At some point, most of us have at least thought about keeping a diary or journal. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your thoughts and feelings, as well as to better remember events, people, and other details from our lives.
But did you know that the act of journaling can enhance your mental and emotional well-being? These are just a few benefits discovered from research:
- It helps you process and communicate your emotions. Putting your feelings into words can be hard, but taking up the task with a journal can serve as a good first step towards shaping your thoughts about a situation. In doing so, you may be able to dig a little deeper and figure out why you feel a certain way, and what you should do with this information.
- It can improve your mood or even your general outlook. If you’re in need of a mental boost, writing about the things that are bothering you can instantly lift your mood. And in the long run, it gives you a tool to examine uncomfortable or unpleasant situations or thoughts, but at a safe distance because you’re analyzing how you’re feeling at the same time.
- Some studies suggest journaling make you physically healthier. In fact, one such study found that people who journaled actually recovered faster from a medical procedure compared with those who didn’t keep a journal. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, considering the deep link between our physical and mental well-being.
Tips for journalingTwo of the biggest barriers to successful journaling are 1) being unable to keep up the habit and 2) writing in a way that helps you gain insight and solve problems. Here are some tips to help with both challenges.How to keep up the habit
- Create a routine around journaling that’s pleasant or rewarding. For example, make journal time the time you drink your cup of tea or coffee in the morning, or the time when you’re in pajamas and getting ready to wind down for the night.
- Choose a medium that suits your lifestyle and preferences. You may want to go down the old-fashioned pen-and-paper route if you want to spend less time looking at screens, or because you simply enjoy the physical sensation of writing on paper. Or you may want to use a computer, tablet, or smartphone since you find handwriting too slow or laborious, or because you already spend much of your time typing on a device anyway.
- Micro-journaling may help! Apps like Five Minute Journal (App Store, Google Play, $4.99) are set up to get you to jot down your thoughts once or twice a day in just a matter of minutes. Plus, you can connect the Five Minute Journal app to your Go365 app and set up a mindfulness log under “Activities.” From there, you could earn 10 Points for completing three or more journal entries a week.
How to write in order to gain insight and solve problems
- Set up goals – but don’t be too restrictive. Do you want to recall situations or details better? Are you attempting to manage your anger? Want to motivate yourself to do something specific? Think of what you want to accomplish to come up with journal entries. But don’t feel like you have to stick with the same topic or format all the time. You can talk about your feelings one day and then come up with a to-do list the next. The journal is there to help you at any given time.
- Express yourself, but also analyze the situation a little bit. One study found that those who only wrote about their feelings didn’t improve their mental well-being, but those who also analyze the why and how behind their feelings fared better. “Venting” can help, but only to a certain extent. Problem solving takes your journaling to the next level and that starts with reviewing and questioning feelings, motives, reactions, and the situations themselves.
- When reflecting on challenges or struggles, think about the things you learned. Use phrases like “I have learned” or “I now realize” or “The reason that…” Even with situations where you may not do anything differently in hindsight, you could develop some insights that could make you feel better. After all, a conflict, struggle, challenge, or obstacle is always worthwhile if you can learn something from it.