Keeping a journal or diary can have tremendous benefits, and we’re publishing this compilation of comments people have sent us on the benefits of journaling with the hope of encouraging more people to keep a journal for the first time. Here you’ll find all kinds of insights from people who have been journaling for years and have benefited tremendously from it, as well as comments from health professionals and therapists on when and why they recommend journaling to clients. This took a long time to put together! (A lot of cold emailing and reaching out to people)
To summarize, here are the main points people have put forward on how journaling can be beneficial. For each point, I’ve also linked to the full comment(s) that explains in more detail:
- Allows you to express topics that you wouldn’t necessarily talk about (link), and process overcomplicated thoughts and emotions (link)
- Releases emotions and can lessen the impact of emotional pain (link, link)
- Helps you find recurring patterns in your thoughts, and use this to work on improving yourself (link, link)
- It can be helpful for couples to journal their experience in some conflict, in order to communicate their experience and thoughts to their partner much more effectively (link)
- Shows you how your life has changed over time and how you’ve matured (link) by reflecting on events and your behaviors (link)
- Lets you remember great or encouraging thoughts you had that you’d have otherwise forgotten (link)
- Otherwise, journaling may help you purge all the events of the day from your mind and go to sleep with a clear conscience (link). You can also clear out your mind by journaling in the morning (link)
- Writing about your dream life may help you achieve it (link)
- Can potentially be beneficial to others (link)
- Reframe your thoughts and look at things in a more constructive way (link)
- May help with self-esteem issues if you journal about things you’ve done well each day (link)
- At least 1 study has shown registered nurses who journaled were able to handle stress better (link)
If you have a comment on the benefits of journaling or how journaling has helped you, you’re welcome to add to this article by making a submission here.
Journaling is great for mental health, and I encourage a lot of my therapy clients to journal through getting counseling with me. I think that the very act of seeing the words on paper (or hearing them if you’re voice journalling) can be transformative, rather than keeping the thoughts swimming around in one’s head. It allows us to spend energy writing out exactly what we think and feel about things, which often times are hard to do for many of us.
Journalling can be expressive, allowing journallers to talk about topics that they wouldn’t necessarily talk about in their daily lives, or with the people around them. They allow us to express our inner lives, and give us a chronological record of how that changes over time. We can look back, and see ourselves and our thoughts from before, to gauge our mental and emotional growth. I also think journaling on specific topics allow more concentration and energy dedicated to things and people in our lives that we might not focus on in the day-to-day. For example, we may have a relationship journal, in which we record our thoughts and feelings about that particular topic. This is helpful to have a regular outlet to talk about important and private matters, and can congeal our thoughts so that we can take action on them, such as eventually having hard conversations with the people in our lives that we journal about. We can use journalling as a way to carry over into making our lives better in that way.
--Jason Fierstein, Phoenix Men's Counseling, MA, LPC
For me, journaling helps me process my overcomplicated thoughts and emotions. If I'm dealing with a difficult person or a challenging circumstance, I can't always make sense of what's bothering me right away. When I'm in the middle of it, getting all of my thoughts on paper helps me figure out a solution to the problem. I can walk away from it and come back with a new perspective while still having my original thoughts and feelings documented.
Another benefit for me is that I have more thoughts and ideas than my brain can keep up with. Doing a brain dump helps clear my mind and allows me to focus on the task at hand. I use all kinds of different journals for this- my notes app, Evernote app, multiple paper journals for various topics, the voice memo app, and even record straight to Microsoft Word if I'm desperate and in the care driving. There's nothing worse for me than to have an encouraging thought or revelation and then can't remember it while later. A similar frustration of losing something and not being able to find it!
Journaling allows me to see how far I've come. When I look back on something I was struggling with, and I've come through on the other side, it's so comforting to know that I know only survived, but thrived. I can see the progress I've made and how whatever I was going through made me a better person today.
I can also share my thoughts and feelings with someone else who is going through something similar. We aren't alone in what we deal with, but sometimes it feels really lonely when we don't have anyone to share it with.
