How keeping a journal will improve your life

If you’d don’t know where you are, you can’t get where you’re going. 

By Dru Macasieb

01/07/19

In looking back at 2018, I reminisced about that year by looking through photos and social media post. However, nothing truly brings me back to that year more than my journal does. I’ve noticed that photos, social media post, and even my own memory can play tricks on me. It can fool me into believing something that did not exist or it can misinterpret how the past was. By journalizing, it allows me to freely and openly express myself without holding back due to the fear of judgment of others; something that comes with social media post. Photos and videos tell a lot about something but do not encapsulate the privacy and reflective abilities a journal can do. The three main benefits to journalizing are self-reflection, self-awareness, and happiness.

Self-reflection is the ability to think about something in a purposeful way, with the intention of making connections, exploring options and creating new meaning (Ferrett, 2018). When difficult situations arise, we are better equipped to sort through the issues if we journalize and reflect at a later date than if we were to sort through the issues at the moment as our ability to rationally thought process maybe impede due to amygdala hi-jacking (heat of the moment thinking), or other variables that keep us from thinking clearly (like intoxication). By journalizing and reflecting at a future date, we are able to to see things more clearly, process and reflect on our reactions and thoughts, and problem-solve better. In the book, 52 Small Changes for the Mind by Brett Blumenthal (2015), the author says:

When misunderstandings or disagreements arise with others, journaling helps us reflect on other people’s perspectives and be more open to how they may be feeling or thinking. We become more intentional in our interpretations and better equipped to organize our thoughts so we can approach problems calmly and rationally. Journaling also encourages a free flow of thinking, which can tap into the more creative, intuitive right side of our brain to potentially reveal more innovative solutions. (p. 19)

 

Self-awareness is the ability to relate well to others, face the truth, and see yourself objectively (Ferrett, 2018). By journalizing, we become more self-aware of our emotions, especially the most difficult and painful ones. We are able to recognize the triggers that ignite our emotions and can plan ahead to better avoid emotions of anger and anxiety,  or react to them better so that we can foster healthier relationships.  Journalizing also helps identify who we are, our desires, passion, fears, as well as the things we need to change in order to improve ourselves. It will help increase our self-confidence and maintain a positive self-image.

Happiness is achieved when we lower our levels of stress (cortisol) to the point where our levels of joy (serotonin) and reward (dopamine) exceed them, naturally. By transferring our thoughts from our mind and into the physical world (through paper and pen the use of technology) we don’t let them bottle up inside ourselves, instead, they dissipate outside of us, which leaves us calmer, happier, and in more control. When we journalize the negative moments in our life, we release the anger and pain so that it doesn’t fester insider of us. We learn from them and become grateful for the present moment. When we journalize the positive moments in our life, we share the joy and happiness and it becomes proof that good things happen in our lives.

I encourage everyone to start journalizing their life in order to be able to better self-reflect, become self-aware, and be happier. Since journalizing is about you and only for you, there are no rules or restrictions, it is solely up to you. For instances, I journal using the built-in notes app on my phone. Any time where I feel like writing down a thought, a reminder, or an idea, I just go ahead and do it. I like it because the automatically keeps metadata on the entry I create such as a time stamps (date created, updated) and location. I can write as many entries as I want and can easily find them using dates or keywords. I can even add pictures and videos as well as hyperlinks. If you haven’t journalized, what’s stopping you? All I see are benefits to this activity. However, keep in mind privacy and security as a journal in the wrong hands may become damaging to you and others.  Lastly, I will leave you with this last quote which reminds me of why I should journalize regularly:

If you’d don’t know where you are, you can’t get where you’re going.

Journalizing helps me understand where I’ve been, where I want to go, and where I am in my current life. Have you ever been lost on the way to your friend’s place? When you call them up and ask for directions, they’ll usually start with, “Where are you?” You can’t answer that if you don’t know where you are, however, if you had a map, directions, street names, and landmarks, you are able to better answer where you are. Similarly, journalizing helps us to reflect on our past experiences, become self-aware of our future expectations, and create a deeper understanding of who we are at moment.

References:

Blumenthal, B. (2015). 52 Small changes for the mind. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Ferrett, S. K. (2018). Peak performance: Successes in college and beyond. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

 

 

The Three Components of Emotional Intelligence and How I Use Them to Enhance My Life

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be self-aware of one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others (empathy) while being able to control and manage one’s own emotions (Ferrett, 2018).  

Interpersonal skills, such as self-esteem and stress management, greatly influence emotional intelligence as part of being emotionally intelligent is self-awareness and self-management. When one can acknowledge and comprehend their emotions, then one can manage them better. We need to know what we are feeling and why are feeling this way in order to figure out the best way to react.  

Sometimes, our emotions get the best of us and we react before we can truly think about the situation and we later regret it. This is referred to as emotional hijacking, also know as amygdala hijacking. This phenomenon occurs when our amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions, sends a fight or flight response that doesn’t allow our neocortex, the part of the brain that process rational thinking, to do its job (Nuetrino, 2012). 

In order to best manage this phenomenon, one needs to be aware that this phenomenon exists and can occur. Then, we need to be able to catch ourselves before we allow it to take control. Once we catch ourselves, we should pause for at least ten seconds (or longer) before we do anything else. During this time, our initial adrenaline rush begins to weaken and dissipate, which then allows us to engage in rational thought process (PMSL Training, 20125). After much our steam has cooled off, we should begin to acknowledge what we are feeling and why we feeling that way. This is called mindfulness and this will help us react better to the situation because our neocortex will start doing its job and begin to analyze the situation and rationalize the next actions we should take. 

Self-awareness and control are two key elements of emotional intelligence. The third component, empathy, or the ability to be aware of the emotions of others and understand from their perspective, is an equally vital part of emotional intelligence (“Empathy,” n.d).  By mastering all three components of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, empathy, and management) we can begin to use it to enhance our personal and professional lives. 

Specifically, there are three ways I use emotional intelligence to enhance my life. First, I start with myself. I begin to dig deep into my beliefs and acknowledge the biases and experiences that shape who I am. I ask others their opinions about me and reflect on their answers and compare them with my own. I play devil’s advocate with myself and I seek to try to understand why I think or feel the way I do. 

The second way I enhance my life through emotional intelligence is by getting to know others around me. To truly empathize with others, I must understand who they are, what they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. This means I should set aside my pre-existing beliefs about them and just carefully and actively listen to them. This includes asking thoughtful questions.

The third, but not necessarily last, way I use emotional intelligence to enhance my life is by actively empathizing with others. Actively empathizing means to truly feel how others feel (although, one can’t truly feel how others feel but can get close to it) and to take actions that seek to improve the current situation. This could mean just being there for emotional support. If it’s a professional setting, understanding their needs and accommodating to them may go a long way in the long-run.

Emotional Intelligence involves three distinct components: self-awareness, empathy, and management. Emotional hijacking can occur during the heat of the moment but practicing mindfulness can prevent it. Using emotional intelligence in all areas of one’s life can enhance your relationship with others thus enhancing your overall quality of life. 

References:

Empathy (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy 

Ferret, S. K. (2018). Peak performance: Success in college and beyond (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Neutrino. (2012, September 8). What is an amygdala hijack? Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://www.gostrengths.com/what-is-an-amygdala-hijack/

PMSL Training (2015, October 1). Amygdala hijack: English. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u3UvXqArqs&feature=youtu.be