In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, often forgetting to pause and appreciate the present moment. But what if there was a simple practice that could help you develop a growth mindset, embrace change, and find inner peace amidst chaos? Enter the world of gratitude journaling, a timeless practice rooted in ancient wisdom and Stoic philosophy. There is a reason ancient wisdom has stood the test of time and is still highly applicable in our modern world of chaos. Because it really works.
Before embarking on a journaling mission, whether that be putting pen to paper for the first time or as a seasoned pro your mindset will be vital. A mindset that lends itself to getting the most our of your reflective practice is the growth mindset.
I was featured in a piece from the Evening Standard about the best wellness journals in the UK saying “The best thing about journaling in general is the low barrier to entry. All it takes is a pen, paper, and consistent routine to start a journey towards a better quality of life.” There are many reasons why I love the humble act of journaling but it's accessibility and quick return on time invested in the form of mental and physical benefits just make it a no brainer and daily non-negotiable.
What is journaling?
Journaling is a powerful practice backed by scientific evidence, offering numerous benefits such as stress reduction, improved mental health, and enhanced cognitive function. In its simplest form, it involves putting your thoughts down on paper.
There are so many reasons why people journal. The benefits span from health, both mental and physical and performance. There is a reason people have journaled for thousands of years and still do today.
Some benefits of journaling are:
- Physical health improvements
- Studies show journaling can strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce symptoms of illness and makes us less bothered by aches and pains.
- Get the health benefits of improved sleep by falling asleep faster by unloading your thoughts onto paper while also avoiding blue light that disrupts your body clock, making it harder to fall asleep. Journaling is therefore a great way to end your day and improve your sleep.
- Mental health improvements
- Journaling helps to reduce stress and regulate emotions. Also, it helps physical health.
- Research shows that journaling can help individuals develop more adaptive perspectives that make it easier to deal with life's challenges.
- As a right-brain activity, journaling can foster growth and creativity.
- Deeply connect with yourself
- Become more present by focusing on the moment and practising gratitude
- Plan for the future by regularly reflecting on what matters most
- Set your intentions
- Become more mindful and train your mind so you can tame your thoughts
- Become more productive
- By tracking your goals and vision for the future and your daily progress, you can use your journal to motivate you and hold you accountable so you achieve more.
- Use your journal to embrace productivity techniques like Eat the Frog and the Eisenhower matrix
- Build healthy habits and systems
- Use journaling to identify what matters most and then as a tool to maintain momentum to achieve it. Journals are a helpful reminder to keep consistent with actions.
Read more of the key benefits of journaling here.
When did humans first start journaling?
The practice of journaling is ancient and dates back to civilisations long before our time. People have kept records, diaries, and journals for thousands of years.
The Stoics were notable journalers from history and they can teach us a thing or two about adopting a mindset that primes us to get the most out of journaling.
Journaling: Ancient Wisdom in a Modern World
One profound practice that the Stoics engaged in, which is still highly relevant today, is journaling. Stoic philosophers, including Marcus Aurelius, diligently recorded their thoughts, reflections, and experiences. These ancient journals have preserved their wisdom, providing us with insights into their journey towards a more virtuous and meaningful life.
Journaling, as practised by the Stoics, becomes a bridge between their ancient wisdom and our contemporary lives. The lessons they imparted through their writings continue to guide us in navigating the complexities of modern existence. By adopting journaling as a tool for personal growth and reflection, we embrace a tradition of self-improvement that has proven its value over centuries.
As we explore how Stoic principles can intersect with gratitude journaling and the pursuit of a growth mindset, we uncover a profound synergy. By incorporating Stoic wisdom into your daily journaling practice, you can infuse your life with timeless principles that help you navigate the complexities of modern existence.
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength." - Marcus Aurelius
A Stoic Growth mindset that embraces change and realises that we are in charge of how we choose to think of feel about things. This gives you the best chance of getting the most out of your journaling experiences and enjoying your journey along the way.
Who were the Stoics?
The Stoics were a school of ancient Greek philosophy that emerged around 300 BCE. Their philosophy was not rooted in abstract theories or intellectual exercises but in practical wisdom aimed at achieving a life of virtue, tranquillity, and contentment. Stoicism is often associated with prominent figures like Epictetus, Seneca, and the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose works have been cherished for centuries. We will explore the Stoics in more detail as in this guide as they help to give us some amazing mindset fundamentals for journaling thanks to their own practises.
Ancient Wisdom, Timeless Relevance
One of the remarkable aspects of Stoicism is that it offers ancient wisdom that remains profoundly relevant in our modern world. The Stoics, through their writings and practices, have imparted lessons that stand the test of time. Their timeless principles serve as a source of inspiration, guidance, and solace even in our fast-paced, ever-changing society.
The Core Tenets of Stoicism
At the heart of Stoicism are several key principles:
Virtue as the Highest Good: The Stoics believed that the path to true happiness and fulfilment lay in cultivating virtue – the qualities of wisdom, courage, justice, and self-discipline. All of which journaling can help with. In fact, Marcus Aurelius himself wrote his Meditations as a reminder to himself of the virtues he wanted to uphold.