--Shara L. Ryan, Simply Renewed Living
I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in California. I specialize in couples and individuals with trauma.
I often prescribe journaling as a homework assignment for my clients in between sessions. There are many different reasons why this is effective for many people, but I will share the ones I see the most.
For people who have experienced trauma, I more often have people journal one of two ways. The first way is to have them write out their emotional experiences each day. In this way, people can express themselves and get their thoughts out onto paper, allowing for a necessary emotional release in the brain. The other way is to have them list their symptoms and situations that triggered the symptoms. This can help us to find patterns and change responses for folks who are stuck in a cycle and struggle with seeing a way out of it.
Having couples journal is my absolute favorite, though! I will have couples journal about their experience in a fight to bring to sessions for discussion. When it is written down, even in the heat of emotions, it is easier to communicate the experience to their spouse. I have them read the journal entry out loud to their partner, and focus on each partner developing empathy and understanding to the other's experience. It is incredible to see the compassion that a couple will develop for each other by journaling to the partner. And also, for each individual to begin to recognize the part they play in the communication breakdowns. My favorite is when they begin journaling one way, and in the middle of the journaling activity they experience a revelation, and then their entire approach to the situation changes. It is truly healing for these couples and I love watching it transform!
--Alisha Sweyd, LMFT, alishasweyd.com
As a writer, journaling first thing in the morning releases the stressors and tasks on my mind so I can focus on my task at hand.
Once I empty my brain of all the things swirling around in there, I find it is usually less overwhelming on paper than it was in my head.
Journaling dilutes emotion. It puts all those messy feelings in an organized structure that makes it all feel less threatening.
Journaling helped me in treating my clinical anxiety. Along with a doctor's help, it let me release my darkest fears. When I look back at those entries, it is like reading something written by a different person.
As a writing instructor, I have put together a 5-step ritual people can do before they write each day. The absolute first step is journaling. We must clear our minds of clutter to make room for creativity.
--Karen Alea, Write in 10 Podcast
As a meditation teacher, I always recommend my students to keep a thought journal. This can be used to find unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts and then change them using a combination of meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy.
A thought journal is simply a written entry of thoughts that occur throughout the day. By reading these thoughts back later, we can find recurring patterns. For instance, one of my students found via a thought journal that she was constantly thinking about how people are judging her. I then recommended that she use a combination of meditation (specifically, Loving Kindness Meditation) and cognitive behavioural therapy to target and change those thoughts.
She soon realised that her thoughts were in her own mind, and that when she thought other people were judging her, she was really just projecting thoughts onto them. With this new awareness, she was able to change her thoughts and is now less concerned about what other people think of her.
--Paul Harrison, TheDailyMeditation.com
I've been writing in a journal since second grade. It's fascinating to read through these journals and see how my mindset has shifted over the years.
Keeping a journal gives you the most sacred of places to speak (or write) exactly how you feel without judgement. This can help you come to terms with certain issues that may be too private to share with others.
Also, it's no secret we all have that fantasy of living out our dream life. It may feel silly to talk about this life with friends, but writing about it can actually help you make it real. Studies have shown that we can talk and think our ways into creating what we want, and journaling is a great way to facilitate that.
--Hilary Bird, greenvango.com
There are many benefits to journaling. The biggest one for helping with mental health is that writing about situations that caused emotional pain can lessen the impact, just from writing. In general it calms down the amygdala - which controls the intensity of emotions. This allows you to move into the rational part of the brain and begin to heal.
Personally I have been journaling for over 20 years. It has gotten me through many painful situations, including my divorce. I use it daily to catch potentially harmful events early. To brainstorm problems and in general keep myself focused and calm.
Journaling is great, because you can get these benefits, anytime and anywhere. You just need something to write with and something to write on! It does not need to be perfect, it just has to be from the heart!
