- January 15, 2021
Journaling is a way of releasing your thoughts, feelings and emotions on paper. It’s getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on every situation in your life. It gives you an opportunity to understand yourself better and grow at a personal level. Journaling is up there with meditation since it helps organize your thoughts, clear mental blocks, and promote focus.
Importance of journaling
Several studies in mental health have shown that expressive writing can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life because you get to understand your desires, worries and priorities.
Stephan J. Lapore and Joshua Morrison Smyth’s book, The Writing Cure: How Expressive Writing Promotes Health describes how people who’ve experienced traumatic life events can benefit by expressing their thoughts and feelings through writing.
This fact is seconded by Dr James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Pennebaker says that journaling helps us cope with trauma because it enables us to make sense of traumatic events by organizing our thoughts. This way, our brains can process the event, freeing us from the mental burden. The overall effect is mental clarity.
Apart from helping us cope with trauma, journaling structures our thought system and aids in self-reflection. It’s a proven strategy that allows us to assign meaning to life events and come up with ways to solve them.
In 2013, Psychosomatic Medicine journal published a research finding that expressive writing helps in the healing process of physical wounds. In the research, 78% of the experimental group wrote about their thoughts and feelings three consecutive days two weeks before a biopsy. This group fully recovered 11 days later. 58% of the control group did not recover completely.
How to get started
There are different types of journals. And the best place to get started is a gratitude journal. As the name suggests, it’s all about being grateful for the little or the much you have. A gratitude journal allows you to look beyond the daily challenges and into the achievements and blessings that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Most people dread the commitment of writing every single day. And so to make it easier for you, you can start with writing your journal once a week. The key is building a journaling habit, no matter how little time you spent in this exercise.
You can decide to have a journaling session every Saturday morning to reflect on what worked out and what didn’t during the week. What were your successes? What do you need to work on? Let your thoughts flow freely until you’ve created a clear picture of what’s happening in your life at the moment.
Another simple way to write a gratitude journal: note down your gratitude in bullet points. A few questions to guide you include:
- What are you thankful for today?
- What is making you happy?
- What did you enjoy today?
- What are you excited about?
You can take it a notch higher and further answer the following questions:
- What went well today?
- What took you off guard?
- What challenged you today?
- What can you do better tomorrow?
Now, don’t get the process twisted. You don’t have to fumble with what to write. You only need to look within and be honest with yourself. Write what comes to mind when you read the above questions.
Once weekly journaling is a habit, you’ll automatically increase the frequency. The good news, the positive impact of journaling will drive you to write your thoughts and feelings daily soon enough. Later on, you can also have a dream journal, work journal, travel journal, food journal, pregnancy journal, fitness journal, etc. Your options are unlimited.
So, if you’ve not started journaling, it’s time you give it a shot. If it’s part of your life, perhaps you can share in the comment section how it has impacted your mental health.