One of the first times I remember keeping a journal was in graduate school when a professor assigned us the task of writing down our insights and observations following class discussion topics. At first, I thought it was a bit dopey. I felt like Marcia keeping her diary on the Brady Bunch. (Do you remember that?!) Dudes weren't supposed to do this, I told myself.... I digress.... I could not have been more wrong. For some unknown reason, I continued journaling when the class ended, and I have been on a regular basis ever since. Over the years, I have kept different types of journals for various reasons.
When I was a young adult, I was adamant about documenting my daily experiences and interactions in vivid detail. In some ways, keeping this type of journal helped me to make sense of the world I was trying to better understand and find my place in. In many respects, this type of journaling was therapeutic for me. These daily musings also were a way in which I could chronicle and keep track of the significant events and experiences in my life. I learned a lot about myself, in particular about my thought patterns and blind spots, when I would go back and re-read past entries. As a result, I feel I experienced much self-growth due to this process.
When I was an active runner, I kept a running journal. In these entries, I would log my miles, keep track of injuries, rate my performances in races, and describe
the interesting people and places I encountered while running on my travels around the world. It is fun to look back through them nowadays, as leafing through old pages brings back a lot of good memories.
As I discussed in my book, Slow Your Roll-Mindfulness for Fast Times, gratitude journaling has become a daily part of my mindfulness practice. Each night, I write down five things that happened that day in which I am grateful about. It does not have to be anything grand like getting a big promotion at work or winning the lottery. My five things can include seemingly insignificant things like: seeing a pretty sunset, meeting a new friend, or hearing an old favorite song on the radio that I have not heard in a long time. Keeping a gratitude journal over times make you a "detective for good," as you will start to find yourself searching for "good stuff" during the day that you can write down in your journal later that night.
I have found that keeping a gratitude journal has shifted my mindset in a positive manner quite a bit. It enables me to realize that joy can be found in almost anything, no matter how "big" or "small" it may seem, because as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "The little things? The little moments? They aren't little." Keeping this journal reinforces this to me. An individual with an untrained mind spends his or her life looking for the "grand slam moments," essentially missing out, because the majority of our lives unfold in front of us in these so-called "little moments." Sadly we often miss out when we fail to see them.
I have the honor of serving as a school principal and supervising thirty outstanding teachers. As part of our professional and personal growth plan for the year, we decided to keep daily gratitude journals as a faculty. It has been a game changer for us in terms of keeping our morale up when things get tough. I had one teacher recently tell me that the journal made her realize that she had a tendency to be a pessimist, and now that she is aware of this, she can work on it. Another said that she never noticed how much joy she finds in the "little things," and it has positively transformed her outlook on life. (If you are an educator and want to check this out, I highly recommend the "Positive Mindset Journals for Teachers" by Grace Stevens. I found them on Amazon. If you are not an educator, I am confident you can find a great one for any profession or purpose.)
There's a saying in the field of neuroscience that goes, "Neurons that fire together wire together." In other words, when we keep a daily journal and focus on gratitude, our brains start to wire this way, and over time, gratitude becomes our default setting. There is an abundance of new evidence that supports the notion that journaling provides a wealth of benefits, including: stress reduction, knowing yourself better, clarifying feelings and thoughts, evoking mindfulness, achieving goals, improving emotional intelligence, boosting comprehension and memory, and strengthening self-discipline.
Just start writing. You will be amazed at your level of self-discovery, and you will marvel at the beautiful world that has been waiting on you to notice it.