--Andrea Travillian, aspirify.com
For me, the biggest mental health benefit to keeping a personal diary or journal is getting everything from the day off your mind. I like to do my journaling at the end of the day just before bed. I'm able to write down everything that happened and completely purge it from my brain. It's an opportunity to vent about the things that went wrong and celebrate the things that went right. I also take a few moments to write down the things I want to accomplish in the following day in the last few sentences. I go to sleep with a clear conscience and I believe this practice really helps me reset and rest at bedtime. I'm not up half the night thinking about what happened that day....I'm not worrying about what I need to do tomorrow...just sleeping! I highly recommend it!
--Lisa Jaspers, A Country Girls Life
Your personal journal can become a place to release anger, frustration, sadness and other negative emotions without hurting anyone's feelings. It can also become a record of all your successes, good ideas, and happier moments. You end up being more considerate, more focused, and more even-tempered for the effort of writing down your thoughts. When you need to remember that you're not a failure or a total failure you can thumb through the pages to gaze at notes about when things went right. That can be a soothing psyche-saver.
Another bonus to keeping a diary or a journal is that you can gain insights about yourself by discovering patterns of behavior. Once you discover them you can A) make efforts to replace problematic behavior with better options. You're free to choose and believe that you can and will become a better person over time. B) You can also emphasize the better behaviors that you already use, to make the most of them.
Your mental wellbeing can improve as long as you update the diary and re-read it from time to time. Remember: it's a private resource, not for public consumption. Don't leave it where people can find it, learn your inner thoughts, and decide to defy, to argue with or to insult you. Protect your diary or journal with privacy. If you need more relief than it gives you, you can safely confide the thoughts inside to a competent therapist able to help you past a glitch, a block, or a question.
Journaling can be done by hand in a notebook, or on a keyboard. Verbal diaries are not as helpful as written versions. The brain processes information differently when we write and when we read. Speaking into a recorder and listening to it don't achieve the same effect when only one person is involved.
Use the method that is most pleasant for you, and if you use the verbal recording option, do it with the thought of eventually changing over to written memories. Keep your diary or journal real, honest, and updated. You might not sense the benefits of journaling right away. Allow yourself to adjust to the fact that you record your thoughts and reflect on them from time to time. Many highly accomplished people, including Frida Kahlo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, and Winston Churchill kept diaries. Doing so served them well. Imagine what it can do for you.
--Yocheved Golani, e-counseling.com
1.) Journaling helps bring meaning to life experiences.
As we go through various experiences throughout life, our minds and subconscious are continually trying to make sense of it all. We're trying to figure out what matters and what doesn't. We are processing.
We can process in countless ways like talking or dreaming. Journaling is a really powerful way of processing.
So as we write about what our child is going through or how we interacted with a friend, what is going on in the world or what we hope for the future, when we write about anything, our minds are bringing pieces together or pulling thoughts to our conscious level. Journaling is taking those fragments of remembered experience and bringing them together to make meaning.
2.) Journaling allows us to remember reality.
Sometimes I have to laugh out loud when I go back and read some of my journal entries. They sound something like this...Today such and such happened. I won't give more details because there's no way I'm forgetting that! Ha! As humans, we tend to have short memories.
Writing about current life allows us to go back and remember how we actually experienced things. This is incredibly helpful when we are trying to make sense of past experience, which is a big part of mental health. Additionally, those journal entries can help us see how far we have come, recognize the hardships we have overcome, and bring joyful memories to mind, even on tough days.
3.) Journaling benefits others.
As I was cleaning up the basement at my in-laws many years ago, I came across an old journal of my mother-in-law. Since it was on the family bookshelf with all the chapter books and picture books, I figured it was safe to read. So I opened the journal. The page I landed on described a particularly difficult day of parenting. As my mother-in-law expressed her frustrations and doubts about her mothering and some of her kids, I couldn't help but think about the current day.
At that time, her children were all grown. They were contributing members of their communities, incredible spouses and parents, and all-around kind human beings. (I mean, hey! I chose to marry one of them!) Simultaneously, I was a young mother with parenting challenges of my own. Reading my mother-in-law's experience, I felt immediately both bonded to her and inspired that my mothering efforts would also turn out for good in the end.
When we are writing (or just venting) in our journals, we don't often realize that this moment could benefit someone else, even way down the road. But we should remember that. Journaling is a form of service to those who eventually read it, and study after study has shown that when we do good for others, there are positive mental health benefits for us too.
--Marielle Melling, Lovin' Life with Littles
I've recently started journaling regularly and it has completely transformed my morning routine!
I previously hit snooze way too many times, rushed through my entire morning routine, and then barely made it to work on time.
But every since creating my new journaling habit, I hop out of bed 45 minutes earlier, happily fill my cup of coffee, and then spend some time reflecting and journaling.
What I love most about journaling is that it gives me the chance to sort through my thoughts and put more concrete words to the emotions that I'm feeling. When I'm feeling burnt out as a new mom, frustrated with my husband, lonely, or overwhelmed, I've found that spending time journaling helps me to slow down everything around me to reflect more on what's causing these emotions and how I can work to turn these around.
I also love that journaling gives me a chance to channel some of my creative energy and love trying to create a beautiful journal that is fun to go back and look at or re-read passages in the future.
You always hear that journaling is great for your self-care, but I never truly believed it until I formed the habit myself. Now I'm completely hooked and look forward to my journaling time every day.
--Danielle LaFee, Piece of Cake Parenting
Journaling can help one's mental health because it allows one to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions down on paper. Sometimes it is easier to work through problems when they are written down and prioritized. Writing problems down can help stimulate problem-solving thought processes to get ideas on how to fix them. While journaling can help with problems, it is also good to write down all of the good things that have happened in your day or week. This is an excellent way to recognize the pattern of what happened during that time, and what feelings were associated with it. It's also nice to look back on previous entries and see where you were at that time and what you wish to accomplish for your present self.
--Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, Neurofeedback and Counseling Center of Pennsylvania
Journaling has been something I've done off and on for years but only recently committed to doing it daily - it’s made a HUGE difference in my organization and well being so I'm happy to share my thoughts!
For me, as a business owner, the biggest benefit journaling provides is that I'm more organized - the ancillary benefit is that the organization brings about better focus and prioritization which improves my productivity and mood.
I journal 2 times per day now - at the end of the day when I'm thinking about what Ive accomplished and what I need to do tomorrow and once when I get up (and with my first cup of coffee). Combined, these 2 entires (often 1 long entry) form not only a screenshot of my day, but a rough sketch of what tomorrow looks like - I love how I can quickly jot down things that I still need to work on or something that Ive been putting off.
In the end, having these entries gives me energy for my day - after my morning session I know exactly what I need to get done and how to spend my time. In the afternoon, I'm able to comment on what went well, what still needs doing, and anything that came up during the day that I need to remember.
Overall it’s a great system for me!
--Quincy Smith, Test Prep Nerds
This is a question dear to my heart.
3 years ago I started doing morning pages (a practice of freewriting 3 pages every morning) and it's done wonders for my mental health and clarity of mind.
Journaling, especially first thing in the morning, is a great way to bring to the surface and clear out any subconscious worries. Without a release, these thoughts can take up precious energy, sometimes, without our even knowing it! Journaling provides time and space to air out any thoughts, anxieties, or grievances that you might have, and a low-pressure space to work through possible solutions.
--Sara Anderson, That’s Different Podcast
Journaling is an activity I recommend in almost every development and coaching program I run as it can be a fantastic activity for improving and maintaining psychological wellbeing, and accelerating personal and professional growth. A few of the benefits include:
Taking the time to handwrite (it’s got to be handwritten for this benefit) a journal entry is an inherently mindful activity. You must concentrate on the here and now; on the coordination of your hand. Focusing on the present and removing yourself from the past or an imagined future can help regulate negative emotions (especially stress and anxiety) and improve mood.
