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Do you think keeping a journal is an activity better suited to Victorian ladies and angsty pre-teens than to you? Think again! Journaling is a trendy and timely activity that people of all walks of life engage in, and journaling has become recognized by doctors and therapists as having significant health benefits.
Beautiful journals beckon to us from stationary store shelves and displayed at artists’ fairs. The gorgeous white pages make you want to spill out all your feelings.
Journaling can be anything from free association venting on paper, to careful notes about steps in reaching a goal, to directed prompts that force open some closed-up feelings.
But what exactly are the benefits of journaling for your health?
1. Journaling improves your emotional health and self-esteem.
By opening up your feelings and thoughts. Journaling is a private therapy between you and your feelings. You can freely express your pain and affirm that you are good enough to overcome all obstacles to be the person you know you can be. Repressing your thoughts and emotions is very hard work. Getting them out, even if no one ever sees your writing but you, is a tremendous stress relief.
Therapists regularly recommend that patients write freely to look at, and express their feelings about, traumatic events in a safe way. Journaling can be a very valuable tool in the healing process.When we hear negative messages from people in our lives, journaling is an opportunity to reject those messages and replace them with empowering and uplifting beliefs in yourself. There is something about writing them out on paper that somehow gives them power in our minds.
2.Journaling lets you sleep better.
Because you’ve cleared your head of stress and anxiety before going to bed. Sleeplessness is often caused by unresolved stress and worry. By journaling, you are dealing with it, forming a plan for how to overcome it, and then putting it away to rest unencumbered by it.
In a class I took recently, the instructor talked about how hard it used to be to get to sleep because she had so many business ideas and thoughts swirling around in her head. She solved the problem by implementing an idea she called Brain Dump. She spends a few minutes every night writing down everything, then looks at the list first thing in the light of day, prioritizing what needs to be worked into her business and which things are not good enough. She stores article ideas away to look at again when her mind draws a blank. And she sleeps very well at night.
3.Journaling helps you lose weight and keep it off.
It helps with weight loss because you not only track the essential elements (diet, exercise, etc.) but tie in your diet approach with your feelings, helping you to analyze and change your mindset about food and weight.
4.Journaling decreases stress and its effects on your immune system.
Instead of expending physical and mental energy on unnecessary things, journaling about It makes you more productive and focused by allowing you to think through your desired outcome and plan what needs to happen to reach it. Researchers at BJ Psych Advances (http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338.full) have also discovered some long term benefits of journaling. Because of reduced stress, journaling improves immune system functions, lessens the intensity of chronic pelvic pain, improves lung and liver functions, and reduces blood pressure.
5.Journaling makes you invested into your health.
By journaling and being accountable for keeping your own promises and goals, you become invested in what you want to see happen to your health, relationships and work. Being honest in your journaling allows you to accept responsibility for failure and plan for improving your chances for success.
Now that you understand why you should be journaling for your health, how exactly do you start and keep up with a journal?
There are some great journaling resources available and many different styles of journaling. For now, we’ll talk about traditional journaling.
Many people approach journaling from a perspective of wanting to “talk out” problems or crises in their lives. Date your page and just start getting it out on paper.
But for some people, journaling can have its own writer’s block. Life is going along pretty well – same old, same old. No drama or conflict going on, so what do you journal about? Fortunately, the internet abounds with great journaling resources.
I’m in love with Marelisa Febrega’s part DIY/part inspiration journal ideas.
Take some time for yourself and brainstorm a ton of possible journaling topics to talk about. Type them up, print them and cut individual ideas into paper strips, then put them in a pretty jar. When you’re stuck, pull one out. Don’t discard something that doesn’t appeal to you in the moment, just try to write how you feel about it. Marelisa has some great topic ideas to get you going including confessions, quotes, visual prompts, things I love, rituals, emotions, and more.
For even more, Margarita Tartakovsky has some journaling suggestions that can themselves be a jumping point to several ideas.
We are busy people, caught up in everyday life from the moment we get up until we go to bed at night.
Sometimes, we are so over-scheduled that we don’t have time for daily connections with people we love. Journaling addresses a need for unburdening ourselves when life gets in the way. It encourages you to be honest and release the thoughts and emotions that create stress and anxiety.
And, in times when life is a little grim, the journal entries from a happier time remind you that sunnier days will return. Read The Joy of Now for more on this topic and incorporate the ideas into your daily journaling.
If you already journal, please take a minute and share in the comments. I’d love to hear what your own prompts for journaling are and how journaling helps you in your daily life and with your health.
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