Journaling for Health

Recently, I spoke with a group about Journaling for Health and wanted to share this information with you too!

If you’re new to journaling, getting started can be a little daunting and mysterious. You may be asking questions like what type of journal should I use? Or, what do I write about? I’ll answer these and others questions below. And, if you already have a journaling practice and are looking to go deeper, there are ways to do that too!

Getting Started

First, healthy living is more than what we eat or the type of exercise we do. Healthy living includes all areas of our lives from physical activity to home environment to relationships.

So where do we begin? Here’s an exercise that has always been helpful for me. It’s called the Circle of Life Exercise. This quick exercise can helps you quickly determine your level of satisfaction in 12 areas. Complete the exercise and then choose one particular area to explore, which will help you get started or go deeper into your practice.

Here’s an example of how the exercise can help: If someone rated (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being most satisfied) their Home Environment a 4, they could begin by simply writing, “I can’t stand my family room. It’s cluttered, the sofa needs to be replaced, and I just don’t like being in this room!” They could continue by stating “it makes me feel {free write about feelings – everything from overwhelm to frustration to dissatisfaction, etc.}.” If it’s a mom with young children, a journal is a great place to express the fact that their former sanctuary now feels more like a frat house! The venting and expressing emotions should lessen the charge they have and bring about an understanding that, in this example, it’s somewhat of a temporary situation. Further journaling could be about solutions and ways to improve the situation.

I suggest focusing on the areas that you’re happy with too! Creating a practice of recording three things you’re grateful for each day can shift your overall perspective in many areas!

Why journal?

The health benefits of journaling are enormous. A simple example is how we feel once we’ve made a list of all of the tasks, ideas and to-dos that are swirling around in our head. Once that list is made, we tend to feel relieved and the tasks look more manageable. We then we have room in our mind and brain to be more creative and thoughtful. Journaling works similarly! If you find yourself replaying a situation or conversation in your mind over and over again, journaling about that can help to process the experience and move on.

Seven health benefits of journaling

  1. Process feelings – we can write anything in our journal because it’s for our eyes only. Although it’s important to talk through situations and experiences with a close friend or therapist, we will likely filter what we say based on who we are speaking to because, like it or not, if we care about that person, we will consider how they feel as we are talking, then filter what we’re saying. Therefore, journaling our feelings allows us to be completely honest, uncensored and unfiltered.
  2. Express Emotion – writing gives us the opportunity to sort through a myriad of feelings. We can admit, for example, that we felt envious or angry, confused or unappreciated. During this process, we can more clearly identify our ultimate perspective on a situation or experience. We can also express joy, gratitude and satisfaction over a job well done, which is a nice memory we can later reflect back on.
  3. Creative Thought – once we’ve expressed our feelings, especially about something that’s been swirling in our minds and thoughts, we have then freed ourself up to think creatively. I like to use the example of planning a vacation. This can be hard to do if we’re stressed out and focused on a long mental list of daily tasks, but if we compartmentalize those tasks on a list that we can go back to later, that gives us the opportunity to sit down and spend time planning fun for the future.
  4. Gain Clarify & Perspective – We’ve all had those moments where we experience an encounter or situation and have walked away confused. Journaling can help us better understand by writing our perspective, expanding on specific pieces of a situation, walking away and processing that, then returning to record how we feel later.
  5. Witness Transformation & Healing – Having the ability to go back and re-read journal entries will allow us to see patterns and growth. Some issues may take longer to process and require a deeper dive based on many factors, but ultimately, a consistent journaling practice can help us to transform and heal.
  6. Experience Progress – Similar to number 5, having the ability to express how we feel, helps us to actually experience progress in our life. Whether this is recognizable at the time of journaling, or understood after re-reading entries, either way growth is bound to happen!
  7. Build Strength & Confidence – When we consistently practice something, we build confidence in our ability. Journaling offers that same experience for our emotional health & well-being. We can learn greater self-compassion through understanding ourselves better, which transforms into self-confidence as we dig deeper.

Is there a perfect journal?

I’ve always loved paper products and office supplies (a little geeky, but I like it!) so having a book that feels good is nice. And an awesome pen too! BUT, don’t wait until you find the perfect journal because it really doesn’t exist. It’s more important to begin. So grab a book and start writing.

What’s your experience with journaling? I’d love for you to comment below and share with us whether you’re just getting started, if you’ve developed a process that works for you and if you’ve experienced major shifts based on a consistent daily practice. There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to this practice, which is such a relief!! But your insight could help others!  

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