Journaling also gives you the opportunity to look at things in a more constructive way. By taking the time to write down events, your reactions and responses to the them, and the outcomes you experienced, you’re able to identify where you’re thinking is not constructive and leading to unhelpful emotions and behaviours. This then presents the opportunity to reframe your thoughts and emotions in ways that are more constructive.
Learning from reflection
Arguably the greatest benefit of journaling is the fact that you are able to reflect on events, your subsequent behaviours, and how effective those behaviours were. This then allows you to identify opportunities to be more effective in future situations. Reflective learning is absolutely crucial to personal and professional development, which in turn is a significant driver of mental wellbeing.
As you can see, much of the benefit that comes from journaling is dependent on being purposeful and structured in the way you do it. Simply writing stuff down is unlikely to have much benefit and may cause frustration and poorer mental wellbeing as it can feel pointless.
--Eamonn Leaver, The Home Fit Freak
1. Writing in a gratitude journal every night before going to bed is a great way to create a gratitude practice. Write down at least three things you are grateful for that day. Each day they have to be three different things. It is especially helpful on bad days, as you can look back on previous days and remind yourself there is a lot to be grateful for and the bad days will pass.
2. Create a dumping journal. This journal is beneficial to “dump” the negative thoughts and feelings that creep up during the day. It is not necessary to review the previous entries, as it may create negative thoughts and feelings again.
3. Having an “I am awesome” journal is a great way to boost self esteem and realize your self worth. Everyday write down at least three things you love about yourself. They cannot be the same things each day. If your self esteem or self worth is low, read back some of your previous entries.
--Laura Redgate, Baseline Therapy
I keep a number of daily journals and they have benefitted my and my family's mental and creative health in a number of ways.
Personally I write a 3 page stream of consciousness journal every morning. This clears out all of the unwanted junk and leaves me feeling clear minded, creative and open to positive, optimistic and engaging thoughts. The main mental health benefits are clarity of thought (unburdened by the onslaught of negative thoughts that can build up when you do not have a release valve). This clarity allows you to better see and understand the reality around you without catastrophizing every little event and action.
The second daily journal I keep is a gratitude journal. I do this with my family. we started this habit at the start of lockdown back in March as a way for my 4-year old daughter to focus on the positive every morning (the lockdown took away her friends, her family, her school, her routine, her library, her playgroup, her park and more. For a 4 year old, you can imagine the negative impacts on mental health having those things taken away could cause). The results were awesome and immediate. Her mental health saw no impact from the lockdown. The gratitude journal helped her (and myself) to stay focused on what we had, what we could do and how we could live without the things we took for granted before lockdown.
In summary a daily journal has benefitted my and my family's mental health by:
1. Focusing on the what we do have, not what we don't
2. Clearing the mind of all the negative junk which causes negative thoughts
3. removed catastrophizing from our daily experience
4. Improved clarity of thought
5. Increased the ability to deal with stressful situations
6. Increased creativity
7. Augmented optimisim
--Mark Fielding, theapocalypsedaddy.com
Keeping a journal has become something sacred to me. I've been doing it since my teenage years and have always found comfort in it, as well as inspiration. While I was studying, I was extremely lonely and unhappy, and journaling helped me express myself and express all that sorrow and loneliness. I wrote about my feelings, doodled in the journal, or wrote poems and short stories, all based on my experiences.
I'm convinced that journaling at that particular time in my life helped me become aware of my inner world and motivated me to see things from another perspective so I could deal with things better. Even today, after many years, I still use my journal, especially my art journals, to express myself and spend quality alone time reflecting and being grateful. For me, this is priceless because I learn so much about myself by just consciously being with myself, my thoughts, and emotions.
--Ivana Kurilic, Artful Haven
I am a coach and author who helps people with their personal development and journaling is a tool that I often recommend.
I find that although we may be aware of thoughts or feelings on one level, writing our experience down allows us to deeply acknowledge these feelings to ourselves. We are making our experience solid and coming face-to-face with it. This helps us have clarity about our feelings and the situation, which is very important for mental health.
