Journaling gained a bad reputation back in the ’90s. Movies and TV associated journaling as a cringe-worthy exercise, starting every page with ‘Dear Diary.’ The protagonist would pour their soul out onto the pages only to have it thrown back in your face when your little brother finds and shares your diary with the rest of the world.
Since then, the world has got hip to the power of journaling, the science behind it, and just how vital it can be to improve your mental health and wellbeing. There are so many ways to journal, and everyone can benefit from keeping one. Even you, dear reader!
But don’t take my word for it. Here are five scientifically-proven ways journaling will help you level up your life.
Five benefits of journaling
Journaling helps with mindfulness
It can be hard to find a moment to ground yourself and be present in our busy lives. From thoughts flying about your to-do list for tomorrow to regrets about not completing your work yesterday, our minds seem to always be everywhere but right now.
By journaling your feelings, you allow yourself to be present with your thoughts – not worrying about anything else, just the way you feel in that moment.
A perfect example of this is using morning pages. Every morning, write three pages of thoughts without interjecting or changing them. Allow your mind to flow as it wants, and avoid judging yourself for your thoughts.
Journaling for mindfulness will also teach you to be compassionate to yourself and not judge yourself for feeling and thinking.
Journaling improves creativity
Journals don’t have to be all words. You can use drawings, doodles, photos – anything that inspires you or helps you release your feelings. Getting creative in this way can also spark the creative juices to flow in other areas of your life.
Journaling will also help improve your creativity by freeing thinking space in your mind. By getting your thoughts out of your brain and onto the page, you allow yourself the freedom to let go and focus on other thoughts that may have been blocked by the thoughts previously swirling around in your head.
Do you ever have those nagging problems that no matter how much you try and think of a solution, you just can’t focus enough to get there? Instead, the problem seems to play on a loop in our minds, practically impenetrable.
That’s where journaling comes in handy. When you have thoughts stuck in your head, it's hard to see them objectively. So instead, we get emotional – stressed, anxious, annoyed.
But, when you get those thoughts out onto paper, you can start to separate yourself from them. The more you write about the problem, the more your brain will naturally start to flow into ways you can solve it. Your brain can’t help it; we human beings are hard-wired to want solutions to every obstacle in our way. It’s just who we are!
And, as with anything in life, the more you practice a skill, the better you get.
Journaling allows you to understand your emotions
Much like the problem-solving above, getting your emotions out on paper is a good way to start to understand them and then work to improve your relationship with them.
Start by trying to label your emotion. For example, do you feel scared, sad, or happy? Get as specific as possible; maybe you feel serene or agitated. Search for the Emotion Wheel online to guide you if you need help finding the words to describe your emotions.
Once you’ve put a name on your feelings, investigate the thoughts you are having in that moment and write them down. Are they true, or are you being unkind to yourself?
Also, write down as much as you can about what happened before your felt your emotion. Think of the big question words (who, what, when, where, why, and how). And don’t forget to include details on how you are feeling and what you were doing before your emotion too.
Over time, this exercise will help you understand your emotions and give you the tool you need to deal with them in a healthier way.
Journaling reduces stress
Finally, releasing your emotions into your journal, being mindful, and getting creative all result in your journaling playing a big role in reducing your stress. And as we know, high stress levels can cause serious mental and physical health problems such as high blood pressure, anxiety, and digestion problems.
How to get your ‘Journaling Journey’ started
Now that you know how fantastic journaling can be, here are a few tips to get you started on your journey to better mental wellbeing.
Choose a journal that works for you
Think about if you are going to be mostly writing, doodling, or both. Also, consider if you want your journal to be structured with page templates or if you would prefer a blank canvas to make your own tailor-made journal experience. For example, a gratitude journal might work for you, or you may wish to have the ability to journal as part of your daily planner.
Have a journal pen
It doesn’t have to be a special pen but find a pen you enjoy writing with. After all, if you are enjoying the experience, you’re more likely to repeat it.
Set a journaling schedule
Like anything, journaling takes time to become a habit, no matter how much you enjoy it. By setting a schedule to journal at the same time every day, you’ll find it easier to keep your journaling up.
Search online for journal page inspiration
If you feel stuck on how to create your journal, look on Pinterest for some fun ideas that will get you excited to start.
With such powerful and impactful benefits for your mental health and wellbeing, journaling is the ideal activity to start incorporating into your daily routine.
And with everyone from athletes to entrepreneurs using journals to support them as they reach their goals, isn’t it about time you picked up a notebook and pen and started benefiting from journaling too?