Health Benefits of Journaling
The one thing that many mental health experts agree on is that journaling is a powerful tool with both mental and physical health benefits. According to Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP in her article The Health Benefits of Journaling, “writing in a journal helps us “clarify our thoughts and feelings; helps us know ourselves better; reduces stress; helps us problem solve and resolve conflicts in relationships.”
In that same article, she says that “University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.”
How To Journal
There are probably as many ways to journal as there are people in this world. Because we are all unique, I believe that each journal should reflect the writer’s personality. Don’t try to copy someone else’s ideas of what a journal “should look like.”
If you Google the topic of journaling, you will get far more results than you can count and so many different ways to journal that it is easy to get overwhelmed and to tell yourself that it’s too complicated. I have kept a journal on and off since my teen years and until the advent of Pinterest and Google, I just did what I wanted in it. All that is really needed is a notebook of some kind and your favorite writing implement. Set aside a few moments each day and write about what is on your mind. Write quickly without worrying about spelling, capital letters, or punctuation. This frees up your right brain to express what it needs to. Stop when you feel like it.
If you have no idea what to write, you can start with what you did that day or what you’re thankful for that day. You can use a day planner and start with what’s on your schedule. Write down your favorite quotes or scriptures and tell why you like them. Jot about something that happened to you that day or last week. Ponder difficult situations or relationships. Put all the yuck on paper. You can even rip it up and throw it out afterwards. Which is one reason why I like to use a wire bound notebook for my journal, because I can rip out pages without destroying the whole journal.
I recently found a journal that I had written after I left my ex. It was full of anger and pain and I gladly threw it in the garbage. It felt like I was really putting the whole experience behind me by throwing the journal out. That’s the beauty of putting the ugly stuff on paper. It’s so easy to get rid of it.
There are many journal prompt ideas out there including one from My Mighty Challenge. Their theme for February is happiness. You can check out journal prompts on Pinterest as well. Just be careful not to get overwhelmed by all the choices and by all the “perfect” journal pages.
Personalize Your Journal With YOUR Style
Now this is the really fun part! No one ever needs to see what you put in your journal, so go for it.
- First, use whatever kind of notebook you prefer. You don’t need a fancy notebook. A composition book or wire bound school subject one will work just fine. Of course, if you want fancy there are many choices. I like a wire bound school subject one, because they are cheap.
- Next, use whatever writing tools you like. Markers (check that they won’t bleed through), pencils, pens, colored pencils, crayons, etc. will all work fine. You really don’t need anything special to start.
Optional, But Fun
- Clip quotes or articles that interest you and tape, glue or staple them in.
- Go wild with stickers or draw your own emoticons.
- Use color. I’ve scribbled with red crayon to get out my angry feelings. I’ve colored a journal page with black crayon when feeling depressed.
- Cut out pictures, letters, and/or words from magazines and create a collage. A collage is simply arranging various items based on what you feel is pleasing. I’ve made collages of what I want in my life, like a vision board, and I’ve created collages about unpleasant subjects. The trick to this is not to think deeply. Pick what appeals to you and glue it down. You’ll be amazed at what you create and the meaning it will have.
- Add string, ribbon, or twine. These are good place markers and are decorative.
- Add photos if you wish.
- Some people prefer to write in short phrases, instead of full sentences, like those used in a bullet journal. In that case, a bullet journal may be a good choice for you.
A Few Samples From My Journal
Keep Your Focus on the True Purpose
Finally, remember that this is your journal. It shouldn’t look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t have to be pretty to benefit you! The most important part is to explore your life and experiences on paper while looking for insights to help you thrive no matter what life throws at you. If you’re seeing a therapist, you may want to share some of it with him or her for their insight(s). If you don’t journal or haven’t done so in a while, I encourage you to try it. It’s something that I need to restart doing, as I implement strategies to beat my winter blues.
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you below. Kathy