Journaling can also help us to connect to other, deeper parts of ourselves. Many of us are quite intellectual and a little removed from our feelings, but something about the act of writing allows other parts of ourselves to step forwards and be heard. If suppressed for too long these parts may put pressure on us and affect our mood and behaviour without us knowing, so it is important to find ways that different parts of us can express themselves in a healthy way.
If we are engaged in some form of personal development (whether this is counselling, coaching, meditation, self-reflection or other) journaling can help us to integrate what we learn. This helps us to make real progress rather than just having moments of insight but then forgetting about them or not fully accepting the significance of them. It can also help us to stay grounded in reality which is very important for mental and emotional wellbeing.
It is also interesting to have a window into past us so we can see clearly what life was like for us years ago and what has changed and what has stayed the same. Having a way of seeing how we have progressed and reflecting on what is helpful or detrimental to us, also gives us important information we can use for our own self-care.
Journaling has helped me at many times in my life, through lonely times and also times when I lacked clarity or understanding. It is an important tool in building a strong relationship with ourselves, understanding our own mind and becoming self-aware. It is also very easy to do, accessible and affordable, requiring only the small investment of some of our time.
If you would like to try journaling you can write a little everyday, or once a week perhaps just to get into the habit. You can also try writing from a cue such as I feel, I want or I need and then writing whatever comes up for 10 minutes without pausing, rereading or correcting. If you get stuck write the starter phrase over and over until something else naturally comes up.
--Suzanne Wylde, suzannewylde.com
Journaling helps to clear your mind of negative thoughts and memories. By writing in a journal you give yourself permission to put down the heavy baggage and make room for the good stuff. In the short term, writing your thoughts down can reduce stress and provide clarity and peace of mind. In the long term, it can provide insight into patterns and behaviors, improve memory and mood. It's a great tool for tracking your daily moods, as well.
Journaling helps people to make sense of an experience or feeling and improve problem-solving skills, which can affect our confidence. Journaling, and then reflecting, can provide needed perspective when an experience or emotions feel too heavy. It can help to prioritize concerns or tasks and provide direction and focus. It helps to identify triggers, obstacles, and progress. Journaling helps us to develop self-awareness, develop empathy, and evolve.
--Arien Conner, LCSW, Clear Path, LLC
One study (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1207/S15324796ABM2403_10) showed that journaling can increase our awareness of the positive benefits of a stressful event. This seems particularly useful in the current situation, as the pandemic is a constant source of stress. Another study (https://s31783.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/journal-of-nursing-education-and-practice.pdf) examined the effects of journaling among registered nurses (RNs). The results of the study found that RNs who engaged in journaling were better able to handle stress, had a higher degree of compassion satisfaction as well as reduced feelings of burnout and compassion fatigue. Other studies (https://repository.wcsu.edu/jcps/vol9/iss2/12/) have found that people who practice journaling report an increase in self-awareness and reflective thinking. Focusing on gratitude while journaling can be particularly helpful. One study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4873114/) examining gratitude found that as feelings of gratitude increased, feelings of loneliness and isolation decreased. This is particularly useful given current shelter in place orders, as people are feeling more withdrawn from their loved ones and friends.
--Thomas McDonagh, Psy.D., Good Therapy SF
Are you growing?
Let’s be real. Life happens. Plans become derailed. Goals are not met and failure looks you straight in the eye. Subsequently, you realize the pain and suffering that you have endured and possible ridicule that rises in the east every morning. Side note, there has to be a sunset on that mourning. The mourning of a failed business venture. The mourning of not succeeding in the game plan. The mourning of a loss. You can fill in the rest.
When you are hit by a freight train and that nagging voice inside your head is like a revolving door reminding you of your lack and failures, its time to memorialize your life.
Journaling can be your crutch. It benefits your mental and emotional wellbeing despite your ups and downs. In leadership, the saying goes something like this.. “don’t complain to people below you, instead, go above you.” We all need to vent. We carry each others burdens through friendships or relationships. Many times this causes undue burdens and weight. As such, we need to let it out. So, you need someone to communicate with. When that is not an option, you need to write!!
