How journaling can improve your well-being
Did you know journaling has health benefits? What we think and feel are interconnected with what goes on in our bodies. Journaling can be both a stress buster and your compass to understanding your emotions.
My personal journey to journaling
I was given my first journal at the end of my au pair adventure in France when I was 18. I now have more than 20 journals filled with stories from travel adventures, personal life challenges, thoughts, feelings and emotions related to these, life lessons, hopes and dreams for my future, and favourite quotes.
I’m addicted to reading about life-changing experiences which leave others motivated. I’m fascinated by stories that prove others wrong, make remarkable out of the ordinary or turn someone’s life into an inspiration for others. My journals are full of the above and more. Yet strictly for my eyes only.
My love of personal development, dedication to lifelong learning and passion for coaching means journaling is an integrated part of my everyday life. Although, I don’t journal every day.
My father has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His brain is dying. He’s disappearing over the phone. I’m not sure what state he’s in physically as I haven’t seen him for nearly 18 months. This has contributed to my personal quest to understand our brains and what sustains and keeps them healthy.
Well-being does not have to be complicated. Although it might mean variety and making changes according to your age, adjusting to different stages in your life and even according to the seasons. At the top of the list of priorities essential for optimum brain function are rest, nutrition, hydration, exercise and mindfulness.
Journaling is a form of mindfulness. And you can transform the way you feel with pen and paper. What you think and feel affects your body. If you are cold and tired, it affects your thinking. If you are confident, it affects your nerves. Taking time to step back and reflect for a few minutes each day is an opportunity to check in with yourself.
To look back and learn. Gain insights about you and your patterns. When you are feeling confident and positive versus down and uncertain about the future.
The benefits of journaling are many
Journaling has been called your spiritual windshield wipers. It’s an opportunity to get out of your head and never think about those negative thoughts again. Give your brain a detox.
- Journaling benefits your mental health
It can help you manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression. The physical act of writing your thoughts down can relieve stress just as aerobics can help a stressed body.
- Journaling is a tool to support you through transition.
Transitions can be tough with many things going on at once on a practical and emotional level. Journaling can help create order when your world feels chaotic.
- Journaling increases self-awareness and personal growth.
Through journaling, you get to know yourself at a deeper level as you often reveal your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings. Journaling can help you identify choices and define your roadmap.
Rereading your journals is more beneficial than writing them
Reading the entries in your journals is an opportunity to see the stories you want to change. To look back and learn from challenges, failures and missed opportunities. To see how far you’ve come, celebrate wins and understand who you have become today.
According to Dr Tara Swart, it’s more beneficial to read your journals than write them. Personally, I have mixed feelings about doing this. Sometimes, it feels like I relive the tough times. On other occasions, a trip down memory lane has left me with a double smile on my face and allowed me to remember travel experiences I had otherwise forgotten. All in all, I do appreciate the chance to look back and be proud of my rich experiences and how far I’ve come. And wisdom gained about when to accept and let go.
How to journal
There are no rules. Get a blank diary and simply start to write about what happened to you today. You can learn about your moods and who / what uplifts you. Over time you can talk about emotions and intuition. Record it all. Sort out your thoughts and get out of your head. Look at your life objectively and create a narrative you can look back on to help you make decisions about your future.
Don’t worry about spelling and don’t judge your handwriting.
When to journal
Some people prefer to write in the morning to get in touch with their subconscious mind, others at night. There's conflicting research over which time of day is better for creativity, productivity, or emotional well-being, which ultimately means that the best time of day to write is the time that suits your own peak hours and the purpose of your journaling.
Different journals for different reasons
You can have different journals for different areas of your life. You can keep several journals at once. And write when you choose. The choice is yours.
- A health journal to track moods, physical ailments, emotions or sleep patterns to support conversations with a healthcare professional.
- A learning journal to support professional development.
- A dream journal to record your dearest desires.
- A gratitude journal for a happy heart.
- A success journal to support your journey to reach your goals.
Want to learn more?
Here’s some more inspiration about journaling and its benefits.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron encourages daily morning pages over a period of twelve weeks to discover and recover your creative self.
How to open your mind and change your life. Dr Tara Swart and Dr Rajan Chatterjee discuss the power of journaling, vision boards and more.
I invite you to try journaling to support your well-being. And get in touch to share any positive benefits to your life.