Sileo says journals can be particularly effective for goal setting, whether it’s a personal development goal, a career goal or a health goal. Similar to keeping a to-do list, journals hold us accountable. “Just seeing a goal in black and white, out of your head and onto paper can be very powerful,” he says.
Going a step beyond checklists, a journal is an effective problem-solving resource when striving toward a goal. According to Sileo, journaling helps people identify barriers in their training and motivation. Fitness, nutrition and stress management expert Luci Gabel couldn’t agree more. The Washington, DC-based wellness consultant likes to cite a study done by Kaiser Permanente on 1,700 people trying to lose weight. Those who wrote down their foods in a journal lost up to twice as much as those who did not. “A journal creates awareness, which is the first step toward change,” Gabel says. She gives her clients “homework” assignments that include keeping a food journal . “When we write something down, we can look at it later from a distance, which allows us to see patterns in our eating choices that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.”
So the actual “magic” of journaling isn’t magic at all. It’s mindfulness. Writing down your musings, venting your frustrations, logging your meals, listing your goalsall of these acts create mindfulness, in whatever area of your life you are focusing on at the moment. From family to fitness, and everything in between, you can be stronger, healthier, more at peace. You just need to pick up a pen and write.
More Tips on Keeping a Journal
Forget the rules.
You don’t have to write every day. You don’t have to write a certain length. Sometimes I write in my journal every day, sometimes not for six months. Write about what interests you in the moment.
Sometimes I keep a food journal, sometimes it’s a travel journal, sometimes it’s just thoughts. I kept a dream journal for period of time, and it was interesting to see what patterns reoccurred. I plan to start a yoga journal soon. Thoughts that arise in subconscious moments are really fun to reread. Don’t judge yourself.
We write to get to the things that we’re too afraid to admit out loud. In order to be honest, I can’t be afraid, which means suspending all judgment while I’m writing. Reread your journal.
Or not. A journal can be just a place to dump your present moment. That’s how my mom does it. She’s never reread a single passage. I always reread mine. I like analyzing. Advanced Tip.
Experiment with unsent letters. The freedom of knowing there is no recipient will allow you to be honest enough to get to the bottom of what’s really bothering you. I’ve recently started writing letters to my emotions. Dear Uncertainty, Why do you keep coming around in this situation . . . Or Dear Sadness, I’ve seen you more than I’m comfortable with this weekend . . . Source: Samara O’Shea, author of Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits.
Award-winning writer Jayme Otto writes about the people, places, ideas and events that are changing the way we think about the world. She works as associate editor at Elevation Outdoors , and contributing editor at Women’s Adventure . More at JaymeOtto.com .