Journaling. Does the word spark joy or dread? A practice that involves writing down your feelings and experiences on a regular basis. It’s inexpensive and easily accessible, only requiring a pad, a pencil and about 20 minutes of your time.
But for many people this idea sounds painful. Writing for some is filled with apprehension and self-doubt. The idea of doing it voluntarily and routinely, especially while stuck at home during this pandemic, may seem like torture. And why would you add to your misery? Even for those whom find writing rewarding, setting the time aside to journal can feel like work. So why should you do it? And why should you do it now?
For starters, therapeutic journaling has many actual health benefits. Yeah, yeah, another thing to put on that endless list of health habits, but scientific evidence has shown that journaling not only reduces stress and anxiety, it also strengthens your immune system, decreasing symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions. And what better time than now to strengthen your mind and body?
Living in the time of this pandemic has altered the way we live. You may now be working from home, teaching your kids at home, or working in a front-line job. Whatever the case, we’re all dealing with added stress.
Science has shown that the actual act of putting a pencil to paper accesses the analytical and rational part of your brain, freeing the right side of your brain to create and feel. And writing about your emotions, especially without concern for what others think or feel about you, can be cathartic. You can express yourself, your thoughts and anxieties, openly and honestly without judgment. Your only audience is you. And by getting your feelings on paper and out of your head, it decreases the overwhelming feelings of upset or anger that they may be causing you. The process also allows your subconscious mind to become present, bringing understanding and insight about yourself and your difficulties. It can improve your mood and bring you an overall sense of happiness.
Journaling has also been shown to improve cognitive functioning and helps with analytic thinking. Writing down your thoughts or struggles provides distance by giving you time to go back and look at what you’ve written, seeing it in a new light. You’ll generate observations that will help you problem solve and grow.
To be clear, therapeutic journaling is not quite the same as keeping a diary. In a diary, one traditionally writes about events of their day, chronicling their life. In therapeutic journaling, the aim is to process your thoughts and feelings about the events of that day.
Many experts say that in order to be most effective, you should give your journal twenty minutes of your time. And then write. Forget about spelling, punctuation or sentence structure. Pick a topic, or a theme. Write your stream of consciousness and just let your writing flow.
Now is a good time while you likely have extra time to go get started.