Don’t Dismiss the Value of Journaling

Journaling book
Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

We live in a much different world than we did 20+ years ago. Back then, the idea of journaling immediately brought up images of sticker-covered notebooks and tiny locks that broke if you just looked at them wrong with keys that disappeared the second you bought it.

Journaling was for girls, especially young girls or lovelorn women in sappy romance movies. Journaling for men just didn’t exist. Or it didn’t get talked about anyway.

We men also didn’t hear much about how important emotional intelligence and self-awareness were outside of a counselor’s office. You certainly didn’t hear about it in terms of improving your success in business, sales, or entrepreneurship.

Times are different. Men have just as many emotions and feelings as women do, and we can finally acknowledge and promote that. Most of us can anyway.

But journaling is still too often seen as a women’s practice. Just do an image search for trendy but effective bullet journaling. Mostly target to women. Men can enjoy pastels, flowery illustrations, and calligraphy too, but seems it’s primarily women-focused marketing. 

So I’m drawing a line in the sand. 

Journaling is important for men too! 

If you’ve been following me on social media or reading my blog for a while, you know how I feel about journaling. I’ve detailed my evolution in journaling from it being an annoying thing a teacher asked me to do, to only doing it as a box to check towards self-improvement, and finally to making it an integral part of my daily life and mental health. 

If I miss a day of journaling, I feel it the next day. (That’s not to say that journaling every day works for everybody. That’s a me thing! Most people still see all the benefits only doing it 1-3 times a week.)

Journaling has helped me to bring clarity to emotions, feelings, and responses that I never understood before. DISC and therapy helped a lot too, but the daily act of writing down my thoughts has a more continuous impact on my self-awareness and improvement. Those other things built the foundation, journaling has continued to build the rest of it. 

I honestly believe that most people don’t understand journaling because either 

  1. they see it as something only for girls or teens, or
  2. they’ve tried before and couldn’t keep it up or felt it had no impact. 

I can understand both of those reasons as I’ve dealt with both. But those are mindset issues, and that can be changed.

If the thing that holds you back from starting a journal is the first one, see above. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but you’re just plain wrong. Journaling can help every single person, regardless of gender or age. 

And we’re not just talking about mental health here either.

76% of people who kept a diary for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week, were completely cured within 11 days of a medically necessary biopsy. According to a study in New Zealand. Only 42% of the participants were healed

An article published in 2005 highlighted the results of several studies done over several years. Participants writed during 15-20m a day, 3-5 days a week. Different studies showed remarkable improvements in areas of your health and life, such as:

  • Immune system functioning
  • Blood pressure
  • Lung and liver functioning
  • Improved mood and emotional control
  • Absenteeism at work 
  • GPA in school
  • Memory
  • Athleticism and endurance

The list goes on and on.

And if you need any other proof that it’s good for everybody, psychotherapist and author Kathleen Adams says, “Journal therapy is all about using personal material as a way of documenting an experience, and learning more about yourself in the process.”

(The article referenced above also has some great ideas for starting your journaling journey.)

If your hesitancy towards journaling is because of the second reason, maybe you just haven’t found a way to make it effective for you yet. While that can be frustrating, the good news is that you can always try again.

As I’ve talked about before, it wasn’t impactful for me either for a long time. 

While stream of consciousness journaling is widely regarded as beneficial and a great way to start, it just doesn’t work well for me. After discussing this subject with my partner/editor, she said the same thing. 

“I feel like I’m just writing to write, and that doesn’t do anything for me.”

You might be different; it might work great for you. But if you’ve tried and it didn’t, try something else.

Affirmation journaling might be much more effective. 

If you’re unfamiliar with this, find affirmations that resonate with you first. A lot of them start with ‘I am,’ ‘I will,’ or ‘I can’ statements. A good starting point is to think of the two or three aspects of your life that you would like to improve. Mental wellness, physical health, finance or work. Then build affirmations around those areas. 

For example, if you are trying to eat better, exercise more, and lose weight, your affirmation might be, “I am strong, attractive, and improving my health.” And then you write about how this affirmation affected your day, your thoughts, and your actions.

Affirmation journaling is what burst the doors wide open for me. Process-driven people tend to enjoy things more when there’s a starting point. 

Now my journaling has evolved a bit more. I still start with a prompt, but instead of self-affirmations, I use prompts derived from philosophy and Stoicism. (Check out my weekly prompts in my Sherpa newsletter. Sign up here.)

There are plenty of other styles of journaling too, such as the bullet journaling mentioned above. You may have to try a few things before you find the one that fits. 

The important thing to remember is that your journal is a safe place for you to be honest with yourself. And don’t leave anything out! Even the most mundane event or thought might trigger a deeply held belief or automatic response that is worth looking into. These seemingly little parts of our day can have profound effects on our self-perception and outlook when we look closer at them. 

Call me cheesy, but I honestly think the world would be a better place if everybody utilized some kind of journaling practice in their lives. People would be happier, stress and tension would be lower, and we would all be healthier. It should be taught in schools, it could help in the criminal justice system, and more businesses and teams should encourage journaling to their employees. 

I’m open to the idea that I could be overestimating the benefits of journaling, but the results of study after study confirm my theory. I know how much value it has for me. If it hasn’t had value for you, or if you’ve never even tried, it’s never too late to try something new.