Control Over Our Reactions: Stoicism emphasises that while we cannot control external events, we have the power to choose our responses to those events. This doctrine has been a source of inspiration for those seeking resilience and emotional intelligence.
Memento Mori: The Latin phrase "memento mori" serves as a constant reminder of our mortality, urging us to live in the present, appreciate the fleeting nature of life, and focus on what truly matters.
Accepting the Inevitable: Stoics advocate for embracing the inevitability of change, both in ourselves and in the world. This acceptance is a pathway to inner peace and serenity. Journaling can be immensely helpful in the journey of acceptance.
Rationality and Logic: Stoicism encourages using rationality and logic to evaluate our judgments, emotions, and desires. By scrutinising our beliefs and reactions, we can live in accordance with nature.
Journaling Success Stories
So we know the Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius were big journalers but what about some more modern people of notes that journal? What has the impact been on their lives?
Thomas Edison journaled throughout his life writing over 5 million pages and filling up 3,250 journals along the way. This allowed him many successes both in business and invention. Something more impressive may have been the mindset Edison cultivated throughout that allowed him to learn, grow and persevere to become one of the most prolific inventors in history.
Oprah Winfrey is known for her successful morning routine, which includes waking up at 6:00 am, meditating, and journaling. She credits her morning routine with helping her stay focused and productive throughout the day.
Matthew McConaughey's journaling habit allowed him to collect 35 years of journals and create his very successful first book, Greenlights. He credits journaling with helping him process his thoughts and emotions, labelling it as a fundamental source of his positive outlook in his life. He also noted that he writes in his journal every day, often starting with the phrase "Today I'm grateful for..." as a way to focus on gratitude.
An Evolve Journalers' experience
‘I used this journal to help me reach some really big milestones in my life professionally and outside of work. During that time I published my first peer reviewed paper and got a black belt in taekwondo. The journal really helped to create a long term strategic vision that was genuinely holistic and not just all about productivity, I like that the journal takes account of well being. As a first time journal user I've never known what to write in a diary but having the suggestion boxes is a great cue for stimulating writing.’ Sam Hickling
What types of journals are there?
Before diving into journaling, it's worth considering the types of journaling that may resonate with you. Whether it's a personal journal, a mindfulness journal, or a reflective diary, there are various ways to get the benefits of self-reflection.
Generally, there are two main types of journaling: prompted and unprompted. Journals without prompts give the writer the space and the freedom to adapt their habits day by day. While this can be slightly daunting when approaching a blank page for the first time, there are the advantages of having next to no costs, you just need a pen, paper and a few spare minutes.
Journal prompts can be very helpful to maintain consistency in the habit and to provide a structure to get the most out of journaling. Different journals will have their own areas of focus, for example, gratitude, productivity or healthy habits, the Evolve Journal combines all three.
You can learn what is the best type of journal for you here. One of the most popular types of journaling is gratitude journaling.
What Is Gratitude Journaling?
Gratitude journaling is more than just jotting down things you're thankful for; it's a transformative mindset shift. It's about acknowledging the beauty in life's small moments and embracing change with open arms. Just as Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius advocated in his Meditations, we should appreciate life while we still have it.
Taking time out daily to reflect on what you are grateful for, it can be as little as the way the sunshine is reflecting into your bedroom in the morning or a reflection on one of your closest relationships. There is no harm in repeating yourself, either. Just like a muscle, the mind benefits from regular repetition.
You can learn how to practise gratitude in more detail here.
Why Gratitude Journal?
Research shows that a daily gratitude practice can rewire your brain, fostering a more positive mindset and improving emotional intelligence. By regularly reflecting on the good in your life, you can develop resilience and adaptability.
There are so many scientifically proven health benefits for practising gratitude that make it a no-brainer.
How to Start Your Gratitude Journaling Journey
Half the battle can be understanding the massive benefits you can gain from a journaling habit. After understanding the scientifically proven benefits, it makes it a lot easier to make the commitment.
As there are many types of journaling, you may need a little bit of experimentation until you land on the best system for you.
Questions to ask yourself before you start journaling
- How much time per day will you dedicate to journaling?
- When will you journal?
- Are you journaling to be more productive?
- Are you journaling to be more grateful?
- Do you enjoy freestyle writing or prefer more structure?
We always recommend starting with just a humble pen and paper. You can always copy some of the prebuilt structures you find online and experiment so you can feel which ones you like.
This will give you a sense of which style of journal suits you best. From there, if you start to feel the benefits more it will be easier to justify the investment.
It is natural to feel some resistance when you first start journaling but there are some simple things you can do to make it easier, like habit stacking or removing friction in your environment.
In the world of self-improvement and personal development, journaling stands as a timeless practice that aligns beautifully with Stoic principles and the pursuit of a growth mindset. By making yourself a priority and dedicating time to reflection, you can cultivate a positive mindset that propels you toward success and an empowered life.