I know some of you are already tempted to stop reading this article after seeing the title. I run into so many people that say “journaling just isn’t for me”. If that is your thought, I hope to challenge your thinking just a bit so that you can see the benefit of journaling in your own life.
I am privileged to travel a healing journey with women on a daily basis. There are some parts of the healing journey that are necessary for all travelers! They are: Feeling my feelings, Grieving my losses, Valuing myself. These might seem pretty straightforward and common sense, however many people seeking healing in their lives find difficulty doing these things. Once they realize the need to feel, grieve, and value – they usually really want to, but they don’t have the slightest idea how to begin.
There are many helpful ways to engage these important parts of healing. Journaling is at the top of that list! Is journaling really helpful in healing? Is journaling really a part of self-care? The answer undoubtedly is YES!
In case you are feeling skeptical and aren’t up for taking my word for it, let’s look at proven data…
Here is what studies show about writing/journaling:
- Writing reduces trauma responses, both physical and emotional
- Writing impacts physical health & biological changes (immune function, drop in blood pressure, sleep improvement, longevity of life)
- Writing reduces stress & anxiety
- Writing offers healing and transformational powers
- Writing increases memory and vocabulary
Read this quote:
“Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational,” says Maud Purcell, a psychotherapist and journaling expert. “While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us. I find that most of my patients intuitively know that hand-writing their thoughts in a journal is more effective than composing them on a laptop,” says Purcell. “That said, there’s research to support this. It appears that writing stimulates a part of the brain called the RAS (reticular activating system), which filters and brings clearly to the fore the information we’re focusing on.” https://www.fastcompany.com
There is something that happens when we combine thinking, feeling, and the small motor skill of writing that has proven to aid the healing process along in a more significant way than just thinking or talking about what is going on inside of us. That is one of many reasons journaling is a good idea!
What are the other reasons journaling is a good idea? I have provided a list below. This is certainly not a comprehensive list, but one outlining some of the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical benefits of journaling.
- helps identify, express, validate, and manage emotions
- increases self-awareness
- promotes talking (verbal processing)
- helps identify lies believed and where they have come from
- allows grieving over losses and hurts
- affirms your value to yourself
- allows God to speak & give clarity to things not seen
- helps to clear the head and the heart
- is an outlet to express struggle, pain, stress, and difficulties in life
- assists in recording memories
- helps to identify goals & dreams
- allows deeper understanding of ourselves
- helps to process and make sense of what is happening in us and around us
- gives a new or different perspective
- gives permission to release our pain
- provides a safe place to begin to get unstuck in order to move forward
“Journaling gives our internal world a voice”
I hope you are beginning to see that journaling allows us to connect more intimately with ourselves to be able to understand and express the thoughts and feelings deep within. This is a very positive thing and also can be a very scary thing. What if it is too painful to see and understand what is deep within me? What might come to the surface if I engage in this way? These are valid concerns for sure. There is always a sense of risk in the healing journey. The benefit is great, but when we can’t see a picture of what the benefit is, we can resist taking the risk to heal.
Ultimately, that is why Jesus needs to be involved. He can and does direct the healing journey. He just simply asks us to trust Him as we follow where He leads. It is so important to invite Him into the discipline of journaling. He can shed light on things we can’t see clearly. He can speak into whatever we are thinking and feeling as we get those onto paper. He validates our worth and value as we write about painful memories. The benefits to journaling with God are endless.
Let’s look at the practical side of Journaling. Is there a right or wrong way to do it? How do I get started? These are questions that might be running around in your thoughts. They are certainly questions I get asked on a regular basis.
There are different methods to journaling. I believe based on each person’s personality type, 1 specific method will be more attractive than others. There is the freestyle method which does not include much or any structure. There are more structured types of journaling that would include a question to answer that can get the words flowing, or even journals to purchase that give much structure on a particular subject. Whichever you choose, there are some overall suggestions that can help journaling be a positive and healing experience.
Here are just a few suggestions to help get you started or encourage you to keep going!
- Journal regularly – this can be a certain time of the day or week, and for some people it can include a particular location that is constant.
- Start small – set a timer for 5 minutes to begin with and grow from there over time.
- Allow Mind-streaming. This is writing your memories, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and struggles without filtering. Just write – don’t sensor or correct what you write – let it flow.
- Utilize creativity – sometimes it feels helpful to use colored pens or pencils as a way to engage with journaling.
- Keep it private. Remember journaling is for you! If you choose to share something from your journal with a trusted person, that is ok, but know that is not the primary purpose for journaling.
Lastly….One of the questions I sometimes get asked is “Can I type my journal instead of writing it?” Of course that is an option. I think some of the benefits of journaling can happen in a typed format. However, there will be some benefits missed that handwriting provides. Living in the computer age has in some ways taken from us things that can be helpful to us. One quote I ran across really resonates with me and I have come to value it greatly. “Handwriting taps the emotions”. So, if possible, plan to utilize handwriting in your journaling.
So why not give journaling a try…
I would absolutely love to hear any feedback from readers! Whether you decide to give journaling a try or it is something you currently practice and benefit from, please let me know. I would love to hear about your journaling experiences. Also, don’t hesitate to contact me if you could use additional help and ideas.