Paul Nixon's Blog |||

The Surprising Benefits of Journaling

I introduced a practice of journaling into my life in June last year. I’ve become a convert and have established a consistent, daily habit of writing (well typing anyway) down my thoughts.

There are immediate benefits - it’s an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes of the day - and the long term benefits are likely more significant than our intuitions would suggest.

1. Why Journal?

For the simple reason that it’s beneficial. And you don’t have to take my word for it either; you can read about it here, here, here and here. The practice promises to

  • Clear your mind
  • Stimulate creativity
  • Clarify your thoughts
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Quiet the inner critic’
  • Regularise reflection
  • Even improve your sleep

The net result: you will be happier. What’s not to like?

2. Morning Pages

A super lady called Julia Cameron created a concept called Morning Pages.

The practice is straightforward - set down three pages of handwritten, stream of consciousness writing, first thing in the morning. There is no right or wrong way, it’s not intended to be art, or even read again. You simply write whatever comes to mind.

3. Introducing WriteNext

The rules laid out by Julia are clear: you must write the notes by hand.

And I tried. But, boy, do I hate writing by hand and - as the saying goes - perfect is the enemy of good. I needed a more technical approach!

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a splendid tool called *. Writenext is a free, web-based application with a sole purpose of helping establish a daily writing practice. It also maintains a bunch of cool statistics as you can see below, which serve to increase motivation and stickiness.

Screenshot of Writenext

Every morning I do the following

  1. Open
  2. Click Start Writing’
  3. Click Full Screen’
  4. And fill the page with words
  5. Feel a little happier than I did before, and get on with my day

If I fill the page, it takes about 15 minutes and results in 700 words.

And I do the same thing tomorrow. That’s it.

4. Conclusion

I like this from Jim Rohn:

The simple things we need to do every day to be more successful are easy to do, but they are just as easy not to do.

It’s not a straightforward matter, at an individual level, to determine the extent to which interventions make a difference and improve our lives. The inputs into our wellbeing function’ are too numerous, and change too much over time, for us to be able to run good experiments.

However, there does seem to be surprising and positive evidence from the studies, as well as people’s first-hand reports.

Sometimes simple, even rather twee, interventions can make a counter-intuitively make a big difference. I suggest trying it!

* Disclaimer. In late August the owner of Writenext emailed its userbase saying that he intended to close the site down. Channelling my inner Victor Kiam, I decided that I liked the website so much that I would buy the company. With the support of two of my finest siblings-in-law, we plan to turn it into a successful product.