The benefits of journaling
Recently I led a workshop on the Art of Journaling. The following is Part I, the introduction to the workshop. I hope it inspires you to start writing!
Why keep a journal? Let’s talk about the benefits.
Write your story. Journaling is creating a space for your thoughts, questions, fears, dreams, and goals. No one else will read what you’ve written. When you’re done, you can throw it away, delete it, or keep it in a locked drawer. It’s your space. Sometimes we don’t always get space for ourselves because we put others first. Your journal is all yours.
Record information. Humans are not great at retaining information–we forget most of what we read and hear. However, when you write down the things you’ve learned, you retain them far better. Even if you never re-read what you’ve written, the simple act of writing something down increases brain development and memory. This is why taking the time to write out a favorite quote or the details of a happy event is important — you are creating your own history.
Problem solving. The act of writing allows your subconscious mind to work through problems. You’ll be able to work out problems and get insights while you ponder and write. This is useful when you are trying to get to the root of a problem, or a fear, or an emotion.
Mindfulness. When you write, it forces you to slow down and examine your thoughts. If you set an intention to write about mindful moments, it helps you remember to be more mindful in your daily life. In the introduction to his book, Theft By Finding, David Sedaris writes about how he chooses what to write about in his diaries and journals: “I…look for the most meaningful moment in the previous day, the one in which I felt truly present.” This quote resonates with me because it inspires me to reflect on the moments when I am fully present. Yoga teaches us to be fully present in the moment. Writing and reflecting on those “fully present” moments adds a richness to our lives.
Healing. Writing can be healing in many different ways. Writing can help us release our fears, get rid of disturbing thoughts, and even make us happier by focusing on positive events. There is evidence that writing about your life experiences can help heal trauma. One exercise is to write about a traumatic event and change the ending. Joyce Hocker, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today: “Taking time to write of one’s own life experience provides a way to respect, hone and understand the trauma or loss. We dignify our lives by taking seriously, in writing, the unwanted experience. We can make meaning of tragedy. Creating a narrative helps one write with authority in the face of unwanted change.”
Improve creativity. Writing is a creative act—you are making something new out of the raw material from your thoughts. When you take the time to write, new insights come up.
Gratitude. Actively keeping a gratitude journal or writing about gratitude can improve our outlook on life. Gratitude opens our hearts and softens the hard edges.
Do you keep a journal? How does writing benefit you?