A few years back, a good friend introduced me to the concept of, “journaling.” Of course, I had heard of journaling before, but had never tried it for myself; I associated journaling with teenage girls and sparkly diaries with pictures of their crushes. Being a 21 year old male who liked to lift heavy objects and drink beer, I did not see the appeal of keeping a diary and writing my deepest secrets in it.
But, I tried it any way, then tried it again, and again… after some time, I was actually writing every day; I even bought a few specialty notebooks so that I could write without the restrictions of lines!
Needless to say, I have found many benefits to journaling; I wish to discuss them in this article along with a few tips that have kept me writing nearly every day for the past three years.
Benefits of Journaling
I have written an article on dream journaling, which is essentially the same idea as keeping a diary, only you are writing when your mind and body are in a more relaxed state and you are simply recalling what you had dreamed about; the writings can later be analyzed. The benefits I have seen from dream journaling include feeling more connected with myself, others, and the environment, “predicting” future events, objectively viewing events which may have occurred in past lives, experiencing the unity of past, present, and future, reduced tension, and clearer insight (see Further Resources – 1).
The benefits of journaling in an “awakened” state can be equally as profound. By awakened I simply mean you are awake and have been moving about throughout the day.
The first benefit I have seen by journaling in this way is being able to express myself without a filter. When you write, you can say whatever you want! Whatever you are feeling, if you feel angry towards someone, if you are extremely excited about an upcoming event, anything really. In day to day life, we may consciously or unconsciously filter how we truly feel, to appease societal norms or perhaps avoid hurting someone’s feelings. If we do this repeatedly and never fully express our creativity, excitement, anger, or sadness, it may manifest as a physical illness. Journaling is a great tool in that you can truly express yourself without the worry about affecting anyone else in a negative way.
Another benefit I have seen from journaling is that decision making becomes easier. When I write, I can sort through my thoughts, allowing them to flow without any restrictions. Rather than dwelling on them all day, 15 or more minutes of writing often gets to the bottom of the indecision; I can see how I truly feel, what I have been repressing, and what actions can be taken to move forward in the most positive, productive way.
As implied by this benefit, you may have deep insights into your own actions and behaviors; when I write truthfully and for extended periods of time, I tend to get to the root of my challenges. This allows them to become overcome much more easily.
In addition, writing can foster independence in decision making. It is often easy to first ask a friend or professional for advice when you are facing a difficult challenge; but decisions are ultimately our own. We must decide what is best for us, no one can make our decisions for us. I have found that journaling often gets to the roots of challenges and the need to ask others for help or advice fades away as a deeper understanding of the self arises. Of course, friends, family, and professionals are always there when the challenges of life cannot easily be overcome, but journaling has been a great first step in my experience to deal with these challenges; when I do consult with others, it can be with very specific questions and in a way that is not overwhelming to them; this is because the emotions of stressful situations is ultimately released when the pen hits the paper, all that is left to discuss are simple strategies.
Journaling is as easy as picking up a pen, a piece of paper, and writing whatever comes to mind! I cannot really discuss how to keep a journal or what you should write, that is ultimately up to the writer. I tend to just write whatever comes to mind, I draw when appropriate, use colors if I’d like; I do not have a standard way, I just write :-). I keep a notebook; I like this as you can keep all of your entries organized and can refer back to other pages if necessary. I’ve used notebooks without lines, which are great because you may feel less constricted in expressing yourself. I found the most important part of journaling was being truthful; don’t worry about what it sounds or looks like, just go for it! If someone picks it up and reads it, thats okay, it was meant to be, and perhaps its time to discuss these challenges with someone.
I tend to write in a personal journal every day for at least 10 minutes; some days I may write for an hour or more. Some days I do not write at all. It is really dependent on how I feel at the time; regardless, I have always found it helpful to write.
Keeping a journal is great! This is coming from a 24 year old male who has a background in science and enjoys barbell weight training. If I can do it, anyone can :-). If it is a new concept to you, just try it out and see how you like it. I named a handful of benefits, but I’m sure there are hundreds more. At the very least, it is one way to express yourself 100% truthfully; this in itself is a huge health benefit which helps release tension and anxiety. Its super easy! Have fun writing 🙂