Once the domain of teenage girls with their locked diaries, today, journaling has become mainstream, especially when it becomes a part of self-care. Scientific studies have shown it to be essentially a panacea for modern life. There are the obvious benefits, like a boost in mindfulness, memory and communication skills. But studies have also found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and a higher IQ. And there is some research from New Zealand which suggest that journaling may even help to heal wounds faster.
Labelling emotions and acknowledging traumatic events, both natural outcomes of journaling, have known to have a positive effect on people, and are often incorporated into traditional therapy. At the same time, writing is fundamentally an organisational system. Keeping a journal, according to experts, helps to organise an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma. When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better. This in turn improves our immune system and our moods and we go to work feeling refreshed, perform better and socialise more.
Journaling can help manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression, control symptoms and improve the mood by helping prioritise problems, fears, and concerns and tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that one can recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them. Journaling also provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviours.
So what should we journal about? I have been journaling for about four to five years now and I use my journals as my daily diary, a sort of a brain drain and a way to get rid of all the things that swirl in our brains and clutter, not allowing us to be productive. My journal is online, on the cloud as a Google Doc and I sort it by month and write daily (or at least try to write). I prefer using a cloud system because I can then sync it across my devices and laptop and it is always with me. A pen and paper diary is bulky and if I am writing things in it that I don’t want anyone else to see, then secreting it is an issue. Having it online means to a large extent, I can control who can view it. But this is personal, you can use whatever method you prefer. Somedays I come back to my journal multiple times a day to write, especially when something very interesting is happening, other days, it’s a quick couple of lines at the end of the day to just document that day.
Journaling has many other benefits other than what I have written above.
Journaling optimizes one’s creative potential by allowing you a space to put down your ideas. So that 3 am idea which never saw the light of the day because it was forgotten by the time we woke up now can be channelled in a journal to be used later. A journal is also a good place to review your goals and see what you need to do to get there. As you read and refine your goals daily, including your to-do list, they become a part of you in your conscious mind and you become more productive. They become a part of your daily reflections, in both your personal and professional life and when you look back, you can see what needs to be done and when. When we journal, we can see with crystal clear what should and should not be included in your life and not only will you have more clarity about your path in life, but it will improve your ability to make small and large decisions along the way. Journaling also helps clear the stress in your life by reducing the scatter in your life, increasing focus, increased stability, a deeper level of learning, order and action, releasing pent-up thoughts and emotions and detaching and letting go of the past.
Without a journal, intense emotional experiences can be crippling for hours, days, and even years. However, an honest and inspired journal session can be the best form of therapy, quickly returning you better and smarter than you were before. Journaling is also a way to express gratitude. Even if one starts a journal session in a bad mood, the insight writing brings has a subtle way of shifting the mind towards gratitude. When one starts writing what they are grateful for, new chambers of thoughts opens in the palace of your mind. Make sure to include gratitude in the journal and it will change your entire life orientation from scarcity to abundance with the world increasingly becoming your oyster.
As a parting thought, I would suggest that if you start journaling, don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day to journal. After all, it takes 21 days to make something a habit. Just write a couple of lines about your day and share it as if you are sharing your thoughts with a close friend.