Journaling as a Tool for Holistic Health : 7 Amazing Benefits
Keeping a journal is one of the simplest and most effective techniques that can take you to a state of holistic wellbeing, sustained coherence, and improved quality of life. More than being a mere planner or a record of your day-to-day activities, your journal is a powerful tool that can heal you, help you establish a positive mindset, and help you navigate effortlessly through your life challenges. Here are 7 impactful ways in which journaling can help you become healthier, happier, and more successful.
Journaling brings more awareness and evokes mindfulness — Psychologists have said that man is a creature of habit. We often display the same learned response to particular triggers from the environment. Then, it should come as no surprise that the results of our actions do not change. If we want to grow, develop, and overcome the challenges in our lives, we need to first understand what are the things that keep us stuck in the loop. We need to live the day with increased awareness about our thoughts, emotions, speech, and actions. Towards this goal of more conscious living, journaling can be of great help. It helps identify trends and patterns in our behavior. It also enables us to see whether we have made any changes or achieved progress over time. When done consistently, journaling thus becomes a great self-learning tool.
Journaling brings coherence to our thoughts and feelings — Our thoughts and feelings are not always aligned. Using facts and logics can be a good strategy to make any decision, but what to do if feelings of uneasiness and hesitation persist? Journaling brings clarity to your thoughts and feelings. It prods you to look at a situation from multiple angles, and helps you see the different drivers in your decision-making. For example, if you still hesitate to launch your project even though you are convinced it makes perfect business sense, then something else might be in play. Is there an ethical aspect of it, which is in conflict with your own ethical stance? Or could it be that you are too risk-averse and afraid of failure? Journaling lends a voice to both the cognitive and the emotional side of your personality. The simple act of putting things down on paper is immensely powerful. Once you understand where your uneasiness and hesitation come from, you will find it easier to organize and reconcile your thoughts and feelings, and thus make better decisions.
Journaling reduces stress and anxiety — Mental health experts say that people who actively keep a journal are less stressed and have better coping mechanisms to deal with depression and anxiety. There are three key reasons why journaling is effective in managing stress. Firstly, it enables you to focus on positive self-talk and affirmations. Secondly, it makes you keep track of any symptoms and negative triggers, so that you can stay in control of the situation. And thirdly, it helps you resolve your problems and fears by taking a bird’s eye view of your life and identifying new paths, approaches, and solutions. It has also been reported that journaling (especially before going to bed) prevents insomnia and improves the quality of your sleep. Namely, the journal is your medium where you can reflect, recapitulate, and plan your activities. This makes you feel better prepared to deal with the challenges of tomorrow. It strengthens your self-confidence, your feeling of agency, and relieves your anxieties about the future.
Journaling can heal you — Numerous scientific studies have shown that regular journaling boosts your overall immunity. Journaling also helps people recover faster from any traumatic experience. Scientists have reported faster injury healing and post-surgical recovery in patients who have kept a journal. By writing things down, people are able to face, process and overcome these experiences, rather than avoid them and push them into the subconscious mind, where they can persist and cause long-term issues. The practice of regular journaling also reduces blood pressure and improves the function of the liver and lungs. Some experts point out the fact that long-term journaling brings order, structure, and coherence in the way we perceive our life. We begin to look at life holistically, from a higher perspective, able to see how all our experiences, relationships and actions fit into the overall story of our lives.
Journaling brings a feeling of gratitude — With regular journaling, you start becoming more aware of all the good things in your life. While most people take good things for granted, and focus exclusively on their problems and obstacles, happy individuals do not forget to count their blessings. The ability to identify all the well-functioning areas in your life can feel you with positive thoughts and emotions and make you optimistic. Rather than brooding over disappointments and frustrations, successful people turn to the present moment as an opportunity to create more reasons for being happy. A positive mindset keeps stress hormones at a distance, triggers the release of endorphins, and sustains a state of heart-mind coherence.
Journaling improves your memory and problem-solving skills — Studies in neurology have confirmed that regular writing enhances a wide-range of cognitive skills, including memory, attention, comprehension, analysis and problem-solving. Through journaling, you train your brain to recall, process and analyze information, identify patterns, and structure your experiences, tackle a problem from different angles, and keep generating workable solutions. Journaling indirectly boosts your IQ (through a development of your language and communication skills, which are positively correlated with intelligence).
Journaling helps you stay focused on your purpose and goals — The act of journaling ensures that you have clarity about your dreams, short-term goals, and long-term ambitions. Your journal is your constant companion and a reminder of your direction, your progress, and your ultimate purpose. It helps you stay focused and disciplined, but also proud of all your accomplishments and progress.
Key Ingredients of an Effective Journaling Practice
Commitment—To be an effective practice, journaling needs to be done regularly. Dedicate 15–20 minutes every day (or at least 5 days a week) to this activity. Evening is probably the best time to write in your journal; you will have a good perspective over everything that has happened throughout the day. Note down and reflect over your interactions with other people, the progress you have made in your work or studies, the events/incidents which took place and your response/reaction to them.
Patience—With time, the initial excitement about journaling can significantly subside. Just like any other regular activity which requires discipline and routine, journaling, too, can put to a test your patience and willpower. Persist in your efforts. As soon as you start experiencing all the benefits that journaling brings into your life, you will gain motivation to continue with the practice.
Practical Tips on How to Get Started
- Buy a journal and allocate a convenient time of the day for writing.
- Write down a list of immediate, short-term goals, and then identify a narrower set of 2-3 long-term goals. Draft a simple timeline.
- Write down a list of your personal strengths, achievements, and things that make you feel proud or accomplished.
- Write down a list of things which you would like to improve or develop. The list can include any skills or personal traits — from learning a foreign language to becoming better at negotiation to managing your anger.
Revisit these lists from time to time. Make sure you keep track of your progress and celebrate whenever a milestone is reached. Each time you are faced with a major challenge, map it against your strengths, areas for improvement, and your goals. Your daily journal can include the following elements:
- Write about your day—the events that happened, the people you interacted with, the activities you engaged in, and the results/outcomes. Describe what you think and how you feel. Try to balance between expressing your thoughts and emotions. Ignoring one or the other may create a lopsided image and restrict your ability to understand what is really going on in your life.
- List the things that made you feel grateful today. You can include anything, whether big or small—a kind gesture from your spouse, a smile from a complete stranger, a beautiful flower that blossomed in your garden, or a completion of an important project at work.
- Sketch a plan of activities for tomorrow. It does not need to be detailed. It can be a brief to-do list. It can be a single-point agenda if you intend to focus on one important thing only. If you anticipate a complex situation, you can choose to be more elaborate.
Be creative and personalize your own journaling experience. The format, content and the structure of your journal can change. The most important thing is to keep your journal alive, and to keep exploring the many ways in which it can become a helpful tool.
- 5 Science-Based Benefits of Journaling (https://www.holstee.com/blogs/mindful-matter/5-science-based-benefits-of-journaling#Journaling_Can_Reduce_Depression_and%20Anxiety)
- Journaling for mental health. University of Rochester Medical Center (https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1)
- 10 Surprising Benefits You'll Get from Keeping a Journal (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/benefits-of-journaling-_b_6648884)
- The surprising benefits of journaling for 15 minutes a day—and 7 prompts to get you started by Kabir Sehgal and Deepak Chopra (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/25/deepak-chopra-benefits-of-journaling-and-8-prompts-to-get-you-started.html)
- 83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress (https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/)