A quick, non-judgy guide to jotting down your thoughts so you can see them.
‘Dear diary… Did you know that talking to you has several health benefits and isn’t just a hiding place for the world domination plans of historical figures or the crushes of teenage girls?’
Your diary hasn’t got any clue what you’re talking about. Nevertheless, keeping a diary or journaling as it’s more commonly known can be a wonder drug for more upsets than you can shake a Parker pen at. From reducing depression and anxiety to improving your memory and IQ to even boosting your immune system, so it’s strange why more people aren’t doing it.
Given the strange situation we find ourselves in, including more time on your hands, now could be the time to take up this powerful habit.
At Boldking we aim to make it easy for men to take care of themselves. Razors to have you looking sharp, skincare to take care of your skin, and shower foam to keep you fresh. But taking care doesn’t stop with your appearance. Nutrition, exercise, your learning are all part of the picture. But nothing should take higher priority than taking care of your mental health
“As a man thinketh, so is he.”
Journaling is a tool for you to get a better handle on one of the most powerful assets you have, your brain, and structure your thoughts.
Here are the steps:
- Find something to write in (pen and paper, email, word processor, notes app on your phone) Whatever you choose, make it easy for yourself.
- Schedule time to write (5 minutes a day, or 20 minutes a week).
- Sit down and write whatever comes into your head when you decided you would.
- Repeat. Then reap the benefits.
Want to take a more structured approach? Read more about journaling for goals, and journaling for gratitude at the end of the article.
Why is this important for men?
Everyone can benefit from journaling, but men, in particular, can get a lot from it. Men suffer less from mental health issues but tend to seek treatment for it at a significantly lower rate. And while the world is different than the “Tough it out.” hard grafting world of our fathers and grandfathers, there’s still a residual stigma about taking care of your mental health.
Sure you could ignore it, work it out with exercise, or take up day drinking, but let’s be frank it’s not going to help. (Apart from exercise, that’s always a good option.) Even if you’re not currently suffering from a mental health problem, it’s never a bad time to become more aware of your thoughts. And an investment in a habit of journaling could pay dividends when life inevitably takes a turn you’re not expecting.
So let’s crack that bad boy open.
Lots of what we know about some of history’s greatest men and women come from their diaries. Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill and Marie Curie all used a diary to keep a record of their lives and sort out their thoughts. Approaching journaling as a diary is one way to do it. You could make time every day, or once a week, to write about what happened that day, how you feel about it and what you learned.
A different called Morning Pages comes from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Cameron suggests starting each day by writing three pages of stream consciousness… that’s it. It can be about anything and everything and doesn’t even have to make sense, the key is to just write. It’s as much about getting things out of your head or organising your thoughts as anything else.
Putting pen to paper.
When you hear the word ‘journaling’ you might think of writing something in a physical journal. We live in digital work, so your journal might be your email, the notes app on your phone, or your email. (Although if you opt for a physical journal it allows you to picture yourself as a French artist, jotting down existential whimsies while drinking coffee and smoking Gauloises.) The key is to make it convenient.
A notebook or your phone is something you can take with you everywhere. If you’re commuting, try doing it on the train or bus. If typing at a computer is more your jam, you could get into work a few minutes earlier, or stay later to bash it out there. The key again is to pick a medium that makes it easy for you to stick with it.
How to start.
Whether you’re bashing out a few hundred words in a word processor, tapping it out on your phone or Leonardo da Vinci-ing it and writing backwards using a quill and ink every journal entry will start with a blank page.
Most people will wonder what they should write about, the answer is simple:
Write the first thing that comes into your head. What’s the thought you’re having as you’re staring at the blank page? Write that. Then write the second thought, and on and on until you’re out of thoughts. It doesn’t have to be spelt correctly, have punctuation or make sense. Just write. Your hand and brain will take over Simple eh?
This might not work for everyone. If you need a more structured approach MindJournal is a journal with a series of exercises designed to help men start journaling.
Now you’re up and running and in the ink’s a-flowing, you might be wondering what the point is? Part of journaling’s power is getting thoughts that are bouncing around inside your skull, organising them and getting them out of there. If you’re an overthinker this can be really helpful.
Where journaling comes into its own is when you’ve hit a rough patch. It’s a great way to get clarity on your thinking and challenge that thinking. Something I like to do with this kind of journaling is to write down everything I can, and before I finish to write out something I learned from what’s happening, or to write any actions I plan to take to improve my situation.
Will journaling fix all your problems? Probably not. But it gets a lot of rolling thoughts out of my head and helps me reframe what happened and find a way forward. Which makes moving past the situation easier.
Another great way to end each journaling session is to write down 5 things you’re grateful for in your life. So again whatever you’re going through good or bad, you’re creating a habit of gratitude, which has consistently been shown to make you happier.
Make it a habit.
Honestly, the biggest barrier to journaling will be finding the time i.e. making it a habit. A good place to start is to schedule time to write preferably every day, but once a week will also provide some benefits. Particularly at the beginning of creating a journaling practice journaling every day will be better at forming the habit.
Aristotle’s famous dictum- “Excellence … is not an act but a habit.” And he probably wrote that down in his animal hide journal.
It takes about 21 days to build a new habit and upwards of 66 days for it to become automatic. So if you can write 5 minutes a day every day for 3 weeks you’ll be well on your way towards a journaling habit.
Even if you don’t want to form it as an everyday habit it’s worth taking the time to learn how to journal. It’s like riding a bike, once you’ve got a feel for it you can always pick it up again. This is particularly useful when life is not going your way. If you already have journaling in your toolbox you can take it out again and use it to help you fix whatever life has thrown your way.
Journaling is a great way to take more care of yourself from the inside out. Like anything, it’s not a silver bullet, so to promote the best possible mental health make sure your diet and exercise are also on point. But at 5 minutes of writing a day, there’s not much to lose by giving it a shot.
For more articles like this check out:
Or for articles about taking care from the outside in check out: