Did you know writing can be therapeutic?
Journalling has many beneficial emotional and psychological effects. You can sit there with a blank piece of paper and start to write and, at the end of it, you’ll feel better!
I’ve seen journalling described as a “spiritual windscreen wiper” which is a great description! By putting pen to paper, and pouring your thoughts and feeling on to the page, journalling allows you to get rid of all the messy, confusing and worrying thoughts that bounce around inside your head, allowing you to move on with your day with a much clearer head. Once you’ve got rid of them, by transferring them to paper, you’ll find those thoughts won’t disrupt your day. You’ll be able to get through your day with a much more focused mind.
How can you start journalling?
It can be difficult for people to start writing. They may feel embarrassed (because they feel they can’t write) or may feel they don’t know where to start. Here are some tips/techniques you can use to get past these fears:
– Grab a new notebook. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be daunted by the new notebook (!). Open it and scribble all over the first page. It’s not new any more, now, and any fear you had about ‘ruining’ said new notebook with unworthy words will evaporate!
– Remember that, to reap the benefits of journalling, the end product does not matter. What matters is the process: the process of getting the niggling, distracting, thoughts out of your head and on paper. Once you appreciate this important aspect of journalling, the whole idea becomes less daunting and much more manageable.
– Set a timer (five minutes, say) and just start to free write. Put your pen on the paper and just write anything and everything that comes in to your head. You’ll be amazed, after a very short while, how many thoughts you feel welling up and spilling out on to the page.
– If you prefer, you can start your journalling with a simple phrase, such as ‘I feel…’ or ‘I am….’ or ‘Today…’. Having a short prompt to ‘kickstart’ your writing can help you loosen up and feel able to start writing.
– Use a prompt. There are many websites dedicated to providing journalling prompts. I like some of the ideas presented in this post, as she details various different types of prompts for journalling (in response to a quote; creating a list; confessional format; ‘If’ format, and more). A friend has been journalling from these prompts. The web is full of places that’ll give you journalling prompts if you prefer to journal that way.
Benefits of journalling
Studies have shown that journalling has many beneficial emotional and psychological effects which, in turn, bring health benefits:
– Journalling slows you down. The very act of writing by hand slows you down physically and mentally.
– Journalling allows time for reflection. Writing your thoughts out, by hand, allows the time you need to reflect on their overall scope which can lead to a shift in perspective and the adoption of a new point of view. Sometimes it’s exactly this different point of view that we needed to be able to move on.
– Journalling allows for deeper contemplation of your thoughts. This deeper analysis of issues most times, for me, allows me to pinpoint problem areas and to find solutions to be able to turn these problems in to positives. Leading to the next one…
– Journalling is a great problem-solving tool and a great sharpener of our problem-solving ability. We tend to think we should solve problems from our analytical (left) brain but, actually, journalling has shown me, so many times, that when I let my intuitive, creative (right) brain take over, I’m much more likely to find a novel solution that proves, in practice, to work so much better than the one the analytical part of my brain offered.
– Journalling forces me to deal with my own shortcomings head on; I’ve found that once I’ve gone through this process, of admitting a shortcoming and then moving on, I’m more forgiving of myself, and this allows me to let go of the negative emotions/thoughts I was holding surrounding this. This frees up space in my mind for other, more important, things
– Journalling allows us to recognise (and own the fact) that we’re a work in progress, that are stories are not static but dynamic. This allows us to be a little easier on ourselves. When you record ‘where you’re at’ in a journal, you then have a record of your life in that journal. You can look back on the journal at everything you’ve achieved and see patterns and records of when/what/how you overcame; you’ll find comfort and strength in that.
– Journalling continually shows me how grateful I should be, for everything, and as the saying goes, gratitude is a miracle magnet. Once we see the myriad of small miracles that surround us, life suddenly becomes that much more beautiful. We see life for what it is: a string of miracles laid out before us.
– Journalling decreases stress. Once you’ve got all the random (and not so random) thoughts out of your head, and, through this, given yourself a chance to process them objectively (not subjectively, as we usually do), then you’ll find yourself worrying a lot less and your stress levels decreasing as a consequence
– Journalling leads, slowly but surely, to a greater depth of self awareness and, through this, greater self acceptance and self assurance.
– Journalling leads to greater levels of empathy. Once we’ve taken the effort to understand ourselves through our journalling, we learn to see our own mistakes and weak areas; it becomes easier, therefore, to understand that all humans have flaws and problems and that these sometimes lead to people making mistakes. It then becomes easier to empathise with other people.
– Journalling leads to forgiveness. Of both self and others.
– Journalling can, overall, lead to better relationships: with oneself, firstly, and from there, with other people. If you’ve written about what’s bothering you, and taken the time to understand why, you won’t need to be so angry with the other person (or be able to justify being so angry with the other person); you can then enter in to a conversation with that person calmly, thus avoiding conflict.
– Through the cumulative effects of all these benefits, journalling leads to better overall emotional health and well-being
– Journalling is especially useful in people who’re living with trauma, or who are living through periods of deep change, because, in these cases, it can be difficult to verbalise deep-rooted thoughts about the events that led to the trauma (or fears about the effects of the change): studies suggest that repeated exposure to the traumatic events/fear of change, via journalling about them, can lessen their potential to continue to traumatise
– Many studies have shown that people who journal regularly have better overall physical health, including improved liver, lung and immune system functioning; lower blood pressure; and fewer incidents of clinical depression. There is, therefore, a clear link between journalling and overall physical health.
As I was writing this, I had the words ‘Physician heal thyself’ ringing around my head…
Journalling has been an excellent tool for me to come to understand myself much more deeply. It’s helped me to increase my self-awareness and, through this, has encouraged, in me, a greater sense of empowerment and a massive reduction in anxiety and stress.
I find that, when I take the time to journal, I’m offered a ‘birds eye’ view of me, my life and my future, which helps put everything in to perspective; once everything’s in perspective like that, I find daily life so much easier. I honestly can’t recommend journalling highly enough.
Grab yourself a pen and a notebook and find ten minutes: journalling is the cheapest and most effective cleansing for your mind you’ll ever find….!