How Journaling could be great for your well-being
Journal writing can conjure up images of angst-ridden teenagers hiding secret diaries under their pillows because they had no Facebook to spill their thoughts but there is much more to journaling than that including being beneficial for your well-being.
Does it feel like your mind jumps from one thing to another or your thoughts are swirling around instead of leading you to the conclusion you need? Maybe you open your mouth and find it difficult to express yourself?
Clearer writing in a lot of ways meant clearer thinking
For a long time, I found it difficult to express myself through words. There is definitely nothing wrong with being quiet, in fact, it’s especially annoying to me when I see children being overly criticised about this: there is no one set way to be or to learn.
But finding it difficult to express ourselves can be extremely imprisoning and leave us feeling unfulfilled, unhappy and lost.
Looking closer and finding beauty in the everyday
If you can remember the first time you got a camera, you will probably remember taking pictures of everything in sight. Every object, tree and cloud went from being unregistered and unassuming to a possible subject within the lens of your viewfinder.
It magnifies the wonder in the seemingly mundane.
Writing was, and still is, a way for me to put my mind into the outside world: there is something comforting in seeing the intangibility of thought transformed by ink and paper in front of your eyes.
Showing it to others was even more amazing: that they could read these thoughts and not be afraid, but, in fact, even be interested.
I wrote more and more, and started essay writing for my degree, where we were taught how to sharpen and develop our writing. This process definitely had a drastic impact on my thoughts: it seemed clearer writing in a lot of ways meant clearer thinking.
But what does research say?
Though writing may not help everyone, research into the subject shows solid reasons for giving it a try. Dr. James Pennebaker, who has written a book on the subject, believes mental health, physical health and general well being can be improved through expressively writing about the trauma or upsets in our lives.
Interestingly, Pennebaker has noted that use of words that denote a processing of the situation such as ‘understand’ or ‘realize’ mean greater benefits for the writer. Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology, stated on the subject:
“In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses.”.
This relates to putting our thoughts into words in both speech and writing. However, because speaking about certain feelings or situations can take a lot of courage, writing acts as a good stepping stone.
How to Make it Happen: Putting Pen to Paper
We’ve listed 8 ways to help you begin Journaling below…
1. Practice writing freely to encourage emotional openness
A productive but simple exercise is writing whatever comes to mind without stopping. Spelling, punctuation and sense can be put to the side in order to carry on writing.
2. Describe your thoughts and feelings to reveal them more deeply
Describe what you are thinking, what you can see and how you feel without forming the thoughts fully before putting them down. If you are sitting staring at a blank sheet of paper, it is easy for your thoughts to become stilted and stuck.
There are days when this is a breeze and others where I feel like i’m moving against a strong wind to get forward.
3. Defeat the fear of being wrong, by continuing to write regardless
The only rule to this kind of writing is to ignore self-conscious voices in your head that tell you what you are doing is stupid. Write in a private space and rip up your writing after, if that’s what it takes to be honest and open. No one learns to swim well by standing at the edge of a swimming pool, so jump in.
4. Look back on your writing to view your own thoughts objectively
Leaving the writing for a while and coming back with a fresh and objective view will help you to sift through it. Like a sculpture created from a rock, you will be able to see the refining process as each page of your journal is turned.
5. Use linking words to make sure your thoughts are moving forward
Instead of repeating the same thing in different words, once you have made a point follow it with: ‘because’, ‘on the other hand’, ‘this makes me understand’/ ‘realize’… or something similar.
6. Question yourself to figure out what you really mean
Everyone tells themselves stories about why they do what they do, even if they are not necessarily logical. Although it can make us uncomfortable at first, it is important to question and clarify our own intentions to ourselves; it is easier to do this when they are written down.
7. Feel more positive about average days
If you feel you have had a bad day, write down all the reasons…
- Why was it was bad?
- How you feel about the reasons you have given and what you did in each situation?
- What was good about the day? (even if it is a small thing)
Significantly, reading over what we have written allows us to see what could have been done differently or worked on and to see that perhaps the day was not all as terrible as built up in our minds.
Purging and recognizing your emotions can make you feel a whole lot clearer and calmer.
8. Don’t turn it into a boring task
If sometimes you just want to write about something silly, tell a joke or write a love letter to a delicious lunch, then go ahead. Or if you don’t feel like journaling at all for a while, just keep the journal close by and go with how you feel and most of all…
Have fun with your journaling!
Infographic to download….
Also make sure you grab our FREE guide full of Inspiration Prompts to help get the creative process started.
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