Why reaching for a pen and paper can improve your Mental and Physical Health
The art of journaling helps put things in perspective, gives you the chance to resolve internal conflicts, and makes for a stronger, healthier you.
Do you live an incredibly hectic life? Are you pulled one way, then the next, without much of an opportunity to reflect? It’s hard to decompress if we don’t give ourselves the time. Journaling is a fantastic way to come to terms with any thoughts or feelings, spur on your creative mind, and help you heal — from both mental and physical stress or trauma.
A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to “become”. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.
— Brad Wilcox
Isn’t that just something kids do?
“Journaling” might conjure an image of a book by a child’s bedside, perhaps with some colouring pens, but those young ones have the right idea! Your journal does not have to be ostentatious, and you don’t have to write about your school crushes (although no one’s stopping you), but it’s a great way to keep your thoughts organised while letting go of some of the stress you accumulate throughout the day.
Keeping up a practice like journaling can help you catch great ideas on-the-go and improve your writing and communication skills — which is a bonus for work and family life. It’s also a wonderful way to strengthen and grow your brain, just like meditation and other mindfulness exercises have proven to do. Since writing is a crucial part of language learning, it has a positive connection to improving overall intelligence and can make for a more abundant life.
If you’re serious about becoming a wealthy, powerful, sophisticated, healthy, influential, cultured, and unique individual, keep a journal—don’t trust your memory. When you listen to something valuable, write it down. When you come across something important, write it down.
— Jim Rohn
Journaling can do wonders for your creativity. Writing in a journal activates the analytical, rational left side of your brain, which frees up the right, more creative and social side to explore and engage with stray thoughts. Though we often think of creativity as something only artists engage in when they write a song or paint a picture, it’s essential for effective problem-solving in regular life and the workplace. Exercising your creative muscles is extremely cathartic and can bring on a wave of positive energy to your day.
But one of the most amazing things writing a journal can do is to help you heal, in body and mind.
Journaling makes you an all-around healthier “YOU”
Sitting down to write out your thoughts can be so relaxing, especially as you become more accustomed to it. It’s not surprising that it can improve mental health. We so often neglect to consider how we’re feeling in the moment, and why we feel this way. Just the simple act of taking the time to write it down can take the edge off.
Psych Central notes benefits for people who suffer from a range of mental health issues, such as ADD or ADHD, depression, and even schizophrenia. Mindfulness exercises like journaling strengthen the brain and make it more resistant to negative influences — from inside and out.
But journaling is not just a tool for powerful mental recuperation: it can also be an incredible aid in healing from physical wounds. In 2013, researchers from New Zealand asked 49 adults between 64 and 97 years old to keep a journal for three consecutive days a full two weeks before a medically necessary biopsy on their arms. The study included the two-week gap to allow patients to let go of any negative feelings from the exercise. The researchers photographed each patient’s arm for 21 days after the surgery. Eleven days in, 76% had fully healed, while more than half of the control group had not.
Another study from The Royal College of Psychiatrists indicated that expressive writing, like journaling, was the most therapeutic form of writing. Patients were asked to write for just 15 to 20 minutes, three to five times over four months. That little writing, spread across such a significant period, was still enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver functions. The Psych Central article cited earlier even indicated reduced symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. If you can spend so little time on it and still get so much out of it, everyone should give journaling a try.
So, how do I start, and what should I write about?
That’s part of the beauty of journaling: it’s all for you, so you can write whatever and however you’d like! Write about your feelings, deep dives into your mind, your experiences and interactions through the day, or what you plan to accomplish tomorrow.
However, if you’re not used to writing daily, it can be tough to start unprompted. But keep a few things in mind, and you’ll do just fine!
As you begin your journaling journey, consider the acronym, “W.R.I.T.E.”:
W — What?
What would you like to write about? Consider how your day went, how you might have reacted to certain situations, or how you felt about them. Putting these thoughts on paper can lend them legitimacy. And don’t worry too much about what you choose to write. This is just for you; nobody else has to read it.
R — Reflect
Take a breather to review those thoughts. Try to focus on them as you calm your breathing. Meditation or other mindfulness exercises can help this stage along.
Start to structure those thoughts as personal statements, like “I feel…”, “I want…”, or “I think…” However they come to you, keep them in the present. This is what you’re thinking right now.
I — Investigate
As you write out your statements, continue to mull them over. Do your feelings change as you work them out?
If you find your mind wandering, take the chance to re-centre yourself — maybe even spend another moment or two meditating on the thoughts you want to hold onto.
T — Time
Set a timer to ensure you don’t write too long or cut off the exercise before it starts to get good! Set a goal, even just five minutes, and try to end it when your alarm goes off. You can finish your sentences, though; nobody likes to be stopped in the middle of a thought.
E — Exit
The way you end your journaling exercise is just as important as how you begin. Read through what you’ve written and make a summary statement. It could be something you noticed from the way you wrote, how you feel now that you’ve gotten it off your chest, or some actions you’d like to take to make your day a bit better tomorrow.
Whichever course you take in your journaling, remember to pace yourself and allow time to savour the experience. Keep up your practice, and you are sure to see a positive shift in your mindset. And where the mind goes, the body follows!
Want to start your journaling experience today? Click here to purchase my Daily Mindfulness Journal today.
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