Soon it will be a year since life as we knew it changed, and many of us are feeling that we are missing out on our lives. Some days feel endlessly long and it is hard to see any silver linings. Sometimes we have to consciously remind ourselves to be grateful and to find joy in everyday life, and a great way of doing this is through the process of journaling.
Journaling has been found to have numerous positive benefits. For example, It makes us more self-aware and allows us to identify unhealthy patterns in our thoughts and behaviours. This gives us greater control over our lives and can help us shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one, especially about ourselves. It reduces stress and anxiety as it provides a space to write about your emotional responses to events that have happened throughout the day as a way of coping with stress and anxiety. This can help you to process what you are feeling and perhaps even explore more positive reframing options. Because we’re getting things out of our head and onto a piece of paper, it increases working memory, this works together to improve sleep.
Journaling has health benefits too as it improves the immune system and strengthens immune cells. Studies have shown it reduces symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis and one study showed that expressive writing (journaling) for only 15-20 minutes a day 3 – 5 times over the course of a 4-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver function! Journaling uses the analytical, rational left side of the brain and the creative, emotional right side of the brain. This helps promote creativity, problem-solving and improves our sense of wellbeing.
If you are considering journaling but don’t know where to begin, a gratitude journal is a good place to start. It is as simple as getting a notebook and starting to write down three things each day that you’re grateful for. Gratitude journaling shifts our attention from what is wrong to what is right. It encourages us to focus on the things that are going well and the positives that each day brings regardless of the challenges that might come with it. What we focus on we find, so this simple tool really does work to reprogram the brain to look for the positive.
Another way to start is to complete the 50 Things that Make me Happy exercise developed by Claire Holden. This exercise allows us to reflect on the things that make us happy – not just the big exciting things like overseas holidays or special treats but, more importantly perhaps, the little everyday things too. It may be the sound of birdsong or the feel of sunshine on your face. As you begin to reflect and record theses small moments of happiness you will become more conscious of them. As this consciousness increases so too will your conscious moments of happiness each day.
If you would like help in kickstarting your journaling journey we recommend you sign up here for Claire’s free 20-minute online course as an introduction to the Joy of Journaling available through her ‘Be A Better Human’ online learning platform.
Remember that journaling is for you, so don’t preoccupy yourself with managing perfect punctuation, grammar or spelling. Just write and don’t censor yourself. There is a beautiful quote by Mina Murray that sums it up best. “Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”