The Importance And Benefits Of Journaling
In terms of self-help, there are few things quite so effective at changing your life as journaling.
In fact, journaling is one of those ‘keystone’ habits, as talked about by Charles Duhigg, in his book, The Power of Habit. He describes how keystone habits tend to build a whole host of other positive habits around them almost entirely by themselves.
Think of how a decluttering habit leads to cleaner and tidier surroundings at home, eventually affecting your workspace. The decluttering habit may then move into non-tangible areas of your life, such as your relationships.
That’s because a keystone habit is a core found at the center of other patterns. In the decluttering example, the core concept is to remove things from your life you no longer need, or no longer give you joy. This will force you to examine the objects you have in your life.
As you get used to this mindset, you start noticing other areas of life where you’re holding onto things you no longer need, and that don’t give you joy. This very naturally leads to things like the ‘decluttering’ of relationships, or the sudden desire for a shift in career.
Now think of journaling as a keystone habit. What is at the core of journaling which makes it so significant?
The core of journaling is not only the ability to express yourself but the need to.
Journaling forces you to examine and understand the world around you. At the same time, it places you within the world, inviting you to see and understand your role in things.
This constant examination and re-examination of yourself is a powerful thing with far-reaching consequences.
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Even if you never reach beyond the surface of journaling, you will still find numerous positive benefits.
Let’s look at those first:
- You Experience Personal Expression
Being able to put into words how you perceive the world is a feeling like no other. The very act of doing so gives a sense of great satisfaction. After all, these are your impressions, put forth uniquely in your own voice.
- You Give off Creative Sparks
The more you write, the more you’ll see how things fit together. This leads to new ideas starting with a “what if…” and goes from there into creative leaps, taking you into fresh and new territory waiting to be explored.
- You Cement Learning
Even the things you already know become more concrete and tangible once you set them down on paper. If you really want to understand something thoroughly, journal about it.
- You Put Things in Order
Writing things down helps you easily see what you need to do and how to go about doing it. This is organization, plain and simple. It enables you to accomplish more while feeling less frazzled.
- You Realize Goals
When you journal, you set down your visions and dreams for the future, and at the same time create the roadmap to get you there.
Writing about goals on a regular basis keeps you inspired. Writing about the steps along the way helps you keep on course to reach those goals. It’s so helpful to track your progress and mark down each milestone as you reach it.
- You Become a Historian
Your journal becomes a record of your personal history. No one else is experiencing the world in the same way you are. Your impressions, the very actions of your life have importance. Because you journal, you preserve what it means to be you, here in this moment for your future self—and even generations to come.
- You Become a Writer
In the end, the daily act of writing develops your ability with words, a habit of putting thoughts on paper, and a voice uniquely your own. You have become a writer, ready to stretch your wings and fly into the world of stories, articles, and books if you so desire.
What you may not realize is journaling takes you much deeper, into a world you might not even be aware of.
The true power of journaling is how it affects you personally, in your interactions with others, and your understanding of yourself.
Read on to discover a multitude of benefits that impact your mental health in surprising ways:
- Your Mood Improves
When you write things freely, you’re given the ability to vent on paper. This action has a way of removing the dreck of the day from you; you immediately start feeling better.
- Your Anxiety / Depression Disappears
While journaling might not be the cure for a panic attack just yet, the very act of writing about the things causing worry and angst helps put things into perspective.
At the very least, journaling traps them on paper and removes them from your mind so you can better process these worries.
This step back is what enables you to take a deep breath and relax so you don’t get so caught up in a worry/depression spiral where you can’t see the forest for the trees.
- You Gain Clarity
If you’re having trouble figuring out the best course of action in a problem, writing about it is a sure way to get a clearer perspective.
Many times, we’re simply too close to the situation. When you step back and try to put things into words, generally you start seeing things you may have missed, and as a result, gain better insight to your next steps.
- You See Things as They Are
We are not always as honest with ourselves as we would like to be.
Journaling is what forces us to see the lies we tell ourselves so that we can see past them to the truth. Thankfully, the act of journaling, while calling us on our BS, is also non-judgmental. This isn’t something we can always say about our friends!
- You Become a Problem-Solver
The very act of writing down a problem often leads directly to a solution.
If not, the writing process becomes a way to work through the options to solve whatever problem is plaguing you. This gets interesting when used as a process because you’re triggering the creative side of the brain over the logic side when you use writing. This enables you to find solutions you might not otherwise.
