There are many habits and practices that add value to our lives. Some take years of training and practice; others can be expensive. However, finding new ways to enrich your life doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, when I think about some of the practices that have added value to my life, two come to mind: journaling and letter writing. Both practices are extremely rewarding and are something anyone can do.
Journaling is one of the most beneficial, but simple, disciplines you can add to your life. A commitment to daily journaling forces you to pause and reflect on your problems, victories, frustrations, and goals for that day. In journaling, we take time to shape our thoughts about the world around us and how we are living our lives.
Here are just a few benefits to journaling:
- Journaling helps you regulate your attitude. We all need to vent sometimes. Unfortunately, we usually pick the wrong people to vent to. Expressing our frustrations to others usually doesn’t resolve the feelings of frustration we have – in fact, often, our friends and family fuel those negative feelings. Vent too much, and you will end up with a reputation for being a negative person. What’s worse, a negative attitude or outlook on life can seriously impact your health.
Try journaling your frustrations instead. Set your frustrations on paper, and then decide how you will deal with them. Journaling can help you break the cycle of negative thinking and develop a more positive outlook.
- Journaling helps you cope with and process difficult experiences. Journaling is therapeutic. According to Social Work Today, various studies have shown that journaling about negative or traumatic experiences can improve everything from stress to PTSD symptoms in veterans.
- Journaling helps you live more intentionally. When you stop and think about your days, you will build the habit of being more thought-conscious throughout your days. Journaling will help you be more intentional, because it keeps your days from becoming a blur.
Here are some tips for journaling:
- Try to write every day, even if your day was uneventful. Journaling is about building a habit of self-reflection, and it takes time and effort to build a habit.
- Give yourself enough time and find a good spot. Pick a time of day and a place where you won’t be interrupted by anyone or anything. Really take the time for yourself and think through your day.
- Write in a way that you are comfortable with. You don’t need a fancy journal. If you’re more of an artist or doodler than a writer, get something with blank pages, and don’t be afraid to draw!
- It doesn’t have to be long. If you don’t have much to say, don’t force it. But write something.
- It’s only for you. Don’t stress about how neat your handwriting is or if you’re spelling correctly. Your journal is for you.
I first began writing letters as a child, after having attended a science camp. Although by some counts I am technically a millennial, texting and email were still uncommon for children, so when I wanted to stay in touch with the new friends I had made, we became pen pals.
Although I eventually also had e-pen pals, I continued letter writing well into my teens. At one point, I had 13 pen pals in 11 different states.
Letter writing is one of the most enriching disciplines you can add to your life. In a world that often replaces communication with quick and dirty transmission of information, writing letters is beautifully interpersonal.
Like journaling, letter writing can help you to think more deeply and clearly about your values and goals; but unlike journaling, letter writing requires you to think outside yourself. Writing letters helps you develop thoughtfulness and compassion for others.
Most of all, letter writing is fun! I mean, who doesn’t want to get something other than bills in the mail?
Not sure how to find someone to write to? Think of friends or family in your life who might be open to writing and receiving letters. If you can’t think of anyone, there are plenty of organizations that help connect soldiers, elderly, and even detainees with pen pals. Check it out!
Try journaling or letter writing today, and let me know how it goes by commenting or sending a message!