In 2009, researchers asked 49 college students to take two minutes on two consecutive days to write about something they found to be emotionally significant. After completing the writing (four minutes in total), participants registered immediate improvements in mood and performed better on standardized measures of physiological well-being. The study concluded that merely “broaching the topic on one day and briefly exploring it the next” is enough to put things in perspective.

This study, combined with others, is a strong argument for journaling. Writing things down helps free your mind, organize your thoughts, process emotions and access a world of possibility.

businesswoman with a note-book
While journaling, you’re not trying to communicate with somebody else. Instead, the goal is to let your thoughts flow, without judgment, to see what comes up. To do this, all you need is a few minutes and, perhaps, some prompts. To get started, create a few open-ended phrases to get the pen moving. Here are a few examples:

• I am aware that…
• What motivates me is…
• I am inspired by…
• Today, I aspire to….
• What hurts me is…
• I wish…
• Others are…
• Love is…

Then give yourself a certain amount of time, maybe three or four minutes, to complete one prompt. Write whatever comes to mind, allowing your consciousness to stream freely. It doesn’t matter if you follow the prompt closely or veer off track entirely. Just write. Keep your pen (or keyboard) moving, and don’t stop to think about what you want to say or how to phrase it better.

Writers sometimes use a technique much like this, called stream of consciousness, to overcome writers block, self-criticism or to just warm up the creative juices. What sometimes begins as stumbling text and jumbled thoughts can sometimes lead to surprising insights.

As Earnest Hemingway once said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Perhaps journaling will lead you to that one true sentence, a moment of genuine self-discovery.