Keeping a journal may sound like an activity reserved for teenage girls or the literary heroes of long ago, but it is actually an effective form of self care.
Modern life can be stressful and overwhelming. So, building a “toolbox” of daily practices can help you to manage your emotions and therefore your mental health. Starting a journal only requires a pen and a notebook and fifteen minutes spare. Not convinced? We delve into six reasons why you should start journalling today.
6 reasons to keep a journal
1 – Organise your thoughts
Think of journalling as tidying up for the mind. Writing by hand stimulates the part of the brain called the “Reticular Activating System”. This filters everything your brain needs to process, so you can focus on what is important. If thoughts about work are keeping you up at night, writing these in your journal may be a way to put them to rest and highlight what steps you can take to deal with the problem tomorrow. Journalling is proven to improve your mood and reduce anxiety by enabling you to relive happy memories and ‘dump’ bad ones.
2 – Set goals
A journal is also a perfect place to record your dreams and goals. Research shows the ‘hand to brain connection’ of writing thoughts down on paper, makes them more real. Those who write down their goals become 42 % more likely to achieve them!
3 – Improve your memory
Writing things down is one of the keys to learning and this is why it is such a staple of the education system. A study from 2010, showed that children’s brains produced much more activity when asked to write words that excited them, as opposed to just studying the words. Keeping up writing regularly throughout your life is key to brain health in old age. Neuropsychologist Robert Wilson says that it can lead to “slower late-life cognitive decline”. Although you may not be trying to learn your times tables anymore, I think we can all agree on the benefits of remembering where we left our keys.
4 – Build a relationship with yourself
Writing a journal is a personal activity reserved just for you. Talking to yourself about your day and how you feel, with no fear of judgment can be amazingly liberating. It can allow you to become to be clearer on who you really are, and what makes you tick. It gives you a rare space to be truly vulnerable in. Journalling is especially effective when you are going through a major life change such a moving to a new job or experiencing a relationship breakup. It’s like having another friend checking in on you.
5. Unlock your creativity
Writing every day is a proven way to unlock creativity, according to Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way.’ She claims the biggest enemy to creativity is the inner critic and when you can’t find inspiration it can feel like you “never do enough and what [you] do isn’t right”. The best thing about journalling is you cannot do it wrong; it may be messy and make no sense but it is still your authentic voice. This takes the pressure off you to perfect the results and leaves space for real creativity to flow. Record and refine your best ideas in your journal but also keep the ones that do not make the final cut.
6 – Get a better night’s sleep
It is a good discipline to get into the habit of the doing the same thing at the same time every day. Adding journalling to your bedtime routine will help you wind down and keep you away from the pesky blue light of your mobile phone or tablet, which is designed to disturb your body’s natural rhythms.
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How to journal
To start your journal, if you’re not comfortable with writing freely straight away, put aside 15 minutes every day to make mini lists. For example:
5 things I’m grateful for
5 feelings I had today
5 things I’m looking forward to
5 goals I have for the next year or later in life
The point is there are no real rules with journally. Just don’t edit yourself, write by hand and keep it somewhere where no one else can read it.
So, buy a beautiful notebook, an inexpensive pen and start journalling today. What have you got to lose ?