Journaling may sound hokey to some. But it turns out the simple practice of putting pen to paper is more than a passing self-care trend. Edison, Twain, Hemingway, and, of course, Oprah … the list of avid journal writers is long.
Scientific studies suggest it boosts mindfulness skills and has many not-so-obvious benefits.
The Perks of Pen on Paper
- Reduces Depression and Anxiety Symptoms
Numerous studies have shown that journaling can reduce overall levels of depression. One showed that writing in a journal can be as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy when it comes to reducing the risk of depression. Another study found that the simple act of journaling reduced anxiety in women who have multiple sclerosis. Social psychologist puts it this way: “Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives … writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”
- Boosts Immune Function
Bet you didn’t expect to see this benefit. But it turns out that journaling has been proven to improve immune function and decrease the risk of illness. One study found that those who journaled regularly experienced a slew of benefits, including improved immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure, and improved lung and liver function. Experts say journaling allows you to develop a “coherent narrative” of your life. It can help foster a more positive, holistic view of yourself that makes you less prone to depression and anxiety, both of which can trigger various physical health problems. The mind-body connection is real.
- Improves Memory
It makes perfect sense, right? Recording your thoughts on paper enhances your brain’s intake. You are processing, retaining, and retrieving info. It stands to reason that all that conjuring promotes focus and long-term memory. When you’re writing, you are recording and processing life events. And this also helps retain those memories for a significantly longer amount of time.
4 Journal Styles
Here are four different types of journaling practices that are perfect for beginners.
Need fast and straightforward? This is by far the most streamlined version of journaling. Purchase a small journal (4 by 2.4 inches or so) and place it by your bedside. Jot down your most important thought of the day. Seriously, we’re talking about a single idea per page. Distilling your day down to one sentence may not feel easy, but once you get the rhythm, it can become a powerful practice for capturing your most important thoughts.
This method melds your schedule, to-do lists, and aspirational goals into a single place. Plus, in our digital lives, there can be power in an analog system. The system is fast and effective. Here’s a good online resource to get you started.
Made popular by artist Julia Cameron, this method is excellent for unloading a cluttered mind first thing in the morning before the world intrudes. Cameron says the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness. These pages are not intended to be writing or art. Instead, she says it is a kinesthetic exercise that helps your brain clear itself so that you can be more focused for the rest of the day.
Oprah Winfrey has been keeping a gratitude journal for a decade. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough,” Winfrey says. Taking a moment each day to list a few things you are grateful for can alter your interior landscape and retrain what your brain focuses on. It’s especially important on days when you think there’s little to be thankful for.
The mere thought of journaling can scare the bejesus out of some folks. But like any other habit, it takes a while to make it stick.
First, find a journaling technique that works for you. And remember, journaling is a judgment-free zone (don’t worry about grammar and spelling!) Importantly, please practice self-compassion and leave your inner critic at the door.
Do you know how you made that spin class a part of your daily routine? Well, it wasn’t easy initially, but then it became ingrained into your day. For instance, set time aside every morning or every evening before bed, even if it’s just five or ten minutes.
A steady journaling habit isn’t going to happen overnight. But if you stick with it, we’re betting you’ll start to see positive outcomes.
At Zenwise®, we believe that daily habits like journaling contribute to physical and mental well-being. Our premium line of digestive support products can also play a part in your daily commitment to yourself.
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