Perhaps you have tried to start a journal, but only got through two entries before it started collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. Maybe you are considering starting a journal, but you have a curious brain like me, and wonder why bother? It turns out journaling has many benefits. Here are three of them:
1. Journaling is cathartic. Getting out your thoughts and feelings on paper is a healing process. If you have been playing a situation over and over in your mind, take the time to write it out. You can then leave it there on paper and move forward, instead of increasing your stress by dwelling on the situation. Sometimes by translating our thoughts into words, we come upon solutions we didn’t realize were there. I encourage you to write in a stream of consciousness way, don’t sensor your journal, just write out your thoughts. This helps you to clear your head so that there is room for more positivity and creativity in your brain. Get in the habit of setting aside some time to journal, perhaps first thing in the morning or right before bed. By keeping your journal somewhere private (or password protected if it is electronic) you may feel more comfortable writing down whatever comes to your mind.
2. Journaling increases your self-awareness. By taking the time to put your thoughts down on paper, you are engaging with yourself and increasing your awareness of your present thoughts and emotions. Once you are aware of the negative thoughts and able to label the emotions that go with them, you can begin the process of change. Without the awareness, you don’t even realize you need to change. When you change your thoughts, you can change your feelings, which can in turn change your actions. Our minds have a very powerful effect on how we see the world, in fact 90 percent of your happiness long term is predicted by the way your brain processes the world, not by external events happening to you.
3. Journaling, specifically gratitude journaling, can rewire your brain and increase happiness. Journals are not just for the negative events, journaling provides a great space to remember happy experiences too. There has been a lot of research on the health and happiness benefits of the practice of gratitude, which is being thankful. Practicing gratitude journaling three new things you are thankful for everyday can actually rewire your brain, according to Shawn Achor in his TedTalk titled “The happy secret to better work”. According to Achor, when you keep a gratitude journal for at least three weeks, your brain starts scanning the world first for positive things as opposed to negative things or threats. When you journal about positive events, your brain relives them. This allows you to re-experience the pleasant emotions associated with the positive experience. By practicing gratitude, it can improve sleep, decrease depression, and lessen bodily aches and pains.
A few tips for getting started on journaling:
- If you miss a day or more of journaling, remind yourself that it's okay instead of beating yourself up with negative self-talk. Just pick it back up again.
- Does 20 minutes of journaling sound overwhelming? Try a one-sentence journal, where you write one sentence per day. Or make a goal of writing one sentence a day in your journal, and once you’re journaling if you feel like writing more, go for it, and feel good about surpassing your goal.
- Are you stuck on what you should journal about? Start with one of these topics:
o 3 things you are thankful for today
o What are ten things you want loved ones to know about you?
o What is one thing you would do if time/money/failing were not an issue?
Hopefully these three benefits to journaling will motivate you to get started today! Post your journal topic in the comments below, happy journaling!