Several months ago, I was feeling low as though I was carrying all the problems in the world. A close friend of mine shared that she's writing in a journal and that it helps her cope with whatever it is she has to deal with. She suggested I try to do the same and see what it could do for me. So, I did.
I started by listing at least five things that I am grateful for or events that make me happy and thankful for, no matter how big and small they are. I call them my ‘wins’ for the day. Then, I would reflect on how I feel about each win and the values I get to learn from them. I got the idea from a two-month personality development course I attended in 2017 that I still apply today.
After putting together my thoughts of gratitude on a page of my notebook, I would read them aloud so I can hear what exactly I wrote. With this simple activity, I am reminded to see the good in life that I might have overlooked and failed to appreciate, especially when I'm having one of those days like we all do.
Journaling has been found to have a tremendous positive impact on our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Who would have thought that sitting with your pen and paper just a few minutes a day can bring quite surprising benefits? Here are some of them.
1. Journaling combats anxiety.
You are giving yourself a huge favor by jotting down a particular situation happening to you, writing the words that you tell yourself in that moment, and describing how you feel about it.
“There’s simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down,” said psychologist and co-author of ‘Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety & Phobia’ Dr. Barbara Markway in Psychology Today.
Keeping a record of your thoughts and emotions on paper will not only help you understand yourself better but will also help you control them in the long run.
"Only when you're fully conscious of your thoughts do you gain the power to change them," she added.
2. Journaling reduces stress levels.
Writing a journal provides an outlet where we can confess things we find hard to express to and share with others. It encourages us to open up by putting our worries and fears on a piece of paper without fear of being judged.
“There are other times, like life transitions, in which just having someone write for thirty minutes each morning about what they think and feel about that transition will bring down their stress, bring down their anxiety, and make them more resilient against depression because they are more self-aware,” Therachat – Medium quoted Dr. Maggie Perry, the founder of Huddle.care.
Meanwhile, a 2011 study published in Psychological Science revealed how stress is reduced by getting rid of negative thoughts through journaling. High school students in Spain were asked to write their negative thoughts about their body image and to throw away the paper where they put them afterward. Later on, the thoughts they had no longer affect them.
3. Journaling promotes an increased self-awareness.
Aside from overcoming difficult situations and gaining perspective about ourselves, we also get the key to unlocking a deeper self-discovery by writing down our struggles and successes.
Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) Kaia Kordic said that writing our actions and feelings down in a journal is among the best ways to practice self-awareness.
In her words: “Journaling helps develop that awareness muscle. If a client reflects on her fight with the boyfriend only during the session, progress will take a lot longer. But, if she journals about it or tracks symptoms and conflicts throughout the week, she will become aware of her choices, actions, and experiences sooner.”
4. Journaling spells greater chances of achieving our goals.
While journaling can inspire us to think about possible solutions to our problems, it is also our ticket to success.
It may sound cliché, but you have to write down your goals if you really want to accomplish them. A research study The Gender Gap and Goal-Setting done by Mark Murphy found that writing down goals is associated with goal success.
According to his findings, people who described their goals in written form are "anywhere from 1.1 to 1.2 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals" compared to those who didn't.
5. Journaling improves physical wellness.
Writing down your problems, hopes, ideas, and plans on paper is said to reap physical health benefits. A 2006 study in The Journal of the American MedicalAssociation found that patients who wrote journals experienced lesser physical symptoms than those who didn't. The researchers conducted the study with 112 patients suffering from asthma and arthritis.
Michael Grothaus, a journalist and an avid journal writer himself, also noted several studies highlighting the therapeutic effects of journaling and its ability to drop blood pressure, provide better sleep, and strengthen the immune system.
6. Journaling helps manage depression.
Journaling can be an aid to people experiencing depression as it opens up an outlet to release pent-up emotions and let go of negative thoughts. It can help us stay in a more positive side of our minds.
However, journaling is not a replacement for professional therapy. If you think you are depressed and the feelings and thoughts won't go away, seek help from a licensed doctor.
7. Journaling amplifies our overall sense of gratitude.
As we release negative tension and mindset through journaling, we get a boost to our happiness and well-being. As it guides us to slow down and watch our minds, we are creating a better lifestyle and a better version of ourselves until we are able to finally live our lives to the fullest.
Journaling is not only for people who can write – it is for me, for you, and for everyone who wants to free up their minds and breathe. Write. You need not to be an established prolific writer like Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway to start now. All you need is a pen and paper, and the intention to do it.