Painted on cave walls, carved into stone tablets, or painted onto parchment, in one form or another, humans have always kept journals. Meditations, written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in the second half of the 2nd century AD and one of the oldest journals still widely read for its spiritual reflections and insights. Yet some are dismissive of journaling seeing it as ‘navel gazing’ or a way for teenage girls to record their romantic crushes. While keeping a journal is an act of introspection, that doesn’t mean it is not valuable or worthwhile. There are a number of health benefits that come from putting pen to paper and recording your story. In addition, as well as health, evidence would also suggest that journaling can impact and improve our lives in many other forms such as the efficiency and pace at which we carry out everyday tasks.
Psychiatrists often encourage their patients to log how they are feeling as a form of therapy, supporting the idea that journaling helps psychological wellbeing. But you don’t need to see a psychiatrist to enjoy the benefits that come from recording and reflecting back on your feelings to your health.
Research conducted by University of Texas psychologist and researcher, James Pennebaker found that one of the benefits to writing your thoughts down, is the ability to solve problems more effectively. This is because, typically when solving a problem we use the left side of our brain, which is recognised for its analytical ability. However, when you write things down you use the right side of your brain, offering a more creative perspective on the problem. As a result of this, you are encouraging your brain to analyse situations further to help you come up with a solution, which as a consequence encourages a more mindful response to challenging situations. For example, if something annoys or upsets you, instead of letting the irritation or hurt feelings fester inside you, writing down what happened and how you felt can act as a release. What’s more you may even find a solution by reflecting on what happened or an understanding into how to handle the situation better next time.
Another journaling plus point is how it can help you increase your productivity. By keeping a journal, you are effectively ‘tracking’ what you are doing. Tracking is an effective method to help you achieve goals as it helps you to measure your progress. For example, if you are trying to save money or lose weight, tracking what you have done enables you to identity what is holding you back. As a result of this, it can encourage you to remove these distractions, making your goal more achievable.
Lastly, one of main benefits of journaling is reflection. This could be on how to solve problem, deal with life’s challenges or to simply to better know your own feelings. We live in a fast paced world; we have busy demanding lives where we juggle more and more. Taking time out and reflecting on our true feelings, which in the heat of the moment we may have been unaware of, can carry huge benefits. Take our word for it, mindful journaling can be a revelation.
References and further reading (click to view):
The Health Benefits of Journaling, Maud Purcell (via Psych Central)
Writing to Heal, Bridget Murray (via APA.org)
Journal Therapy, Kathleen Adams (via JournalTherapy.com)
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