It seems Bridget Jones had the right idea when it came to keeping a diary.
But it’s about more than just writing down how many biscuits or glasses of wine you’ve had (because, honestly, who likes to be reminded of that?).
Journalling has many benefits, both physical and mental; from helping you to sort through mind clutter and encouraging an attitude of positivity, to even boosting your immune system.
So, what are you waiting for?
How to keep a diary:
We all know the traditional way of creating a diary entry. You buy a lined book with an empty (or filled) date field, and use it as a place to record your feelings, thoughts, fears, failings, triumphs and day-to-day events that shape your life.
But if you can’t stick to the habit of writing a diary entry every day, try following a bullet journal-format instead. A planner, to-do list and diary all in one, the idea is to make quick notes in bullet form.
All you need is a notebook and a pen (or some colurful markers, depending on how creative you get). Give each page a number and create an index at the back to track your notes. The layout is up to you – make pages for weekly calendars, monthly goals, to-do lists, and even nagging thoughts.
For a DIY bullet-journal tutorial, check out this video for beginners:
If you’d prefer a ready-made journal, get The Little Bullet Book (R279, Takealot), which is illustrated by David Sinden.
Now that you know how to keep a diary (and hopefully found a new method that better suits you), here’s why you should keep scribbling:
1. Healing powers
‘Journalling helps us to turn our life experiences into wisdom,’ explains Mo Seetubtim, the founder of journal company The Happiness Planner. This is especially true for those situations in which we experience emotions like heartbreak or trauma. ‘Otherwise, we may go on with our day-to-day lives without ever reflecting on what we’ve learnt and how we can improve.’
2. Find appreciation
We tend to focus more on our failures than our gains, but writing down a daily log of what you did well today allows you to look back and really see your growth. Begin by writing down the big successes you remember, then regularly jot down small successes from the week – it could be that you made your bed before going to work, or finally caught up with a friend. As you pay attention, your list will grow and inspire you to continue.
3. Gain perspective
‘Journalling is a great way to become more conscious of our thoughts and actions,’ says Mo. ‘Most of the time we do things on autopilot and don’t even realise that we may have done things a certain way, or that we’ve looked at situations through a particular lens out of patterns of behaviour that we’ve built over a lifetime.’
4. Boost your mood
Have you heard of a gratitude journal? The same concept applies here. Keeping your positive thoughts noted in one place means you have a go-to self-help kit for when you’re feeling low. Beating yourself up for skipping the gym this afternoon? Turn to a page in your diary when you went to the gym and felt proud of yourself – it’s a sure-fire motivator. You could even write yourself a compliments list – it’s not vain, think of it as a much-needed feel-good dose on dark days.
5. Improve your health
In a New Zealand study, one group of HIV/AIDS patients were asked to journal their negative experiences while the others jotted down their daily schedules. Those who wrote about their experiences showed a boost to their immune system, thought to have been created by helping structure anxious thoughts, and reducing stress.