Good Reasons to Keep Journaling by Catharine Bramkamp

Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us about “Good Reasons to Keep Journaling.”

I hate X, I have hated X from the day she walked into the cafeteria. How do I dislike her, let me count the ways.

There is no question that writing down your best revenge schemes is a delicious way to pass an dreary winter afternoon. But all that writing can lead to so much more.

Obviously compulsive journaling about our nasty thoughts, tragedies, and evil impulses lead to fewer murders, but journaling can just as easily change up our thoughts for the better. Better for society of course, but also better for our brains.

In the last few years, it was discovered (notice the passive sentence, that’s how scientists write, in the passive form) that aging brains are not doomed to solidify around the information we learned junior year in college, never to be changed or budged; the brain can change. The brain can stretch, learn, grow .and otherwise continue to learn and retain newly learned information and skills.

First up for that brain plasticity practice was to obsessively work cross word puzzles. If crosswords were not sufficient, Sudoko puzzles began to proliferate on bookstore shelves.

The link was specific puzzle work could slow general dementia. One crossword puzzle = better cognitive activity on all fronts.

As much as I was interested in slowing brain deterioration, I wasn’t so committed to crossword puzzles, even if working them everyday would make my brain stronger, faster and able to leap tall cliches in a single bound. So I waited Science out.

I didn’t have to wait for long. It was then determined that all that crossword practice just led to getting better at crosswords.

Enter, journaling, an activity that not only improves your future brain, but improves your life right now.

If you, like me, are a fan of bias confirmation, this new information is welcome indeed. For those of us who have spent our entire life scribbling in journals, alternatively hating our hair, our thighs and X, this is a delightful discovery; what we are already doing is actually good for us.

This almost never happens.

Instead of practicing math problems, the lima beans of intellectual activity, we can continue to do what we love, write.

However, to change thought patterns, and thinking, you can’t just write about just anything. You must be focused.

Rather than recording random thoughts and impressions, your journaling needs to be more intentional, or transformational.

Focused writing will not only improve your brain plasticity, as much or more than crossword and sudoko puzzles, it will improve your life right now.

Transformational journaling can change what you are thinking about, how you are thinking, and how you can respond in the future.

For example, X is terrible, X is poorly dressed, X said this, X ignored you, X paid attention to you. Journaling about X won’t change X. But journaling can change how you think about X and how you will handle X in the future. In other words, don’t complain about X, solve for X.

Go ahead and indulge in fantasies of killing X, torturing X — all that, but once that’s literally out of your system, consider writing about real-world solutions.

Ask different questions about X.

Instead of writing, “I hate X.” Write, “What can I do to react different to X today? What are my options when I comes to X?”

Write it all out. Have a conversation with X on paper. Write about the kinds of outcomes that are possible with X.

Today I said hello to X and she did not bite off my head.

Good start, right?

All this work will not only help our brains, but daily journaling has undocumented (ironic) but apparent positive effects that lead to:

• Reductions in doctor visits
• Improved immune system functioning
• Better grades
• Faster hiring to a new job
• Lowered stress hormones
• Decreased blood pressure
• Improved problem-solving
• Reduced symptoms from some chronic illnesses

To achieve these seeming miracles, a person (you and me) needs to write every day.

We all can do that, we’re writing every day now.

But to transform our thinking and better manage our desired outcomes, we need to write down different questions and create more positive outcome statements (not affirmations, god help us.) It is the positive writing that is key.

Try it in your journal today. Write about what you want to happen, write about what your ideal future looks like. Explore how that feels and eventually, walk it back so you end up with an action plan to achieve what you just discovered you wanted.

With a transformational approach to journaling, you can move your work from being all about X to putting yourself back into the center of your story, thighs and all. Your journal becomes a book of enticing possibilities with a workable plan for your future. You, not X, become the heroine of your own story. A better solution, a more exciting answer.

Catharine is currently teaching a class in Transformational Journaling. For more on journaling and writing follow her blog at



Catharine BramkampCatharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach bringing her clients from idea to published book and beyond. She has written 17 novels and 3 books on writing. Her poetry appears in over a dozen anthologies including And The Beats Go On (she was editor as well) and the chapbook Ammonia Sunrise (Finishing Line Press). Her current book, Don’t Write Like We Talk, is based on her co-producer experience creating 200-plus episodes of the Newbie Writers Podcast. She is the Chief Storytelling Officer for technical companies because everyone has a story.

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  • Christine Cassello says:

    I do journal almost every day, (but I have gotten away from it for sometimes months at a time). I do it by describing what I did the day before because I write in the morning most of the time now. I used to do it at night but the morning works better. I also write down how I felt about what I was doing. Then I go on to what I want to do that day and thoughts that brings up. Many times that will bring out ideas I want to look into further and I underline those so I can go back to them at another time.

  • Beth Barany says:

    What a wonderful process you have, Christine! So glad you’re journaling!

  • That is exactly what the transformative part of Transformative Journaling is all about. Get out all the bad day/bad hair material and start writing about what you WANT to happen! Sounds like you have it down, good for you!

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