Did you know that journaling can change your life and improve your language skills?

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What did Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill have in common?

They all kept journals!

In fact, it has been found that many great minds throughout history – writers, inventors and innovators – practiced journal writing. Studies have shown that journaling is an effective tool to fire up creativity, improve critical thinking, and to help decision-making.

What is journaling?

Journaling is the practice of writing down your thoughts and ideas on paper (or digitally) on a regular basis. It is similar to keeping a diary. In recent years, it has gained popularity as a tool for maintaining mental health.

Here’s why journaling is good for you:

  1. Improves your language skills – Journaling can help improve not only your writing but your other language skills as well. Every time you write in English, you practice using new vocabulary and remember grammar rules you’ve learned. You also hone your thought patterns when communicating in English. The arrangement of ideas, and vocabulary – these become clear to you as you construct sentences and read what you write every day. The more you write, the better you’ll be at expressing yourself in English.
  2. Clears your mind – Journaling has been proven to improve mental clarity when done regularly. When you write down what is on your mind, you free up energy that you use keeping them in. This allows you to see situations more clearly and solve problems more critically. It’s like when you have a lot of things to do and you list them all down first. Doing this makes you see which tasks must be done first and which ones you can leave to do later.
  3. Relieves stress – Scientific studies have found that journaling helps people cope with stressful events and relieve anxiety. It’s like talking to someone without interruptions.
  4. Encourages personal growth – It may move you to take action when you notice that you write about the same problems all the time, or if the same plans and goals are always on your “to-do” list. When you write about everyday events, you will start to see patterns in your behavior. Being aware of these patterns will help you see what you need to improve on or stop doing.
  5. It makes you more creative – Many artists practice what they call “stream of consciousness” writing to unlock their creative potential. This involves writing whatever is on your mind every morning right after waking up. This can help you unblock thoughts and think more clearly.

How to start journaling:

You will need:

  • Time – Schedule time to think and write. It can be a short as 5-10 minutes before you start work in the morning, or before you sleep at night. Set up in quiet place where you won’t be distracted.
  • Something to write on – You can write on a notebook, or a computer or mobile device. There are many free online journals as well. You can find recommendations here: 5 killer online journaling tools you should try out by Hannah Braime, Lifehack.
  • A goal – Some people start by writing 100-200 words per day, some less. It will be up to you but it’s good to have a goal in mind to keep you on track.

What should you write about?

The answer is: Anything and everything! You can write about your day, about what you experienced, learned or discovered. You can even write about a distant memory or about what a perfect day for you would be. Write about your dreams, plans and goals. Write a letter to someone (or to an imaginary person). You can describe someone or something you love, or hate. Some people start a gratitude journal to remember how blessed they are everyday. Others keep a dream journal to understand their thoughts. You can go big by writing whole paragraphs or start small by writing lists. You can even add drawings or sketches if you feel like it. Do what works for you.

Things to remember when journaling:

  • Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or style for the moment. It doesn’t have to be great writing. You will improve as you go.
  • Be honest and authentic.
  • Starting can be hard. You will be tempted not to do it on some days. Do your best to stick with it. If you miss one day, make sure to take it up again the following day. It is said that it takes from two to eight months to form a habit (How long does it take to form a new habit? James Clear) so keep at it as much as you can.
  • Some people read what they wrote at the end of the week and take note of what they have learned about themselves. You can choose to do this weekly, monthly or not at all. However, it is important to note that you will gain more insight about yourself and your language skills if you re-read your entries at some point.

Sources: How to keep a journal to speed up your language learning, Sophia Anderson, linguasorb; Journal writing: 5 smart reasons why you should start doing it today, Ericson Ay Mires, Lifehack; Keeping a daily journal could change your life, Benjamin Hardy, Mission.org; and The life-changing habit of journaling, Thomas Oppong, Thrive Global. Accessed April 11, 2019.

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