Why keep a diary and how to do it profitably

Why psychologists recommend keeping a diary

Today, one of the popular ways to document life is by posting on social media. And before, people kept diaries, where they described the events, their thoughts, reasoning and emotions. The fact that keeping such records is useful for deep introspection was first thought by the American psychotherapist Ira Progoff in the 50s of the last century. Progoff held on to the idea that everyone has sufficient resources for self-knowledge and self-help. The specialist wanted to find a psychological practice that would be available to everyone (then only rich people could afford psychotherapy), and would also help everyone find support in themselves.


Progoff created a structured diary intensive method. He encouraged clients to write down their thoughts on a regular basis. And not only rational reasoning, but also the so-called twilight observations - absolutely everything that comes to mind. Progoff published the At a Journal Workshop, and according to his rules, anyone can actually keep a diary.

It's okay if you feel sad for a couple of hours after journaling, but if the notes plunge you into prolonged depression, anxiety, and other unpleasant conditions, you should consult a professional psychologist. This is a general rule of thumb for any writing practice.

How to keep a diary to help change your life?

A diary with lists will help free your head from obsessive thoughts and direct the released energy to action. From the point of view of neurophysiology, by briefly writing down plans and desired events, you extract unnecessary information from the brain and get a resource for productive work, relationships, hobbies, sports and other activities.

How to keep a Diary with lists:

  1. Divide the diary into three lists. In the first, describe the general affairs that you want to do, without an exact date. On the second list, write things down for the next month. And in the third - daily plans.

  2. Come up with your own shootout system. For example, an empty circle for tasks, a dash for events, a check mark for notes, an asterisk for lists.

    Hint: add friends you are going to meet, books and movies you want to read and watch, and thanks to yourself and those around you to your lists. The latter list will definitely boost your level of happiness and teach your amygdala to activate in response to pleasant events.

  3. Celebrate the cases that have been done, carry over the ones that have not been done for the next period. Keep a journal regularly.

Reflect ABC

The ABC Self-Reflection Formula is a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tool that has a strong evidence base.

Make a three-column table where A is the Activating event, or the triggering event, B is the Beliefs, or beliefs, and C is the Consequences, or the action being taken.

How does it work in practice? You are recording an event that made you feel uncomfortable. Next, write down the thoughts and beliefs that shaped your mood. And write down what you did in this situation.

The thought that you are boring made you feel anxious and resentful. Please note that it was not the situation itself that caused this emotional background, but your attitude towards it, thoughts about yourself in this situation. For example, another person might think that the guy has a lot to do and he will call back himself, as soon as he is free. The third person would think the guy was "bad," get angry and make a scandal. By keeping an ABC journal, you learn to notice how your specific thoughts about yourself, those around you, and the world evoke specific emotions. Try changing your ideas to make yourself feel better: write down alternative thoughts. For example:

“There are actually dozens of reasons why the guy didn't call me back. Problems at work, family, health. Maybe he's afraid. Maybe he has other priorities now. It may even be that he doesn't like me, but not necessarily because I'm boring. Maybe we're just different people. Or, on the contrary, he is boring himself, and I am too active for him. "

Then decide how you can do the best for yourself in this situation. For example:  “I don’t want to spend all day thinking about it, worrying about it. Perhaps the only way to find out what's going on is to call yourself and find out the reason . " Keeping such a journal on a regular basis will help you get to know yourself better, become aware of irrational thoughts and try to think differently, and therefore live differently.

Motivate yourself every day for 6 minutes

You can purchase a special motivational notebook with ready-made psychological tasks, techniques and questions. By completing it every morning for 3 minutes and every evening for 3 minutes, you will form and develop new skills. For example, learn to focus on priorities and analyze the work done, reduce stress levels, and see that something good happens every day.

6 more rules for effective and safe psychological recording

  • Write regularly. Better 5 minutes, but every day, than an hour, but once a week.

  • Write in a notebook that you like visually. Associate your writing practice with something enjoyable.

  • Write in a comfortable place where nothing and no one distracts.

  • Periodically re-read the notes and conduct self-analysis: what continues to bother you and why, what do you want to change?

  • Be sincere. Don't hide anything from yourself.

  • Remember that paper will endure everything - fully express your emotions.


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