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Why Journaling Works
"The positive thing about writing is that you connect with yourself in the deepest way, and that's heaven. You get a chance to know who you are, to know what you think. You begin to have a relationship with your mind." -- Natalie Goldberg
Many well-known speakers and authors consider journaling to be Ďthe best hidden secret to success.í Why? Here are some insights as to how journaling so powerfully meets our needs.
- Slow your mind down so you can see how you think.
Journaling quickly captures our flighty thoughts (about 60,000 per day!) on paper. Once we can see what weíre thinking, we can learn how we think. And then we can use different journaling exercises to learn to think in different ways.
Our minds work at about 1000 words per minute. When we write, the mind slows down to about 100 words a minute. This allows thoughts to be recorded more deeply. It also creates space for deeper and higher thoughts to emerge. A new level of awareness awakens, and this supports a more focused, creative thinking process.
- Quadruple your learning by stimulating the senses.
Want to quadruple your memory? Write down what youíre learning so you activate more of your senses. If we only hear information, within a day or two we typically recall 10% to 20% of what we heard. If we write it down, we can double our recall from 20% to 40% because we can now see it. Writing is also kinesthetic so we absorb more through motion. And some of us sub-vocalize what we write, so we hear the information again. Then if we review what weíve written, we can double our memory again from 40% to 80% because we anchor the material from different perspectives at another time. Remember the three key steps to learning: recall, write, review.
- Work with thoughts on paper.
Journaling draws information out of our heads and onto paper. When we can visually see the information, we can do more with it. We can group it, synthesize it, add to it and change it. As we work with the information on paper, we bring it back into our minds Ė this is how most of us learn. Most creative people doodle and make lots of notes and lists.
Ever tried to burn just one log or twig? It doesnít work very well. But pile up many logs or twigs and youíll get a roaring blaze. Synergy happens. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. The spaces between twigs are as important as the twigs themselves.
The same principle applies to our thoughts. If we have one fact on a piece of paper, itís hard to draw many conclusions about it. But if we write down a few more facts, we can start to see relationships, trends and movement. We are able to see and sense between the written words. The more we review the information, the more we see new dimensions. Individual events can be connected and we can draw on our intuition to find more meaning. The information comes alive.
Have you ever been lost in a dense, dark forest? Literally, you canít see the forest for the trees. In overwhelm, we get confused. Well, imagine flying over that forest, being able to see it in its entirety, in the context of its surroundings. The higher perspective brings new clarity and understanding.
When you have lots of facts or concepts and you reduce them to a few main points, you synthesize. You change your perspective to draw out whatís most important from a myriad of details.
Reviews and summaries are invaluable! We bring together lots of information through our journal writing. Reading and reflecting on what we write helps us step back and see the information from a larger perspective. Summarizing it all into a few sentences brings new insights and anchors conclusions more deeply. Itís like magic.
- Begin to think with all of your brain.
Letís review the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain. The left brain is logical, rational and linear, while the right brain is more creative, spontaneous, intuitive and fun. The left brain handles facts, events, things and quantity. The right brain works better with relationships of things, wholeness, concepts, spirituality, feelings, qualities, meaning and essence. The left brain is very direct while the right brain is more indirect, metaphoric and symbolic. The left brain relates more to individual words, while the right brain relates more to language, prose and poetry, music, images, beauty and pictures.
Most of us have a dominant brain hemisphere. Males are predominantly left-brained or analytical, linear thinkers. Females are more likely to be right brained or intuitive and emotional thinkers. Obviously, we are most effective if we can draw equally from both hemispheres so we can use the full range of mental processes.
Research has found that the left brain will remember only 7 or less items when presented with a list. As the list becomes larger, the left brain has a hard time comprehending it. This situation invites the right brain to engage and use its big picture, intuitive approach. The right brain will see the list from new perspectives. When you stand back from your journaling and take a birdís eye view, this allows the integrating right brain to do its processing.
- Stay objective in subjective worlds.
In life, we tend to perceive that we are our thoughts, emotions, feelings and dreams. Journaling allows us to detach from our thoughts and feelings so we can experience them more objectively. This helps keep us present, grounded and in right relationship to subjective realities.
We get a deeper sense of who we are when we can study our thoughts and feelings on paper. In our written thoughts, we can explore different sides of our nature. We can unlock our unconscious and reveal hidden aspects. We can identify beliefs that hold us back. We can get in touch with our innate talents and gifts and then see ourselves share them. We can discover our own wealth of insights, imagination, creativity and wisdom.
We saved the best till the last.
- Connect with your subconscious mind.
Itís not hard to change our conscious minds but changing our subconscious minds is a different story. And itís our subconscious that controls much of what happens in our lives. A vast storehouse, our subconscious holds limiting beliefs, reactive emotions, old ineffective patterning and self centred programming. On the positive side, it also enables our intuitive and divine connections. Unfortunately, though, the baggage we carry from our past both filters and distorts our higher guidance.
With journaling, we can work with the vast resources of our subconscious minds, indirectly retrieving information that is not normally available to us. It also helps us intentionally anchor new ideas into the subconscious.
It takes work to both retrieve and permanently change the information that lies there, so we can get rid of an old habit or go to a new level in performance or growth. From my experience we must do 4 to 6 different things around one focus to create enough tension in our subconscious to shift its programming in that area.
We can use 4 to 6 different journaling tools to address the same topic. This creates more perspectives, dimensions, tension and intensity to bring change.
Are you starting to grasp the control, momentum, synergy and big picture thinking thatís possible when we get things out of our minds and onto paper?
Journaling with intention and purpose has more uses and benefits than any other tools I know. It can truly help us make sense of our world.
So take a leap of faith. Commit to explore the wide variety of journaling tools. Find the ones that work best for you, so you can uncover your own inner wisdom.
Patrice and John Robson
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