What is journaling?
Journaling is a daily writing practice. It’s where you take time out of your day to write your thoughts and feelings on events and situations that may have happened. It provides a chance for self-reflection, helping you to process the day.
There are a number of benefits of journaling and people who do it regularly say it helps them deal with stresses and challenges in life. But can writing your thoughts down on a piece of paper really be that helpful?
What are the benefits of journaling?
Journaling has been described as a life-changing activity helping to:
- understand and release emotions
- enable decision making and focus
- allow our subconscious mind to provide clarity and work out problems.
I’ve also read articles saying it can help with physical disorders. Now, whilst I can’t see journaling being a direct cure for illnesses, I can see the mind/body connection and the impact they have on each other. Our physical health massively affects our mental health and wellbeing – and vice versa.
Friends who I know that journal have told me it has helped them through some really difficult moments in life.
“In order to write about life first you must live it.”
The idea behind journaling is that it helps to process emotions and make sense of them. So many of us (and I fully include myself in this) are rushing our way through life juggling jobs, kids, homes and relationships. We have our phones to look at in the rare moments of down time when in the past we might have sat with our thoughts. One of the benefits of journaling is that it helps us to keep a record of our feelings so we can start to see if patterns emerge. This helps us to understand if there are issues that need dealing with or where we could reflect more upon.
Why I’m starting journaling
I have a tendency to overthink and get overwhelmed easily. I can also allow fear to stall my decision making and fall into patterns of catastrophic thinking. I go to worse case scenario and that paralyses my ability to move forward. Fun times being me.
I’m hoping that journaling will help me rationalise my feelings, stop my thought patterns of right/wrong thinking and help me be a tiny bit braver.
How to journal
Journaling requires little else other than a pen, paper and some free time (stop laughing at the back…). However, my research shows there seem to be a number of ways to journal and techniques to achieve different aims.
Expressive writing involves dedicating 15-30 minutes to writing down feelings rather than events (as in a more traditional diary). It doesn’t require you to stick to a narrative, grammar or spelling to allow your subconscious mind run free.
Bullet journals combine several elements including planning, tracking and journaling arranged in an artful way. It tends to be top line thoughts and I can see how they help track goals and intentions. They appeal to the organiser in me, however, I feel I need more self-reflection.
I tried expressive writing to document my feelings six months after my Dad died. I wanted to understand my grief and try to make sense of it all. The reality was that I found it too hard to emotionally connect with the words and like I was writing a story about my life rather than recording my emotions. It was possibly too soon, too painful and I wasn’t quite ready to open myself up completely.
I’ve decided I’m going to ask myself a question each time I journal. This might be as simple as checking in to see how I’m feeling to reflecting on events of the day.
Plus, I never need an excuse to buy a new notebook.