4 Benefits of Journaling

There is often a sort of negative stigma when people say that they keep a journal. Many will make jokes about how you write in your “dairy” about the girl you like. In truth, most people that journal don’t write about their crush and probably wouldn’t care if you called their journal a diary (because, sadly, they are pretty much the same thing).

In reality, journaling is not just for super sensitive people who write about their feelings. Journaling has been proven to have positive effects that we all should take into account.

Below I have listed a few of those benefits that I think are relevant to this blog and to you, my readers:

1. Helps Improve your Writing and Communication Skills

As a writer, I often write in my journal as a means to practice my craft. Journaling is fun because it is a carefree form of writing, there is no pressure to share or publish the things that I write. It all stays within my journal.

Most writers keep journals and write in them every day. This is a great practice for anyone who wants to improve their skills with words.

Journaling has not only been linked to better writing skills but also to better communication skills in general. According to the Huffington Post , improving your writing has a direct correlation to improving your vocal communication.

So with journaling, you can kill two birds with one stone (or in this case, one notebook).

2. Increases Creativity

When we journal we are writing down our thoughts without a filter, this allows for creativity and new ideas to spring up.

Journaling is extremely helpful when trying to beat writer’s block. As a writer, I often put too much pressure on myself to write well. Journaling allows me the freedom to write exactly what I want the way that I want.

This is freeing and can lead to me feeling inspired and ready to write on my computer. It is also a helpful way for me to generate ideas for blog posts.

3. Reduces Stress

Laying out our emotions on a page can be very therapeutic. Writing about negative experiences can often help us further discover why a certain event hurt us so much. Journaling can help us grasp these negative experiences and turn them around for good.

Expressing yourself is often the best way to let go of negativity. When we let our negative emotions just sit inside of us they often destroy us, but when we share or express them we get relief.

Think of journaling as a type of conversation with yourself. You are explaining to yourself why you feel a certain way. It’s basically a form of therapy without the actual therapist.

4. Helps You Know Yourself Better

By far the biggest benefit of journaling is that it allows you to know yourself better.

Like I alluded to in my previous point, journaling can help us identify negative thought patterns. In short, journaling can teach us about the way we think.

After you journal, look back and read what you wrote. Here you can see exactly what you were thinking at that moment (this is why it is important to journal without a filter).

Journaling can also help you learn about your dreams, ambitions, and desires.

People often say that whatever it is that your mind wonders to when you are alone is the thing you want most in life. This is true and you can figure out what this thing is by writing in your journal.

When we express ourselves through writing, we often like to tell about the things we want. This is helpful because many of us don’t actually know what we want, but we can learn through journaling.

What Should you Write About?

Now that you know that there are several benefits to journaling, the next logical thing to ask is: what should I write about?

The simple answer is anything.

Anything that comes to your mind, whether it’s about a memory, a person you just met, or a movie you want to see.

Most people like to reflect on their day when they journal. This is a helpful way to evaluate your way of living and generate gratitude for the things you have.

When I journal, I just write anything and everything that comes to my mind. Often times I find myself jumping around to several different thoughts. This is not a bad thing because journaling is simply a way for us to express what we are thinking and feeling at that moment.

I have been journaling for about two years and have seen these benefits show themselves in my life. For this reason, I recommend journaling for everyone no matter your age, gender, or occupation.

There you have it, several of the best benefits of journaling.

Have you noticed any other benefits from keeping your own journal?

If so, let me know in the comments!

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Chance the Rapper & the Power of Optimism

On May 12 Chicago raised hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper released his newest mixtape Coloring Book. The project has received great reception and peaked at #8 on the United States Billboard charts.

The most noted aspect of the project has been the optimistic and spiritual undertones. The music is fun, positive, and can even make you feel like a kid again. This seems to be one of Chance’s goals with the mixtape, he wants you to “make you remember how to smile good.”

Positive music continues to grow more popular. Whether it’s Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole, songs like “i” and “Love Yourz” are some of my favorites. It is not a surprise that positivity is attractive, especially in the negative world we live in where people complain so much more than they laugh.

If positive music is so popular, why don’t we embrace its message in our daily lives? Why does the positivity need to stay within the music?

The short answer is that positivity is hard to come by. There’s so much to be pessimistic about: the weather, your job, politicians.

But what if we learned how to be more optimistic? What would be the result?

Well, optimism has several benefits. The first being that it makes you extremely likable. Who wants to be around negative people?

Let’s go back to Chance. If his music had a different message do you think it would be as popular?

He’d still have tons of fans due to his talent and raw ability to rap, but I would argue that he wouldn’t be receiving this much mainstream attention without the optimism factor.

The positivity is the main reason I like Chance’s new project as much as I do.

Optimism draws people to you because it is something you can share. If you think and live positively, it has a profound influence on the people around you. Optimism is contagious.

