The Benefits of Journaling
I can clearly recall the first diary that was given to me back when I was a little girl. It had a lock with a tiny key on it and I was told this could keep all my secrets. The first entry in my book was about a tiny bird that my sisters and me had found in our backyard one day. It was so small that it couldn’t fly and although we spent a whole day waiting and watching, we couldn’t find its bird parents. We bought worms and little insects at a pet store nearby and tried our best to keep it alive, without touching it directly. Despite all our hopes and efforts, the little bird died only a few days later. The 7-year old me was heartbroken.
I cried when I wrote about our loss and I remember how I wrote down blessings and prayers for that bird. A few days later, I didn’t think about it anymore and life moved on. Following that day, I tried to put pen to paper a couple of times, but eventually my interest in writing faded away and I abandoned it amidst my books.
Today, 20 years later, writing has become one of my creative outlets and part of my daily routine. I can feel how restless I get if I don’t make time for writing for a couple of days in a row, it’s like my soul calls for it. I have always been a keen reader and enjoyed literature. I grew up with a language teacher and poet as a mother, who loves books as much as I do. But what finally got me into writing was one of the most challenging periods of my life about 5 years ago. Feeling depressed and trapped, a Chinese Medicine Practitioner suggested to me to start writing to express my feelings and let go.
I consciously bought a notebook that I liked. The Italian booklet had thick beige paper and a red leather cover. I chose a size that would allow me to write a lot, but still be portable, for I aimed to carry it with me wherever I went. And I did. I didn’t make it a daily practice, but I tried to listen to my heart more and more and sit down, mindfully, writing about what occupied my mind.
After a while, writing became a need. When I went running, when I sat in the sun, when I cooked, when I spent time with friends – poems and thoughts were running through my mind and requested to be written down. Today, it feels like a way of getting closer to myself.
As so often, my experience is a unique one, but also a human experience that I share with many. By now, researchers have digged into this topic and the results reveal the many benefits of writing.
According to the University of Rochester, writing helps as a tool to manage and reduce stress and anxiety. The great thing about writing your thoughts and feelings down is that you get the chance to understand what is causing you to feel the way you do. It can reveal a deeper meaning of any event in your life. Writing gives you the opportunity to recognize your behavior and patterns, reflect upon yourself and consequently evolve.
A study conducted and published by the Harvard Business School psychologist Francesca Gino and her team found that writing only 15 minutes per day can also lead to an improved performance and efficacy, as well as self-confidence.
Apart from that, research shows that journaling affects our physical health in various ways, too. People who made journaling part of their routine showed improved immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure, an improved lung and liver functioning.
All in all, journaling seems to be an incredibly holistic healthy habit. But how to get started? For those who are not writing (yet), adapting the practice of writing may seem difficult. Like to my 7-year-old self, sticking with the practice may seem challenging to you. The following tips will make this process a lot easier for you and hopefully support you in your journey, not just as a writer:
1. Buy a notebook and a pen that you like. They should appeal to you – look good, but also feel good. Nothing is more discouraging from writing than a pen that doesn’t work properly. The size of your journal is important, too. Some people like to carry very small booklets, as they fit into any bag easily, but for some people (like me) a format of about DIN A5 is more comfortable to write in.
2. Make writing part of YOUR routine. Can you set aside 5 minutes for writing every morning? Every evening before going to bed? Carry your journal in your bag and write down some thoughts while your having a break? The important thing is to make space for writing. I often write when I have breakfast and often carry my notebook with me wherever I go.
3. Have fun with it! There is no right or wrong way of doing it. If you only feel like noting down a few words, keywords, feelings or even draw – go for it!
I’m curious to hear about your experiences and opinions on journaling. What are the benefits and challenges you recognize in this form of self-care? Do you find a better connection to yourself through the practice of writing? Comment below or send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts with me.
Drake Baer, 'Expressive Writing' Is A Super Easy Way To Become Way Happier', http://www.businessinsider.com/the-positive-effects-of-journaling-and-expressive-writing-2014-5
University of Rochester, Medical Center, Journaling for Mental Health, https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1