Writing in a journal every day leads to numerous health and emotional benefits – so get started already!
It should be no secret to anyone that writing in a journal has proven its effectiveness as a stress-reduction technique.
Researchers, authors-to-be, doctors, coaches, and mental health counselors have known for years and years that keeping a consistent journal writing habit will lower your stress levels, help you deal with challenging emotions, and add a ray of sunshine to your occasionally pessimistic outlook.
You’re not a pessimist, you say?
How many times have you assumed the worst of an unknown situation? Has it gotten harder to remain optimistic since COVID-19 reared its ugly head and changed our lives forever?
Journaling is a time-tested method of releasing emotions, working through challenges, and enhancing self-knowledge that’s been used and embraced by visual and creative artists, great and deep thinkers, and all kinds of successful people.
Writing, drawing, or speaking out your entries every day will lead to reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in our perfectly imperfect human bodies.
Heavens to Betsy, we could ALL use a little more of that.
Cortisol has recognized negative effects on your mind, your overall physical health, and many more areas of your life.
Some of the benefits of a consistent journaling habit include the following:
— Improved cardiovascular health
— Enhanced memory and ability to recall events
— Greater ability to concentrate
— Stronger immune system responses.
Why? Because when you reduce stress, you create room for your body to act and react differently instead of being in “fight or flight” mode.
Let’s talk about Benefits, Baby
Journaling provides a host of benefits — let’s explore three important ones…
Benefit 1: Improving Your Level of Self-Knowledge
The more you know about yourself, the lower your level of worry and anxiety. Journaling causes you to slow down, engage in deeper thought, and helps you analyze your emotions.
The result is that you gain insight into who you are and what you’re made of. You understand your emotions better, and in the end, you gain clarity about the choices you have made and will make in your life.
When you achieve a higher level of self-knowledge, you have fewer occasions where you’re worried about how you feel and why you make the decisions that you’ve made. You’re less worried about why and more interested in reinforcing your good decisions.
Your daily journaling habit provides answers and information, which is a fine prescription for reducing the tendency to worry.
Benefit 2: Better Problem-Solving Skills
Your journal entries can help you analyze challenges and tease out solutions that occur in your life. The reason that writing longhand in a journal is the most recommended method is that it requires you to slow down and translate your thoughts and emotions into the entries.
Each of your entries is a valuable and important piece of information that will help you see what’s important to you. You’ve probably heard the expression, “What you focus on, grows…”
Focusing on your emotions and deciphering the messages within them will help make what’s important to you clearer. You’ll see where your strengths lie as you review old entries, and when you review how you’ve achieved success, you’ll see where your strengths and talents are.
Knowing your strengths can help you avoid challenges in the future, and you’ll rest assured that you can handle whatever comes your way because you have access to written proof that you’ve done just that!
Your journal can also help you identify negative influences that have affected your past choices — obstacles, triggers, and other influences. Knowing what has affected you in the past will lead to creating and implementing better solutions for your future.
That’s a sure way to lower your stress levels!
Benefit 3: Process Your Feelings and Improve Your Emotional Health
Processing your feelings by writing about them in your journal is an effective strategy — especially if you find it awfully hard to talk about your feelings.
Journals are a safe space — you have control over who has access to them (if anyone besides yourself), and you can keep them secure (notwithstanding those little gold locks on our childhood diaries).
You have control over the journal as a medium for recording your thoughts and working through your feelings. It’s always available to you — there are sizes of journals that can fit into a pocket, purse, or briefcase for easy use.
When you can identify, write about, and process your feelings, you can take charge of your reactions and manage them better.
You can head off emotional turmoil and avoid “stuffing down” your feelings by getting them out onto the pages of your journal. No more bottling up your feelings — release them and the stress of keeping them quiet.
Take Intentional Action with these Four Stress-Reducing Journal Activities
There are as many ways to use your daily journal habit as there are formats for physical journals — here are four of my favorites to help you start reducing your stress and enhancing your self-knowledge:
Favorite Use 1: Keep a Strategic To-Do List
Your journal can help you remember what you need (or want to do), track milestones and baby steps toward your goals, and document your progress along your journey.
By managing the details of your life, you reduce the need to worry and the associated stress.
Favorite Use 2: Track Your Reasons for Gratitude
Change your focus and look for the positive aspects of life — recording them in your journal on a daily basis will help you notice them more.
What you focus on grows, and what you look for appears — let your journal help you track the things, people, and events that make you smile and encourage your feelings of thankfulness.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps you focus on the positive aspects of your life, which reduces your anxiety and improves your outlook.
Favorite Use 3: Recognize and Release Your Emotions
Writing about your emotions — strong ones, soft ones, surprising ones, and motivating ones — provides a release for them. No more bottling them up inside until you’re like an emotional volcano ready to blow like Mount St. Helens.
Dealing with your feelings by writing about them can help you cope with them more effectively. The more sensitive you’re feeling, the more your entries will require you to analyze and process how you are feeling. Working through your feelings can allow you to let go of negative feelings instead of stuffing them down, and empower you to move on in a calmer, less burdened state of mind.
Favorite Use 4: Brainstorm Better Solutions
Writing about the details of a specific problem you’re dealing with can help reduce your stress levels by creating space for better solutions.
Reflective journaling makes space for you to think more deeply about your experiences and what they’ve taught you or what they’re teaching you. When you’re dealing with a current issue, it can be harder to reflect, but taking intentional time afterward to analyze the event and see what could have gone differently gives you space to find a better solution.
Reflective journaling can add clarity and inspire more helpful solutions for future use.
No matter which type of journal writing you employ, making it a daily practice opens the door to multiple benefits. You can choose one or more of the favorite uses listed above to diversify and strengthen your practice.
Don’t worry or stress about what to write — encourage and affirm an open, willing, and authentic mindset and your marvelously creative, versatile brain will kick into gear and do the work that will benefit many areas of your life.