Being optimistic also helps you deal with failure. When faced with a project that falls apart or a plan that doesn’t work out, optimism helps you look at setbacks in a positive light. When you are optimistic you can see failure as a means to learn rather than letting it impede your success.

Optimism is also good for your health because it counteracts negative emotions like stress and anxiety.

According to Psychology Today optimists have lower cortisol levels than pessimist.

They wrote the following after making observations about a study conducted at Concordia University:

pessimists tend to have a higher stress baseline than optimists. Pessimists generally [have] trouble regulating their sympathetic nervous system when they go through stressful experiences. The inability to look on the bright side causes cortisol to stay constantly elevated.”

People who are optimistic are also more likely to exercise and have healthy diets. This does not require much explaining. If you have a positive outlook on life you are more likely to care about your health and overall quality of living.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that optimism is a choice. It is not something that just comes and goes naturally. It is also not based on circumstances.

Optimists don’t ignore negative things, they simply search for the good that is hiding within the bad.

Positive thinking can change your life in so many ways. The more we look at life as a gift rather than something we are entitled to, the more we will enjoy it.

Let’s remember how to smile good.

The True Definition of Courage & the Only Way to Overcome your Fears

The True Definition of Courage

For so long I thought that courage meant the absence of fear. When adults in my life would tell me stories about great heroes, whether historical or otherwise, I often pictured them as people who were never afraid of anything. I imagined them as immortal and above me. These folks were never afraid of failing or looking funny.

My definition of courage as a child was something like this: the super power that I wish I could have.

As a child, it is easy to believe such things, but as you grow older you begin to realize something: everyone is just as scared as I am. From Olympic Athletes to soldiers in the military, everyone experiences fear. Being afraid is a natural part of being human.

With this in mind, I think it is appropriate for us to change our definition of courage. Although I’m not a huge fan of simple dictionary definitions, my man Noah Webster did an excellent job on this one:

Turns out even the dictionary had a better definition for courage than I did, who knew?

Courage is literally the ability to face your fears. This means that we are all capable of great courage.

How to Overcome Your Fears

In fact, the only way to overcome any fear is to face it head on. This isn’t just something that people say because it sounds good, it is actually backed by science.

I’m going to use an example from my life to illustrate this.

I struggle with social anxiety, which, in layman’s terms, is the fear of social interaction. In reality, people with social anxiety are afraid of rejection. We are afraid that if we share our true selves with others, they will be disgusted.

There are several treatment options for social anxiety, but the one truly effective form of treatment is something called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

Here’s a quick definition of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, as the defined by the experts at the Social Anxiety Institute:

“The cognitive part of the therapy refers to thinking or learning and is the part of therapy that can be ‘taught’ to the person. The person then needs to take what has been taught, practice it at home, and through means of repetition, get that new ‘learning’ down into the brain over and over again so that becomes automatic or habitual… The behavioral component of CBT involves participation in an active, structured therapy group, consisting of people with clinical social anxiety. In the behavioral group, people voluntarily engage in practical activities that are mildly anxiety-causing and proceed in a flexible, steady, scheduled manner. By moving forward in this manner, step by step, and through the use of repetition, the anxiety felt in social situations is gradually reduced.”

Okay so maybe that doesn’t count as a ‘quick’ definition…

We’re going to focus on the behavioral component of the therapy in our discussion.

As someone with social anxiety, the only way to overcome my anxiety is to face the very things that make me feel anxious. This may include things like starting a conversation with a stranger or speaking up in a large group.

This part of the therapy is often called exposure. The name says it all, you are exposing yourself to the things you are afraid of.

This type of treatment work with other types of phobias as well.

Arachnophobia, for example, is also curable with the help of exposure therapy.

In 2012, Science Illustrated reported a study conducted at Northwest University where 12 arachnophobes went through exposure therapy. During the therapy, participants were shown images of spiders and were taught about how to approach them. After just one three-hour session, many of the patients were able to go as far as to hold a spider in their bare hands.

Changing our Relationship with Fear

It’s one thing to know that facing your fears will help you overcome them, it’s a whole nother monster to actually face them in real life.

One of the most important steps in this process is to change your relationship with fear.

Often times we associate fear with negative things. I am afraid of doing ______ so I probably shouldn’t do it.

In reality, our fear often points to something we should be chasing, not running away from. Fear is a great compass that can point you to what you really want.

Most of the time we are most afraid of what we really want because it involves some level of risk.

You might be afraid to start a business because you don’t want to end up looking like a failure.

You might not want to ask the person you like out on a date because you’re afraid of being rejected. 

You might be afraid to express yourself because you don’t want to look like a fool. 

Do you see how fear can serve as a great ally? Use your fear to help you, rather than letting it control you. Next time you are afraid to take a step towards a goal or do something that seems crazy, use your fear as a compass and dive right in.