Journaling is an essential tool that has been used for decades by top leaders and executives. It frees you as you lay pen to paper or strike each key on your computer. Organically, it promotes freedom of expression with no judgment. You connect with your inner voice without inhibition. You allow yourself to experience the feelings and emotions that flood your soul like a river and empty into a never-ending sea of honesty. Your true heart felt expression is like a tapestry woven by the process of refining and redefining of who you are. Allowing yourself to document your journal only allows those chains to break and fall off you. Journaling promotes a self awareness and introspection that highlights the struggles and -or- successes you have survived and achieved.
Journaling is a tool that is used to overcome, cheer, celebrate and to be grateful.
Oftentimes, we may feel like we are barely hanging on. But, pursuant to your journaling and review of your entries, you realize quickly how much you have grown!! You are a survivor. You have what it takes.
Define your story! Journal your growth.
I am a life coach based in New Zealand. While working with my clients, one of my main tools are journal prompts to trigger thoughts, reflections and feelings.
Being able to 'think out loud' on paper is a great tool for mental wellbeing, especially if it's a topic you'd rather explore on your own before sharing with someone else. Journaling your thoughts helps to organize a cluttered mind by pushing you to articulate your thoughts and feelings into a clear summary - a powerful exercise for clarity. These kinds of writing sessions can also help to uncover solutions and ideas you may not have otherwise considered or noticed. Such a valuable tool!
Overall, journaling regularly enables you to look back on former thought patterns and the steps of personal growth you have taken.
I am a professional speaker on decision performance. Since my entire revenue stream existed of speaking at on-site events, the pandemic did quite a number on my business.
I had never seriously journaled before, but at the start of the pandemic a fellow speaker recommended I start keeping a journal of my experience, thinking it could produce some good stories and anecdotes for my speaking programs.
I started my journaling in mid-March and still write everyday. I use Google docs so I can access it anywhere, and keep a separate document for each month. Here are some of the benefits I have found:
- It helps me with short-term recall about what is going on in my life, as well as my thoughts and feelings. I am in my late 50s and my memory is not as ironclad as it once was. Entering the previous day's internal and external experiences in the journal forces me to think about what I felt. Sometimes it is difficult to recall much about my previous day!
- As I look back on months-old entries, it helps me put me feelings in perspective. Some things I felt upset or hopeless about have turned out fine, so it is a lesson on avoiding worrying about the future.
- At first it was difficult to remember to journal every day, but now it is an ingrained habit that I do every morning, unless I made the entry the night before.
--Steve Haffner, stevehaffner.com
As someone who has struggled with anxiety my entire life, keeping a journal has helped me focus on gratitude. For me, journaling serves as an outlet for self-reflection, complaining, and manifesting. That’s right; not only can you vent to your journal, but it also listens to you – judgment-free. I’d say you found a keeper.
Lame jokes aside, the truth is I’m a journal convert. In March 2019, one thing led to another, and I had a breakdown. My mental health was suffering, and I knew the road to recovery meant finding help. I sought out a therapist, spoke openly about my trauma, began practicing meditation, and started journaling. My journal entries range from discussions with my therapist to conversations among friends and family, to reflecting on my feelings. By writing what I was feeling, when I was feeling it – I was able to work towards healing. I learned that seeing my thoughts and emotions on paper helped me see a better picture of what was going on inside that pretty head of mine.
Essentially, journaling helped turn my breakdown into a breakthrough. An entire year later, I am proud of these changes that I implemented to manage my mental health better, and I would wholeheartedly vouch for the positives effects of journaling.
--Ilakkiya Maheswaran, Wander is Calling
Journaling helps people process emotions, solve problems, and record details they might forget. Some people don't know what they think or feel until it comes out of their pen. Right now, with so much happening in our world, there's no better time to record everything! Any form of diary or journal is fabulous, but I'll put in a plug for writing that journal on paper, with a pen, by hand.