- Helps You to See the Rhythm of Your Life
Nothing helps you to get a better handle on the routines, habits, and cycles of your daily life than writing down your actions every day.
After a while of doing this kind of writing, you start to see where the patterns are, good and bad. This enables you to address habits and poor choices with an eye toward change.
- Journaling Becomes Therapy
Only writing allows you to work through complicated emotions so thoroughly.
By journaling about the peaks and valleys, and then working to determine what causes moods and even triggers, journaling helps you identify better courses of actions. This is why journaling is such a favorite tool of therapists, making it a part of your daily recovery process.
- You Get to Know Yourself Better
The more you work through the deeper issues, the more you start to understand your own moods and reasons for doing things. This kind of self-knowledge is a good thing.
- You Start to Understand Forgiveness
When you write about the things that hurt you in the past, you also learn how to let those things go.
This is how you finally move beyond the past and come to embrace the future. A necessary step here is forgiveness. Journaling is the perfect place to work out those complex emotions of hurt and betrayal so you can finally lay them to rest.
If there are relationships you need to be healed from in order for this to happen, you have the place to work through the emotions holding you back from being able to do so.
- You Deal with the Past
Sometimes the act of laying things to rest isn’t quite so easy as forgiveness and moving on.
Some hurts take time to work through, especially those that happened in childhood when you didn’t have the understanding of what was truly going on.
Journaling helps you to work through those memories, giving you clarity and understanding you can use moving forward. You might have to do some work here, to rewire the messages your past is trying to provide you with. Luckily, journaling is an excellent tool for working through damaging messages from the past and turning them into more positive statements of self-affirmation.
- You Change in your Treatment of Others
Have you ever had trouble putting yourself in someone else’s shoes?
It might be easier to try it in writing first. Discover true empathy as you become more sensitive to those around you. Journaling teaches compassion.
- You Resolve Disagreements Better
Empathy might put you in someone else’s shoes, but it can’t make them like you.
When you have a disagreement, where do you turn? Your journal can help you work through the details of what went wrong. It also gives you a place to rehearse the dialogue necessary to resolve the disagreement. When the time comes, you will have the words needed to act as a peacemaker.
- You Discover Truth About Yourself
Journaling reveals a lot more than your basic likes and dislikes.
As you write, you’re going to discover a lot of truths about yourself, even some that have remained hidden until now. You learn what drives your emotions as well as your actions. This knowledge can help enable you to work through your negative behavior patterns.
The beauty of this is how much stronger you come away after the fact. You start to see all the ways you’re connected with the rest of the world and your importance in those connections. You come to trust the person you’re becoming, and even to like yourself. In short, journaling helps you to become your very best version of you.
- It Puts you in Balance with the World
There is a certain harmony that comes from living a life in tune with the world.
Journaling helps you to see where you fit in. You find connections to the world around you, to the people and things in your life. You discover the symbiotic nature of life and come to embrace your part in the universe. In this aspect of things, journaling truly does inspire peace and unity.
Journaling has proven time and again to help fight stress. Stress if one of the worst things for our health. It effects our diet, sleep and mood. On top of that, it releases damaging hormones into our body.
Reducing stress is often the trigger to a whole host of health benefits. As a stress relief tool, journaling can actually boost your physical health.
If you remember the list from the introduction, we already pointed out that people who journal:
- Have a better immune system
- Tend to do better in medical treatment, even for such diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and asthma
- Heal more quickly in a post-operative environment
Why? It all goes back to the stress component.
The very act of writing about things you are connected to emotionally activates certain areas in your brain. When these areas are activated, you can more efficiently process, generate a more pleasurable mood, and function cognitively at a higher level. All of which helps you come up with creative solutions to any potential problems or stressors in your life.
In short, journaling gives some of the benefits you’d get if you were ranting to your best friend.
Journaling also gives you the added bonus of an increase in reasoning skills and a shift in mood for the better that is more long-lasting than what you would get in a rant session with your BFF.
People who are less stressed have better immune systems, heal faster, and tend to enjoy a better quality of life.
Nowhere is this more evident than in people who are going through serious medical issues such as cancer. Not all the benefit is from mere stress reduction though. Journaling has been proven to raise the quality of life in patients. Those who journal while dealing with a severe medical condition do better in accepting their diagnosis and processing everything going along with it. These patients do far better in treatment than those who do not journal.
In the end, it’s impossible to deny the benefits that come from journaling. With so many reasons to journal, the only question remaining at this point is how to go about getting started.
Jot This Down!
Which one of these benefits of journaling appeals to you the most? Why?