Journaling has changed my life.
Long before journaling was a self-care trend, I was writing my daily happenings in my denim Tweety Bird covered diary that had a key lock attached. This is the first journal I remember keeping when I was in just 4th grade. My writings and journaling practices evolved over time from daily happenings to angsty teenage poetry to love letters, goals, and eventually, prayers. I went through periods of time where I’d write every day or a few times a week, to some dry spells where I didn’t write for a few years. Despite what the Internet or social media might portray about self-care habits like journaling, it never looked the same for me whether it’s what I put on paper or how often I did it.
After nearly 25 years of journaling, I’ve realized that it doesn’t need to look the same in every season of life and the real detriment has been those dry spells, the times I wasn’t putting pen to paper.
While my journal subjects vary over the years, each time I was processing emotions just in a different way. I think back to the few years where I didn’t write much at all and I was an emotional mess. Not that there’s anything wrong with crying, but I cried way too much, I put myself into some sticky situations with relationships, I contemplated self-harm which hadn’t been a thought for nearly a decade prior, I drank far too often. Some of these come with age and experience, but I can attribute much of it to the fact that I was not giving myself the space to be mindful and to process along the way. I was not experiencing whole-being wellness and was substituting positive habits for negative ones.
When I have written regularly, whether I was writing daily happenings, emo poetry in my teens, love letters to my now husband or my goals and prayers for my life and others, I was processing. Writing allows us to process and label emotion by being mindful. According to a study by Cambridge University, “It is likely that the development of a coherent narrative helps to reorganize and structure traumatic memories.” Simply put, it manages emotions, promotes self-awareness, and increases empathy.
Journaling has a multitude of benefits; it enhances critical thinking, boosts the memory and immune system, increases creativity, self-awareness, and positive self-talk, manages stress and anxiety, increases success in reaching goals, tracks symptoms and triggers with the possibility of finding ways to control them, and the list goes on.
As an avid journaler, one of my favorite things to do is to go back and look at my journals. There are certain entries I remember writing. (There we go with one of the benefits: boosts memory!) It fills me with gratitude to see what I’ve accomplished or what has changed. Sometimes they’re sad, but that also reminds me of how far I’ve come. I’m thankful I’ve had a tool in my life for so long that has helped me to process the good and the bad, the daily mundane and the struggle. Journaling truly has changed my life for the better.
How to Start Journaling:
Journaling doesn’t come to everyone as naturally as it did for me, but it’s hard to deny the benefits. If you want to start journaling and need some tips on how to get started, you’ve come to the right place.
- It doesn’t need to look a certain way: Get it out of your head that your journal needs to be deep, that it has to look pretty, or whatever else you think a journal is.
-You don’t need to write in complete sentences or have correct spelling.
Use categories & lists! Bullet journaling is a popular option.
-It doesn’t need to simply be words; draw whatever you are feeling or thinking.
- Timer: Set a timer for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes. Just write for that amount of time. 5 minutes goes by quickly!
- What to write about: If you’re not sure where to get started, find a method that works for you. Here are some suggestions:
-Gratitude: Write down 5 things you are grateful for each day.
-Affirmations: Create an affirmation and write it several times so you begin the day with positive self-talk.
-Goals: Keep an account of your daily goals whether it be a to-do-list, an exercise or food goal, financial, etc.
According to a study by Dominican University, people are 42% more likely to achieve goals when they are written down!
-Tracking: Track your habits, mental health, food intake, physical activity, symptoms, etc.
-Daily Accounts: Write by stream of consciousness, process interactions or trauma, gather insight from the day.
-Prayers: Put prayers on paper for yourself and others.
-Prompts: Search for different questions or prompts that may get you started. Many journals are already set up this way.
Example: What’s one of your biggest insecurities? What would life look like if you let it go?
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Author: Dana Perich, Wellness Coach & Trainer
- ‘Journaling for Mental Health’ by University of Rochester Medical Center
- ‘5 Powerful Health Benefits of Journaling’ from Intermountain Healthcare
- ‘Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing’ published by Cambridge University Press
- ‘How Journaling Can Help You in Hard Times’ published by The Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley