One of the most important things we can do to gain insight into issues we experience, is to journal. Recently, on Facebook, I asked a few questions about journaling: “Do you journal?” and followed up that post with “5 reasons to journal” and thought, to myself, I ought to expand on this concept.
As we journal, at least five things start to happen within our minds and bodies. Keep reading to see what these are. As you start the process of journaling, I would like you to think about living a better and more balanced life. What does it mean to live a “balanced” life? *shrug* I don’t know! Is something I have heard often.
A balanced life, to me, means that the lifestyle (way you live) is equally distributed throughout your mind (cognitively and emotionally), your time (home, work and social) and physically. To have balance means to have the right amount of time and energy for each activity that you perform throughout a second, minute, hour, day or month.
5 Reasons to Journal
- Journaling promotes physical well-being: Writing in a journal helps to boost the immune system, oddly enough. By taking time to write out thoughts, feelings and beliefs boost the T-Lymphocytes, decreases asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Journaling helps to decrease anxiety and depression: As we allow our thoughts, feelings and beliefs to be written out (i.e. processed) and taken away from current focus, we begin to accept responsibility for the anxiety/depression we experience. Writing takes the power away from attending stressor (anxious or depressive thought/feeling).
- Journaling helps us sort through our thoughts, feelings and beliefs: By working through issues being felt, currently, can be one of the strongest ways to decrease stressors. When we write (talk or type), we allow the thoughts or feelings to become “real.” The stuff we have in the forefront of our minds needs to be processed – the only way this is possible is to place it somewhere outside of our minds. After the brain is told to process the thought, feeling or belief by writing it out (or typing/speaking), it can begin to place the pieces together and effectively “work through” the issue without being jumbled with the other thoughts, feelings and beliefs running rampant in our minds.
- Journaling helps us to get to know ourselves: Over a month ago (at the time of this writing), I posed the question “Who am I?” as an assignment, on Facebook. That post was received by 92 people (nearly double what most of my posts meet). So….”Who are you?” By journaling, you will be better to help yourself understand “who you are.”
- Journaling helps us to solve problems more efficiently and effectively: Journaling, it has been shown, in points 2-3 above, to help us reduce anxiety and depression, and sort through our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. So, allowing your mind a time and space to sift through issues more logically…Ta da! Bingo! That Magic Moment! Aha!! (Whatever you like to call it) – Your brain has processed the thoughts, feelings and beliefs, to an extent that allows it to come to a solution that leaves you feeling confident enough to move forward.
How do you start journaling? Easy…no really! Grab a pen, pencil or other writing utensil and something to write on (notebook, magazine with lots of space to write in the margins, a book that you know will not leave your side, or your phone or computer). You may not care for writing, or there may be another reason you are unable to write physically with a pen/pencil and paper. In this case, I encourage you to speak your journal instead using an audio recording device (I have used cassette recorders and my phone in the past).
I only offer one piece of caution when keeping the journal — keep it safe. Many individuals do not journal because they have concerns about others viewing it. If this is the case, it may be more beneficial to only physically journal in a book, notebook, etc, that is always with you, or that you may be able to leave in a space that will not be used by others. An office may be a place that offers privacy for your intimate thoughts, or even a lock box. Take time to determine the best place to store your journal.
Now, you have your journal and potential writing space start writing. What should you say? The answer is anything and everything that is on your mind at that moment. Start the journal by writing the date, time and place of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs at the top of the page. This will be beneficial when reviewing the entry later. Do NOT worry about grammar, punctuation or structure. These do NOT matter for your journal. Even though this may not seem to matter, it will hinder the processing of your thoughts, feelings and beliefs, as the focus will be on the presentation rather than the content.
Still not convinced? An internet search turned up quotes like these (paraphrased for privacy):
“…I suffer with depression and being able to write my thoughts has helped me to get serious about therapy. I write after each session, and in between, to see any themes that are developing. Then I am able to recall the events in the next session”
“…I use journaling as a way to decompress. I notice so many feelings and thoughts throughout a day and I am able to jot them down and work through issues so much better now.”
“…[journaling] has helped me to relate better to myself and others. I will normally write about my day, especially if I ended up in an argument, which helps me to see their perspective and why they acted the way they did.”
“I suffer with anxiety and while I do the best I can to cope with stress I find that journaling has helped me nearly as much as therapy. I have a tendency to fixate on objects and people, easily, and find myself needing an outlet, daily, to let things go. When I don’t journal I get overwhelmed – that’s when I KNOW it’s time to talk to a friend or start journaling again.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, depression or trauma, and is ready to work through the issues please consider contacting me. Until next time, I wish you well in journaling to help you find balance in life.