Since I was a teenager, writing a journal has been an important part of my daily self-care routine. It helps me explore the thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of my life, no matter how trivial they may seem. And, to make it a special and enjoyable experience, the ritual is accompanied by appropriate trappings – beautiful notebooks, nice pens and a comfortable place to be.
Although journaling isn’t for everyone, I do have at least two kindred souls, my two god daughters, one of whom is a teenager and the other in her mid-twenties. For Christmas, our gifts are all about notebooks, so I know it can work for others.
Journaling is just one of the ways to stay in charge of an active mind and busy life. I also meditate for a while each morning and, before I go to sleep, make sure that my gratitude diary is up to date, making a note of three things for which I am grateful at the end of each day. Left to its own devices, my mind tends to whirl, which is tiring, stress-inducing and detrimental to clear thinking. These disciplines slow me down, keep me calm and settled and boost my energy and creativity.
Research into journaling confirms my personal experience and shows a lot of other benefits including:
- Gaining valuable self-knowledge
- Increasing confidence
- Helping problem solve
- Improving cognitive function
- Strengthening the immune system
- Decreasing symptom of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions
- Counteracting negative thoughts/self-talk
- Decluttering the mind - check out Ryder Carroll’s TED Talk
- Improving learning – experience and writing demonstrates greater academic persistence (Writing about and growing competence by Angela Duckworth)
A word of warning for perfectionists: getting preoccupied with the readability of your work, penmanship or other periphery factors may inhibit the ability to focus on the thoughts and emotions they are trying to access. Another pitfall could be writing only about negative things: if you want to benefit from journaling it is good to include some words about potential solutions, gratitude and things that give you hope. (Always seek professional help if your stress continues – there are alternative stress reducing strategies that might work better for you.)
Here are some ideas to get you started and boost effectiveness of your journaling:
- Write about where you are in your life right now
- Write for at least 5 minutes
- Write about nature – what you have seen or heard that day
- Write at a regular time each day
- Write somewhere quiet and comfy
- Write not to be read
- Worry not about rambling
- Be radically honest with yourself
- Keep quotes and log of successes
What you choose to do depends on you – just do what feels right.