How Journaling Changed My Life and Made Me a Happier Person 

By Kyla Jacobo, DPT

My life was chaos. Disorganized. Getting through the day was my goal.

As a mother and wife with a full-time job, a house to clean, and laundry to do, I was overwhelmed. Yes, I know, I am annoyed with myself as I write those words. After all, I am blessed. Blessed beyond belief. I have a loving husband, two amazing, healthy children, and luxuries that are not afforded to all. 

I had so much to be grateful for…yet my days were filled with never ending chores and mommy do’s. Have you ever seen a hamster running on a wheel?  Well, that’s what I felt like. I was always trying to catch up with my life, but never getting there. Some days were so overwhelming that even a little spilled juice felt like the end of the world. 

Hello, anxiety and resentment….

With all my energy focused on daily chores and the resulting stress and anger, I did not make space for gratitude, love, or joy. I was becoming the kind of wife and mother I didn’t want to be. I could see it in my kids’ faces when I lost my temper, yet again. 

Who was I becoming? Was this how I wanted to be remembered? In my mind, I wanted to be a loving, fun, and joyful person. Yet my actions showed otherwise.

That’s when I found journaling!

My initial journal was an old notebook that had been lying around the house. That’s how serious I was about it. I didn’t even feel the need to purchase a journal, after all, how long was I going to stick with this journaling thing?  The first entry in the notebook was a list of goals that I had set for the week, 3 words describing how I wanted to feel, and a mantra of sorts to inspire me. Then began the negativity. I don’t even like to look back at those entries that were full of such hopelessness. But the tone began to change. 

Hope began to trickle into my writing. 

I was able to see a gradual improvement in my mood. I was setting weekly goals and writing about my successes and failures. By week 8 of journaling, I was seeing dramatic changes in myself. I was even able to tap into a creative side, which I never really saw except for the occasional homemade Halloween costume. I was making my pages pretty, with different styles of writing, incorporating quotes and mantras that I didn’t want to forget. My morning routine, which included journaling, reading, and some sort of exercise, brought so much joy to my life…I even stopped hitting the snooze button (most days)! I was feeding my soul, a soul that had been empty for quite some time.

My only regret was that it took until the fourth decade of my life to start journaling. But now that I have discovered it, I want to share it!! 

Here are some takeaways…

7 Ways Journaling Changed My Life

1. Goal Setting…

Many high achievers describe a method of setting goals in which you write the goal as if it has already happened. This actually tricks your brain and makes the goal more likely to happen in the future. 

Start your day by writing out 5-10 goals.

For example, “I live in a house overlooking the ocean”

You can also write actionable goals at the start of each month to help keep you on track.

For example, “I will do yoga 3 times every week”

2. Gratitude…

Take a few minutes each morning to write out a few things you are grateful for. When we focus on gratitude, we leave less space for negativity.

Because you know you will be writing in your journal the next day, you will constantly be on the lookout for things to be grateful for. 

3. Set Intentions…

Living a life of intention is a game changer! Don’t just let life happen to you. Make it a priority to set intentions for your day, month, and year ahead.

Have a meeting or event that day?…Set an intention about how you want to feel, how you want to interact, or the kind of person you want to be in that situation. 

Ask yourself…How do I want to feel today?…             

Brendon Burchard, an author and personal development coach recommends choosing 3 words. For example, Joy.Energy.Patience. Set an alarm on your phone labeled with those 3 words to remind you throughout the day.

4. Track Habits…

Since journaling is a time for setting intentions and goals, it’s a great opportunity to keep track of new habits I’m trying to develop…or those that require some accountability. 

Simply place an ‘X’ next to the particular habit when completed. 

Keep in mind…“Habits are behaviors we repeat consistently. However, they are not things we repeat perfectly”. –James Clear

5. Organize Tasks…

If you have multiple tasks, you can also use a form of bullet journaling in which you include your tasks for the day. The morning serves as a time to organize and prioritize your tasks for the day or week ahead.

Use symbols to mark events, tasks, priorities, etc.

6. Daydream…

Remember back when you were a child, lying in your bedroom, staring at the posters on your walls. When the only worries were getting your homework done and what to wear to the football game Friday night. Those were the days…We had so much time to think, and dream, and plan for the future. As adults, we leave little time for that. 

Dream big!

Writing can open up a whole new world of ideas and dreams. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and rediscover what we love.

7. Reflection…

I frequently look back to old journal entries, whether to find inspirational quotes, track habits, and monitor progress I’ve made throughout the year.

I especially enjoy reading about fun events, parties, or just random things I did that year that brought me joy. It’s also an opportunity to assess the things that were not so positive…and hopefully avoid that in the future.

Make journaling a part of your morning routine

“Sometimes it’s not about balancing your life; 

it’s about balancing your mind despite the chaos”.

 –Brendon Burchard

My morning routine helps me to balance my mind.  Here’s what it looks like….

  • 5:00 am alarm, get up and make a cup of tea
  • Sit down at my breakfast table (no need for a special desk!)
  • Journal for about 10 min, including goals, gratitude, and intentions for the day
  • Meditate 5 min
  • Read for about 15 min, or as time allows
  • Exercise, either yoga or go for a run

My entire morning routine takes about 1 hour. If I have extra time, I’ll read a little longer…or maybe go for a longer run. If I don’t have a full hour to spare, I adjust accordingly. The most important thing about my routine is that I am taking time for myself, to center myself and set intentions for the day ahead of me. 

Just as I finish up my hour, my kiddos will start to stir and come out to the living room to see what I am doing (another benefit…lead by example!). By that time, I have cleared my mind, expressed gratitude, and set my intentions for the day. I am ready to take on the day with a balanced mind!

There are definitely mornings that I decide to skip journaling, my kids wake up early, or I simply choose to snuggle in bed a bit longer. That’s okay! As James Clear explains in his book, Atomic Habits, it’s ok to miss one day, just try not to miss two in a row. If life gets crazy and I do happen to miss a week or two, I feel it! My stress levels rise and I feel all sorts of disorganized. But all it takes is a few minutes to sit down with a cup of tea and my journal, quiet my mind, express gratitude and set intentions for the day.

Get centered.

Give it a try. You’ll thank yourself.

Happy journaling!