5 Benefits to Journaling
Journaling is an active step I ask many of my clients to take during their health coaching program. A pen coupled with paper can serve as a powerful life tool.
Journaling (or keeping letters or diaries) is an ancient tradition. Successful people throughout history have kept journals. Presidents have maintained them for posterity; other famous figures for their own purposes. Oscar Wilde, 19th century playwright, said: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”
I have been journaling for 20 years now. I have found it to bring a lot of healing through many ups and downs of life. It has also served to grow me in maturity and understanding of myself. I have seasons where I write more and some I write less, but I write. Today I wanted to encourage you to start or continue journaling and give you 5 benefits to motivate you.
1.Mental and Emotional Outlet
Journaling gives mental rest from thoughts throughout the day. This helps to turn the “noise” off and will also help you sleep better at night.
Journaling is also a way to process the emotions you may feel in the moment or from the day. Journaling helps to increase self-awareness.
Journaling builds emotional intelligence as you are able to better perceive and manage your emotions. This will help you understand what others are experiencing as well.
When you are able to write down an emotional experience the brain is able to assimilate information more calmly which leads to better understanding of your situation. Often our thoughts can get jumbled up in our head, but when we are able to take what is in our head and write it down, we are able to objectively process the whole of it.
Journaling produces endorphins that help our body process emotions. This can be healing to the body and soul as you are able to identify all parts of a situation.
Journaling allows us to write to others, ourselves or God to put what we feel into words. This paves a road towards healing. Many people and professionals have found that journaling is a powerful tool towards healing from fierce negative emotions.
2. Brain Strength
The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. Thus, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.
Words are representations of ideas,the formation of letters, and causes the mind to compose or re-compose ideas while journaling. This strengthens previously covered information and forces you to engage in cognitive recall.
3. Improve Communication
When you are able to process and manage your own emotions, it will begin to affect your communication with others. As you understand yourself, you are not as quick to process out loud your first thoughts. You are able to be slow to speak and quick to listen, seeking understanding.
The more you understand yourself, the better you are able to communicate your feelings to others. There are also links to improving your speaking skills as you improve your writing of articulating your emotions on paper.
4. Reduce Stress
A gratitude journal can help you think about what is going well in your life and helps you to focus on what to be thankful for rather than all of the stressors. This can help reduce stress instantly because it takes your mind off of the demands of worrying, anger, discontentment or disappointments.
It is also important to write about what is stressing you. Often when we are stressed by the demands of negative emotions, we stuff them down or try to ignore them.
This is like holding your breath under water. Eventually you have to breathe. And breathing out stuffed negative emotions can look like spewing anger all over someone.
Journaling allows you to process those emotions, access your right brain and work towards calmly addressing the root problem to which you feel.
University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.
5. Solve Problems
Writing about relational conflict can allow us to process emotions rather than stewing over them. Writing out our problems allows us to access the right brain creativity to think differently about a problem, thus finding better solutions to them.
When we are not distracted by all of the information in our head, we are able to think more clearly and take different thoughts towards solutions to our problems. When we look back at what we have written about, we can see patterns or habits and better see how to approach conflict and issues we face in our life.
How To Begin
Your journaling will be most effective if done daily for 20 minutes. Begin anywhere, anytime and forget spelling and punctuational rules. Write quickly, as this frees your brain from “shoulds” and other blocks to successful journaling. The most important rule of all is that there are no rules.
Find a journal that is inspiring to write in or simply pick up a scratch piece of paper and write. I have a journal, but also keep small notebooks with me in my purse or side of my bed to write thoughts, ideas and things to process.
My kids have a “thankful journal”. They write in it at night before bed. And sometimes they are asked to go write in it when endless complaining is at hand.
I have a journal that I will write in at the end of the day. I simply write everything and it is so healing. Some people like to write in the morning before starting their day. See more about morning pages here.
Through your writing you’ll discover that your journal is a healthy tool to have. And it may provide the cheapest therapy you will ever get.