In today’s busy world, we hear a lot about remembering to slow down, to unplug from technology, and to find ways to de-stress. I, myself, have written about the many benefits of meditation and yoga – not just for adults, but for children as well. There is another method I recommend, and that is the daily practice of journaling.
The very act of writing has been scientifically proven to be a beneficial creative process. By putting pen to paper, you are using the left side of your brain, which is critical and rational. This gives the right side of your brain a chance to access your feelings and intuition without any mental blocks.
Other health benefits of journaling include:
- Increased immune system by strengthening the immune cells, called T-lymphocytes
- Counteracts the negative effects of stress
- Decreased symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions
In my experience researching the neuroscience behind stress and relationships, women –especially mothers- tend to repress their feelings of pain and depression in order to focus on the needs of others, such as their children, spouses and relatives. Taking a few minutes each day to write down those feelings, without hesitation or editing, unblocks the reservoir of energy spent in repression and allows women to use that energy for self-discovery and healing.
Four Tips to Make the Most Out of Journaling
1. Write consistently. Think of journaling as a daily practice that you would incorporate into your routine as you would with yoga or running. Aim to write in your journal each day for 20 minutes. The day-to-day expectation of creativity effectively confronts the thoughts and feelings that are keeping us up at night.
2. Consider starting out each day journaling. Studies have shown that people are more optimistic in the morning, and as the day goes on, they become more tired and distracted. Writing first thing in the morning helps give you a fresh perspective and the chance to start the day off with a clear mind.
3. Never self-edit. Write freely, without worrying about spelling or grammar, and without the burden of worrying about what others might think about the words you choose. This journal is for you, and you alone. It might take practice, as we are programmed throughout our lives to write for others, but once you get into the habit of writing freely, you will start to get a clearer picture of what your true feelings are and then be able to work through them.
4. Record it all: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to list the happiest moments of your life as well as the lowest moments of your life. This helps give you perspective of the complete picture. In reviewing your journal, you will be able to step back and see the whole story of who you are and how you got to where you are: what defines you, and where you want to go. Further, self-analysis builds self-worth by validating the entirety of your world-view, including your goals and values.
As you continue with your new journaling practice, you will begin to see your life through new eyes: you can now look at and clarify events that have shaped you. This in turn gives you a sense of control and reduces stress. A regular practice of journaling offers you the chance to explore your innermost thoughts and emotions, to know yourself better, and to engage in the most intimate and most important relationship you can ever have: with your true self. As my mother was fond of saying: “To know all, is to forgive all.”
Anderson CM. Writing and Healing: Toward an Informed Practice. 1999.
Ullrich, Philip M., M.A.; Lutgendorf, Susan K., Ph.D. Journaling About Stressful Events: Effects of Cognitive Processing and Emotional Expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2002.