Life can be difficult in today’s stressful times. A lot of us strive to balance our rational and emotional sides as we make attempts to reach our goals. But in the process of doing that, we tend to neglect our emotional selves. We don’t realize the impact of this negligence until we crack or breakdown. In such dubious times, it is difficult to gauge what is required in the present moment. Of course, we all have our own coping mechanisms to fall back to. However, journaling seems to be an effective panacea of the modern self-care movement.
Read on to know more.
So what is journaling?
Journaling is a practice of self-expression that leads to emotional growth and healing. It is said that writing is a window to the soul. By writing down our innermost thoughts and emotions in a journal, we are able to explore and express our emotional sides creatively. Doing so has a plethora of benefits.
Why is it so important to maintain a journal?
According to James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist, journaling is a "whole cascade of things that occur". Scientific studies have shown that writing in a journal improves mindfulness, memory, and communication skills. It can also lead to better sleep quality and immune system, enhanced self-confidence, and a higher IQ.
A New Zealandian research suggests that the journaling could lead to faster recovery from physical injuries. After all, categorizing emotions and accepting traumatic events, while writing in a journal, have a positive impact on people.
Once we are able to make sense of our traumas and organize our emotions, our working memory enhances, and we are able to sleep better. This, in turn, helps us feel refreshed, focus better at work, and socialize more. But the question is, where do we begin from?
What do we write about?
There is no correct answer to this question. ‘Pick up a pen and start writing’ is the only way to find out what one must write about. And very often, we will be surprised to learn what all have we kept hidden in our minds.
Our words should not be smart, funny, or philosophical- in fact, they should not even be grammatically correct. So, don’t be concerned about spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You don’t need to be a ‘good writer’.
Use the opportunity to expel all angry, ugly, and petty thoughts you have stored in the deep recesses of your subconscious mind. Pour your heart out about the most traumatic or disturbing memories you may have experienced. It will definitely have a positive impact on your overall well-being.
How often should we write, and when?
It is recommended to write only when you feel the need to journal your thoughts. Journaling should not be an everyday practice. In fact, a focused journal writing session of even 15-30 minutes will serve the purpose.
Writing in the morning is proved to be highly beneficial. In this phase, we do not write with a specific topic in mind. Being raw and unrestricted in our thoughts help us to get insights and directions from unexpected quarters.
Expressive writing should be considered as a life course correction. It is not something you need to commit to doing every day for the rest of your life.
As Dr. Pennebaker suggests, if you are in deep agony, write for about 20 minutes each day for one week. If it isn’t helpful, go engage some different activity to divert your mind.
What tools can we use?
Experiment. You could write on your laptop or mobile phone. Nowadays, there are a plethora of apps that help you with the journal. Do not be concerned about the medium. You could even write with your non-dominant hand or talk to your voice recorder. Get creative by using different colored writing instruments. The point is to start writing.
Some questions to get started
Sometimes, we need some prompt questions, to get into the flow of things. Here are some questions you could make use of:
- How am I feeling today?
- What is making me anxious?
- What do I need to learn from this difficult situation or experience?
- Am I seeing the complete picture?
- What is my plan of action for the day, week, or month?
Remember, journaling is a powerful instrument for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. Use this tool to become more self-aware and awakened.