Do Something, Write (A Journal)

Journaling. Like so many of the habits I keep to stay productive (and sane), it’s something I would never have imagined myself doing five or so years ago.

Today, I’m an adherent of positive psychology, and I have been attempting to implement its principles in my life over the last couple of years. If I can change my outlook to a more positive one and perhaps bring ten percent of the energy Shawn Achor brings to his TED-talk on the subject to my writing, then I know I’m on the right track.

Currently, I am on my longest and most successful run of journaling yet. I started roughly three months ago. Someone gave me a fancy notepad, and when I saw it I thought, “This will be my new journal” – immediately followed by – “What rules should I set for it? How much should I write? What am I allowed to write?” I spent a couple of days in serious deliberation, then I took a step back and looked at myself. I was doing it again. Planning to overachieve and setting myself up for failure.

I sat down right then and there and wrote the following:

The whole point is that if you wait with starting until the perfect time, you’ll never start.

So here we go.

It doesn’t have to be clever or brilliant. It doesn’t have to be deep or meaningful. It can simply be about putting words on a piece of paper.

That’s what a writer does.

For this book, there are only two rules: write every day and finish on a positive note.

Write about what you’ve learned. Write about how you feel. Write about what you’ve accomplished. When you feel bad, write to identify and defuse negative feelings. When you feel good, write to remember.

And that’s it. When the rules are simple, you can keep it up. Some entries are just a few sentences. Some are several pages. There’s a long rant about how I feel like shit followed by: “Don’t forget to smile, asshat!” (And that did make me smile).

I’ve missed a few days here and there, but that’s life. You’re going to drop the ball, and that’s okay. You’re not writing to hit a word count or beat the world record in ‘most consecutive days journaling’. You’re writing because it makes you feel better.

And it works. I’ve seen the changes it has had on how I think and feel, and if you don’t trust me, trust science*.

If you want to learn more about positive psychology, I can recommend Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage. It’s down-to-earth, funny, and convincing.

So, do you keep a journal? Or do you think that maybe it’s time to start?

* For example: Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing
Karen A. Baikie, Kay Wilhelm. Check out the summary of possible benefits in Box 2.

What do you think?