Write your heart out… the benefits of journaling

Since the start of lockdown during the current Coronavirus epidemic, I have seen journaling being recommended a few times, and I have to say that I completely agree in this being beneficial to those who may be feeling frustrated or afraid right now. Using writing as a therapy has been studied numerously over the last couple of decades, with the catalyst for those studies coming from the work of an American social psychologist, James W.Pennebaker.

“He and his students are exploring the links between emotional experiences, natural language, and physical and mental health. His most recent research focuses on how everyday language reflects basic social and personality processes” – https://pennebaker.socialpsychology.org

Journaling can be a great way to get the thoughts swirling around in your head out without worry that someone is going to judge or condemn you for having those thoughts. It gives you a chance to reflect on thoughts or issues at a deeper more subjective level, and to process things that you may not have consciously registered or were fully aware of – it brings insight.

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Journaling is different to diary writing in that a diary is more a timeline and recap of events. Journaling is more about how we feel over what has happened and can be about any subject whenever it happened. For example, a diary entry may just be a chronological entry on what happened on the 09th April 2020, but a journal entry may be about exploring my anger over being left out over something that day.

A great way to start off your practice is by sitting down, ideally at the same dedicated time each day to get into a routine of doing so, setting a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and simply writing about whatever may be in your mind or however you feel at that time. From there you will automatically begin to write fluidly and confidently about the things you may need to consciously address. This can be hugely freeing and rewarding on our psyche.

Journal ‘writing’ can be as simple as bullet points or doodling. Remember to give yourself the freedom to be creative. You can reflect on a book you’ve read, or for those of you who use tools like tarot or affirmation cards, you can use that as a visual focus point to get your writing started. Perhaps format your journal entry as a letter to someone to honestly express all the things you’ve held back from wanting to say to them, or as a story. Get your writing started and let yourself dig deeper into your thoughts and feelings on things.

Journal therapy has been found effective as a method to help improve mood and memory, encourage people to take positive steps forward in their lives, and help people cope with physical illness or emotional stress. Journaling helps us put things into perspective by approaching it from a broader and less subjective view which can be incredibly healing in the case of instances that have resulted in trauma and anxiety.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a notebook and a pen, or load up a writing programme such as ‘Word’ or ‘Notes’ on your computer, and get your journal on!

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