Keeping a journal is basically sitting down with a pen (or computer) and paper and writing about what is going on with you. It’s like keeping a diary. Rather than writing down just the events of the day, however, you wrap those events with feelings and thoughts-of what was real in them for you.
Journal writing began for me quite a few years ago when there were many confusing events going on in my life. I wanted to make sense of them. I started with and have continued to use an inexpensive spiral lined notebook from a local grocery. There were fancy journals in the Hallmark store but I found that they intimidated me. I didn’t feel the need to write every day but just when I was inspired to do so. The mere act of transforming my thoughts into legible words always provided me a sense of relief and joy.
James Penebaker PhD, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Texas has done a great deal of research on the benefits of journal writing. The following are some benefits of journal writing that he and his colleagues have shown to produce stunning results.
Ease Your Pain – In general, people who journal have significantly less distress (i.e. suffering, sorrow, pain) and have an overall better mood in most areas of their lives.
What Me Worry? Simply writing down thoughts and feelings can make worries become more manageable.
There’s More! Research has found that people who journal become employed sooner after loosing their jobs, miss fewer days of work, have better overall athletic performances and better working memories.
Also, expressive writing has also been significantly related to the long-term stability of romantic relationships. When writing about your significant other you will use more positive emotional words which can result in better outcomes for relationships.
And this can happen when you commit to only twenty minutes a day. If you feel stuck, here are a few topics you could use.
- What am I grateful for today?
- What happened today that truly surprised me?
- Is there something I can do that will stretch me out of my comfort zone?
Don’t worry about the neatness or the grammar. Don’t self-censor. Let go of “shoulds” and just write what comes.
Welcome to a practice that will help you live longer, reduce stress, improve relationships, know yourself better as well as benefit so many other life situations more effectively. And only for the cost of a piece of paper, pen or computer and a few minutes of quiet each day. Good Luck!