on my tasks like I wanted.

While journaling focuses on the interior, that is, on self-analysis, the main goal is to understand yourself better and become a better version of yourself.

With journaling, you will therefore instead write:

Today I was overwhelmed at work. I still have a hard time saying no when someone asks for a favor. Why am I so afraid to say no? Where does this fear come from? What system can I put in place to overcome it?

As we will see shortly, there is a multitude of ways to practice journaling.

The Benefits of Journaling

Mental Hygiene

The first benefit of journaling is to maintain your mental hygiene.

We all have parasitic thoughts, fears, and doubts. And if nothing is done to deal with them, these things take on an excessive proportion of our thoughts and create a heavy mental load. Journaling helps you prevent this from happening.

Writing in a journal daily is like cleaning your head. When you clear your mind of all the stuff that clutters it, you make room for clear thinking. As a result, you let yourself be less affected by your thoughts and you become more serene and far-sighted. Journaling is, therefore, an excellent tool for maintaining good mental health.

Stress Management

Journaling also helps you better manage your stress. Many studies show that this exercise helps to overcome anxiety, depression, or burnout.

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In his book Effortless Journaling, SJ Scott explains that keeping a journal helps explore his emotions, release tension and reduce specific sources of stress such as stress at work. For this reason, many therapists use this method to help their patients with anxiety or depression.

Self Confidence

Journaling is a great way to build your self-confidence.

Writing in a journal allows you to explore your mind, challenge your limiting beliefs, and discover sides of yourself that you didn't know before. Journaling helps you realize that you are much stronger than you think.

Decision Making

Journaling is also an excellent way to optimize your decision-making.

As you reread your journal, you can remember in detail the decisions you made in the past, why you made them, and the lessons you learned from them. All this allows you to improve the quality of your present and future decisions.

5 Journaling Exercises

The 5-minute Journal

As the name suggests, the 5-minute journal is all about taking 5 minutes each morning to check in with yourself.

During these few minutes, you write down everything that comes to your mind: your doubts, fears, frustrations, but also your joys and your successes.

The advantage of this exercise is that it takes little time. For example, you could wake up 5 minutes earlier to write, then start your day as you usually would.

The Morning Pages

The second journaling exercise is the morning pages. This exercise is similar to the 5-minute journal since it also consists of writing down everything that comes to your mind every morning. The difference, however, is that you must complete at least three full pages.

With the morning pages, you are free to write whatever you want. Nothing is too stupid, unnecessary, or weird. The goal here is to release your thoughts onto paper.

This exercise may take a little time, but it is formidable in clearing your mind. After completing three pages, you generally feel lighter and have a clearer mind.

The Gratitude Journal

The third journaling exercise is the gratitude journal. This form of journaling is beneficial if you tend to focus on the negative.

To do this, write down ten things for which you are grateful for every day. It could be simple things like being alive, having family, friends, projects, having a roof over your head, drinking water, access to the internet, or even being able to read.

To make this exercise all the more stimulating, force yourself to choose ten different things each time. Make sure you never write down the same things twice. After a few days, you will find that you will start to be grateful for the tiny things that you weren't even paying attention to before.

Writing Prompts

The fourth way to practice journaling is with writing prompts.

Writing prompts are questions you ask yourself that help you begin the writing process. These questions allow you to incorporate new themes into your thinking and explore different dimensions of your life.

Here are some examples of writing prompts:

  • What would you change about yourself or your life?
  • What do you like to do? And how does that make you feel?
  • Do you have a life philosophy? If so, what is it?

These questions give you food for thought. Ultimately, they prompt you to question and discover new things about yourself.

The Bullet Journal

The fifth way to practice journaling is to apply the bullet journal method.

With the bullet journal, you write down your thoughts, tasks, projects, appointments, and ideas. It is, therefore, a fundamental organizational tool.

Paper Journaling vs. Online Journaling

Paper Journaling

Paper journaling allows you to be fully engaged in writing. Additionally, you are also less likely to get distracted.

The problem with using digital tools for journaling is that distractions are never far away. You are always one click from finding yourself on social networks, YouTube, or even on Netflix. This is not the case when you are using paper support.

Online Journaling

If you don't like to write by hand, you can always practice journaling online. Today there are many tools for this. For example, you can use note-taking apps like Notion or Evernote or use specialized apps like Day One or Penzu.

The advantage of online journaling is that you can take your notes with you wherever you go. It is also a secure writing medium on which you can write your notes without worrying that they will be read. A password generally protects these applications, so it is impossible to read what you have written.

However, the main disadvantage of online journaling is that the experience is less engaging than on paper.

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