The Importance of Journaling

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

• Joan Didion

I love this quote.

It’s true. Until you write it down, you don’t know what you think.

I’ve been writing and journaling off-and-on all of my life. In my pre-teens I started writing in a small, brightly colored diary with a gold lock. Man, I wish I had those diaries!  I imagine pages filled with daily happenings, memories, and dreams of my future.

As an adult (and an aspiring writer!), I practiced keeping “morning pages” inspired by Julia Cameron and her bestselling book, “The Artist’s Way.” Letting all of my thoughts spill out on the page, without a concern whether they were any good, was liberating. A complete brain dump.

The thought download

Over the past two years, I’ve gotten more serious about journaling. I write nearly every day. I practice what Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School calls a “thought download.” Writing down all the thoughts swirling in my head, without censoring or judging myself. On any given day, there are typically multiple thoughts looping around inside my brain.

The practice of writing down all your thoughts is the first step. It will build awareness.

This allows you to see a thought for what it is. Many of our thoughts are stories we tell ourselves and are made up in our heads. And these thoughts and beliefs determine our feelings and emotional life.

I notice how many of the stories in my head are causing a feeling of anxiety for me. And I’m discovering how many of my thoughts are simply not true.

You will build awareness when you observe your thoughts and start seeing your thoughts as optional. You can choose what you think.

The importance of journaling

Until you write it down, you don’t know what you think, it’s true, and I’d add ” I don’t know what I feel until I write down my thoughts and I take a closer look.

In the New York Times article: “What’s All This About Journaling?,”James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, who is considered the pioneer of writing therapy says: “Labeling emotions and acknowledging traumatic events ” both natural outcomes of journaling” have a known positive effect on people.”

Writing down your thoughts and identifying your emotions takes practice. We often disconnect from our feelings and may not be aware of what’s going on for us. Shining a light on your thoughts and beliefs, through the act of journaling, can lead to change.

Making change in your life, acquiring new insights and ways of thinking requires taking a closer look at yourself.

Stay curious about your thoughts. Be compassionate and don’t judge or censor yourself.

My favorite notebook

I went on the hunt for the perfect notebook and I found one I love. It’s more notebook than journal or diary, but you can buy filler pages separately and move pages around, which I find really useful! It’s also spiral bound which, since I’m left-handed, is a must. (And the notebooks are from a company who supports “Going Green” and is located in my hometown state of Wisconsin. Woot-woot!)


Now get writing!

Let’s work together on building your awareness of what’s going on for you. Schedule a mini session with me to talk over working together.

Talk to you soon!

Author: Jamie Cavanaugh

Jamie Cavanaugh is a Certified Life Coach, Educator, Interaction Designer, and Writer.

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