Dear Diary: The Benefits of Keeping a Journal, Part 2

Gustave Courbet
Some purists believe in writing a journal the old-fashioned way. Tobacco pipe not required.

In the last post, I discussed the advantages of keeping a diary, and how to ensure you see the good in every day. This is the best place to start, as most everyone will repeat an action that makes them feel good. In deciding to start, you must consider how to record and keep your diary. There are numerous options to weigh, choosing the best for your writing style is important to keep up your interest. Once you are in the habit of keeping a positivity journal, there are a few other types of journals to try: a negativity diary, and for another post, a productivity log.

Where to Write

I write using one private online blog for the positive and negative entries, and one for the productivity entries. I think the media and method for writing is an individual choice; the important thing is to track and record your thoughts. The options I have found (and tried) are:

  • Sheets of paper. These are best for any random thought, but worst for organization. When I started writing impromptu thoughts down, I started here, and it quickly turned into a big mess. I had stacks of paper on my desk that weren’t cohesive and impossible to organize. This was improved by writing down a date, time and location, but the lack of a centralized repository made it very difficult to manage.
  • Paper notebook or diary. I have used these on each of my trips overseas, and they have proven valuable. They are far more organized than errant sheets of paper and do not require a computer or Internet access. All of my friends who are musicians swear by this approach, especially due to its creative flexibility. You can format the text however you feel, easily make drawings, or even add clips from a newspaper.
  • Online private blog or diary. This is the approach I use, and have been using for multiple years. I think it offers many benefits over the other approaches. Everything is located online, and therefore I can write in it anywhere in the world, be certain my data is relatively safe (I do make backups), and it doesn’t create the clutter a physical medium can. It never runs out of space as a paper notebook will, and is searchable if you want to easily refer to an older entry. Although a blog is meant for public viewing, many, including (the free service I use), allow you to keep it completely private. But if I want to give someone access to read something I can easily allow an individual access.
  • Twitter. As online blogs can be made private, so can Twitter accounts. I have experimented with this, but haven’t gotten into a habit of using it. Twitter used for journaling has the same unique functionality as Twitter for its default purpose, in that each entry can only be 140 characters. This forces you to be succinct with each entry, which may be something good to try, at least as an experiment. One advantage of this option is you can text message each entry using a mobile phone.

Writing About Negativity

Most blogs, books and other media focus on positivity. It would be great if we lived in a perfect world, but sometimes bad things do happen. Everyone has negative thoughts, regardless of how positive you try to be. I have found it very advantageous to write these thoughts down and to see them on paper. Since I started doing this, I’ve noticed two things:

  • The negative thoughts I have often contradict themselves
  • The associated negative feelings are stronger than the situation really deserves.

As I said in Part 1, writing down what I was thinking let me see the confusion in some of my thoughts, and has made my general stream of consciousness clearer, and more effective. This transformation occurs far more effectively when writing about the bad, rather than the good.

The purpose of a negativity journal

Another benefit to writing down negative thoughts is that it helps in finding solutions. Even if the thoughts and feelings aren’t entirely warranted, writing down negative thoughts can lead you to see developing patterns. Perhaps your negativity is focused on someone at work or your current living situation. By keeping track of what makes you upset, you can prioritize what needs to be changed in your life. And after you try a solution, you can track the efficacy of the solution and decide if something else needs to be tried.

Writer Beware

A negative journal presents more hazards that a positive one. If you only write about the bad events in your day, and get caught up thinking your life is really awful. If you decide to write down the negatives, you must do two other things:

  1. Make sure you also write down the good things that happened in your day.
  2. Always offer yourself solutions to rectify what caused the bad thoughts.

If you follow these recommendations, a negativity journal can uncover the inconsistencies in your thought processes, help you rectify them, and let you instead focus on your passions!

2 thoughts on “Dear Diary: The Benefits of Keeping a Journal, Part 2”

  1. Directing attention is a powerful tool. A lot of Edward de Bono’s tools are simply devices for directing attention. Journaling is a way to direct attention and explore a path … and the act of writing things down over just thinking through things, is a forcing function for clarity.

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