Featured Image: @simplyela
Article By: Kasey Edgerton
If you thought that keeping a journal was just for your awkward teen years, think again. Studies have repeatedly shown that writing about your day, your feelings, and your anxieties don’t just clear your head, but can also improve your overall physical health. In fact, an active journaling practice can literally help correct common ailments such as depression, anxiety, and weakened immune systems. The added social benefits are nothing to scoff at, either. Those who journal typically benefit from increased positive moods, overall social engagement, and improved intimate relationships.
What Does Journaling Entail?
The good news is that journaling can be as loose or as structured as you make it and can be used to fit the unique needs of your unique life. At its core, journaling is a rich mixture of fact recording and personal interpretation and emotions.
In a recent interview, Psychoanalyst and Journaling Expert Maud Purcell shared insights on the importance of keeping a journal personal and expressive. He said, “Find a safe and secure spot for your journal. In order for it to be completely effective, you must feel free to write the things you wouldn’t even tell your best friend. This is not a letter to someone else. This should not be a document for others to judge you. If you want to write a book, fine. Write a book. Expressive writing is for you and you alone. If your writing could hurt other people’s feelings or their or your own reputation, feel free to destroy it when you are finished or hide it in a very secure location. The important thing is that your writing is for you only.”
When starting out on your journaling journey, ease into it. If you find that at first you just need to record a single line per day, then do that! Don’t stress yourself out over proper punctuation or grammar; just let your thoughts flow. Remember, your journal is for you, so never censor yourself or worry about what others might think if they saw your writing; it isn’t meant for them.
Other Ways to Journal
The fascinating thing about journaling—whether you use written words or visuals—is that it’s not just the process of processing your thoughts that brings all the benefit. It’s the physical act of writing/drawing itself that seems to produce results. There’s something therapeutic about the creative interpretation of your day. So if writing isn’t your forte, no problem! You can freely doodle, create mind maps, collages, or even create your own visual code. There is no right or wrong way to journal. Just have fun and be open and honest.
Use your journal as a conscious way to review your progress and hone your personal vision for your life. As you read and record daily, your goals will become cemented into your subconscious mind. Once your inner mind becomes attuned to your own goals and desires, it will work tirelessly to bring them to fruition in your physical reality.
Journaling as a Mindfulness and Memory Strategy
Remember, mindfulness is not just a buzzword. It can play a key role in your overall happiness. Journaling brings you into a state of mindfulness, in which past anxieties and fears seem to lose their edge in the present moment. It allows you to actively engage with your thoughts without guilt or judgment, which can be incredibly healing.
Speaking of the mind, journaling also comes through with some truly amazing memory and comprehension boosting benefits. The hand and the brain share a unique link, sparked by the composition of thoughts and ideas. Words and pictures are representations of ideas and the physical act of forming the letters and symbols causes the mind to recall concepts and events more rapidly than typing on a computer or cell phone. Much like physically taking down notes with pen and paper, this strengthens previously covered information and forces you to engage in a cognitive recall.
Eliminating Stress and Anxiety
Perhaps the most important benefit that journaling can offer is decreasing stress and anxiety. Journaling is a very effective coping technique that can help you manage your mental wellbeing, as well. With a solid journaling practice, you can track your personal progress and manage your emotions. And when paired with other treatment options, it can even be effective with managing panic disorder and PTSD.
Journaling can be such a powerful tool to examine and shift anxious and self-deprecating thoughts towards empowered, action-oriented behaviors. We all have an instinct to try to deny, push away, and distract ourselves from our anxious thoughts. Spoiler alert: that never works. We end up fixating on our anxieties that much more, while simultaneously suppressing our stress, which only winds up resurfacing in worse ways later.
Writing down your worries can actually make them go away as if you were transferring them right out of your head and onto the paper. Use your journal to record your experiences and reactions to different relaxation techniques, such as visualization, yoga, or meditation. Be sure to include how you felt before, during, and after and take care to note aspects that you liked or didn’t like. Write yourself some daily positive affirmations or a list of happy moments to reflect on in times of stress or sadness.
According to scientists researching neuroplasticity, we have the power to rewire the neurons in our brains, to consequently change the way we think, process new information, and behave. Just think about that. If we have the power to choose, let’s choose positivity!