Journaling is a practice that can change your life with very little cost, effort, or time. It might sound too good to be true, but the benefits of journaling are backed by studies and professionals. Journaling is a practice I use regularly for all of the reasons below.
Journal writing helps those who practice it know themselves. In my experience I see my strengths and faults as I write on a regular basis. Having an awareness about them allows me to act. I choose to change the negative and build on the positive. I also reconsider viewpoints and interactions I have had with others, based on what I see on paper.
Journal writing calms worries. Hans Schroder, a doctoral candidate at Minnesota State University, writes, “journaling empties our brain, empties worries that are disruptive to task performance.” When I write my worries down I can see that some of them are not likely to happen, and some of them may be carrying a valid message and need to be addressed. Writing worries down frees up space my brain can use for true problem solving, rather than rumination, or circle making.
Journal writing shines a light on patterns in relationships and life. Journals reveal the things we tell ourselves often, “I am not good enough, or, “I will never be able to do this, or, “I deserve better.”
What we tell ourselves has a strong impact on how we show up and perform in our lives. Before athletes compete, many repeat positive statements to themselves and envision running through their performance flawlessly. We would do well to learn from them. What thought patterns do you have running through your mind? Do they serve your success or bring you down? A journal is an ideal place to discover what is running through your mind and speaking into your day.
Journal writing as a spiritual practice brings peace. In the book, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes several times about being in desperation and deep sorrow. She wrote her way out, by calling out for help, on paper, and then writing what came up for her. What came to her instantly were words that calmed despair and tears and settled her in a way she could not settle herself. I have had the same experience, calling out to God from a place of despair and tears. As I write, I have often encountered an instant peace, something that is not created by me.
Journaling what one is grateful for boosts joy and optimism According to Dr. Robert Emmons, a researcher at the University of California, writing about what brings one joy can help lift depression. Three times a week is recommended. Writing about happiness shifts those who write to a state of gratitude and power as they recognize the positives and the power they have to create experiences and interactions that bring joy. Sometimes joy arrives unexpectedly, and the pause to see it and register it is all that is needed to lift one’s spirits.