The benefits of journaling

I’ve always loved writing. It’s no surprise that I found a career that allows me to write in various forms. Probably not a stretch to know that I also find journaling to be very therapeutic. And why not? There are many mental health benefits of journaling.

Morning journaling in the rainforest is cool.

I received my first journal from my parents when I was in elementary school. It was a beautiful journal with horses on the cover and a lock – I kept that key under my mattress for years!

I still have the journal. It brings a smile to my face when I read back on the memories of younger me – loving our sweet dog, Taffy; escapades with my sisters; learning to ride horses; the fun with my parents (and the annoyance at being made to try new foods!); separation anxiety from my mom; the pain of being so terribly shy; and more. Reading those entries often makes me want to go back in time and give my younger self a big hug. I’m grateful that even back then I had the outlet of writing in a journal.

My journey with journaling

As much as I always loved journaling, I confess that I stopped journaling for years. My privacy and trust were shattered by someone I trusted and loved. It was devastating. It admittedly made me hesitant to put my true thoughts and emotions onto paper where they could be used again.

But I missed writing.The documenting of important moments in my life – the good, challenging, hopeful and magical moments – plus working through emotions and thoughts were always so therapeutic for me. I kept these thoughts and emotions locked in my mind for safekeeping, but it wasn’t the same. I missed the benefits of journaling.

So when I faced cancer again five years ago, I started jotting down thoughts in a notebook. Then Covid-19 hit the world and I started writing more often to help me manage the mental ups and downs of that historic challenge. As many of you know, my Today I Choose affirmation card deck and journal were created as my own healing tactic and then I wanted to share these with the world. So with the production of this special journal, I started back to regular writing. And it feels GOOD!

Because there are many benefits of journaling. Getting thoughts and emotions down on paper helps me in many ways, including simply getting them cleared from my head. Writing helps me stop overthinking and instead create opportunities to write what I’m feeling. Often times when I review what I wrote, it provides a new or clearer perspective on a situation. Or it reinforces what I already knew.

5 benefits of journaling:

Reduces anxiety, depression and negative thoughts. Writing down thoughts and emotions helps in several ways. Sometimes writing down thoughts and emotions helps you consider if these are really true, worth the attention that your mind is giving them, notice what’s causing these and pushes you to stop carrying them in your mind. You can also keep track of things that cause you stress or anxiety during your day – understanding these triggers is greatly beneficial (don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional to help).

Helps people recover from traumatic events, including the death of a loved one, assault, illness, relationship ending, accident and more. Writing things down helps you process what has occurred and open your emotions to reflect and recover (don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional to help).

Improves memory function. Writing helps the brain process, retain and retrieve information, according to one study. Being able to review your writings also can identify behavior patterns, both good and bad.

Increases gratitude feelings. Journaling helps you regularly reflect on all the good happening in your life, even during challenges. One practice that I do daily is to list three things that I’m grateful for in that day. I like writing these down so I can reflect on them at a later date, particularly when I’m having a tough day.

Achieve your goals. Writing down goals can help you visualize, plan and keep yourself accountable. Being able to review these goals and make plans also is great for keeping yourself on track. These can be any type of goal! A fitness goal, business goal, nutrition goal, whatever.

3 tips to get started journaling:

It doesn’t matter what you write. Don’t worry about what you write, just write! I sometimes will sit down to write about one topic and then find myself going on about something totally different. There are no rules for writing in a journal. You can focus on a specific topic for your journal, such as travel logs, gratitude posts or an overview of your day.

Write regularly. Doing something regularly helps make it a habit. And it becomes so much easier to stick with. Choose a time that allows you to be consistent. I often journal before bed time as it helps me ‘unload’ what’s on my mind so I sleep better. But when I’m on vacation, I find that writing flows easier in the mornings. So do what works for you!

Block off time. You don’t have to devote a lot of time to journaling. Start with five minutes every night before bed. Or right after work. You might find that after five minutes, you’re in a flow and just keep writing! I like to journal before bed time as it helps me ‘unload’ what’s on my mind so I sleep better. Choose a time that allows you to be consistent because doing something regularly helps make it a habit. It’s helpful to set a reminder so you remember to stay consistent.

Let’s get journaling!

If you need getting started with journaling or simply looking for a new journal for yourself or to gift a friend, please check out my Today I Choose journal. It has writing prompts and motivational pages throughout. Don’t forget that subscribers to Heather’s Hangout receive a special discount to my Today I Choose store!

Have you tried journaling? If so, do you have any favorite writing prompts when you journal? What benefits of journaling do you love?

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