Handwriting helps people process information and feelings more deeply. Writing by hand lowers stress, decreases depression symptoms, and can even improve immune function. The brain is more stimulated when a person is writing by hand, as it uses the regions for movement, calibration, artistic ability, and creativity. Individuals are more likely to recall information when handwritten rather than typed. And writing by hand increases the brain's ability to process and remember new information.
For people stumped by the blank page, writing prompts or a guided journal can help. I'm a firm believer in setting a timer and putting pen to paper with no editing until the timer goes off. The key is to just get started. You'll be amazed at what you learn about yourself through the process.
--Nita Sweeney, nitasweeney.com
Writing about your stress is healthier than bottling it all up, so journaling before going to bed each night can help. Keep a pen and pad or notebook on your nightstand. That way, if you dream and you remember the contents of it, you can write it down when as many details as possible are fresh on your mind. Dream details are forgotten very quickly, so it’s important to jot down your notes right away. In your journal entry, specify the emotions you felt in the dream, such as scared, stressed, happy, or sad. Doing this exercise could help alleviate the negative feelings you associated with the dream and identify stressors during your waking hours.
Scrolling through your newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram can be relaxing, but it can also be stress-inducing. Be cautious of social media because it does sometimes have the opposite psychological effects. You may see too many “happy” and “perfect family” photos and think everyone is doing this parenting thing better than you, leading to more stress, anxiety, and depression. Remember, many people only post positive things. There are negatives in everyone’s lives. Journaling and blogging are great outlets to express yourself, and doesn’t come with the judgment and comparison of social media. It’s more one-sided. Use this down time to write that poem, memoir, children’s book, or novel you’ve always wanted to write!
--Jennifer Tomko, LCSW, Clarity Health Solutions
Journaling exercises are essential in order to heal your past.
Everyone has something they wish they could forget. A childhood trauma or a particularly dark or difficult time. Something that happened that you would give anything to not have lived through. But you can’t go back in time and change it. And so you’re stuck with that haunting memory of the past…
I have some amazing memories of my childhood. I remember the exhilarating trips I took to visit my relatives. I remember going on wonderful adventures during the summer breaks. I remember the sea and the beach, forest and pine trees, everything that made me feel peaceful and happy inside. I think back to those days and wish I could go back. Go back to the free-spirited little girl that would run around everywhere, believing she was living in a fairy tale. That’s exactly how it felt sometimes.
I also have some very dark memories of my childhood. I remember the emotional abuse I received every day from my step-father. And how drunk he would get. I remember how he told me that I would never amount to anything in life and that I was nothing. I remember how he would punish me for no reason and not allow me to watch TV or see my friends. How he said, “No, you are not going!” the first time I got a date. How he made me cut the buttons off my coat and re-sew them again as my date was waiting outside the door. I ran away from home when I was fourteen. There was a reason for that. I couldn’t stand the abuse any longer. It was a terrible time for me, and emotional scars like that are impossible to erase.
When I think about my childhood, my mind can choose one of two very different paths. It can send me into depression from all the horror stories of being home and suffering through the abuse, or it can make me smile widely from all the wonderful real-life fairy tales of going on adventures and being outside in nature. I tend to choose the second path. The one with swimming and laughing and happiness. The one where I can imagine that I am back on the smooth rocks on the shore of the Black Sea, listening to the sound of the waves. Where I’m in a boat rowing across a river, admiring the beautiful water lilies. Where I’m walking for hours in the woods in the warm summer air and then cooling off by jumping into a refreshing lake.
I’m happy thinking back and remembering my childhood. In spite of all the bad things that also happened to me when I was a kid. I didn’t forget. I just choose to not think about it.
What memories do you have of your past? Do you think back to the happier times or the more troubling ones? How much do you dwell on negative things you can’t change? Are you able to focus more on the positive times in your life?
We’re not always in control of when something reminds us of our past. But we are in control of which details we choose to remember and think about. The more details there are, the more vivid and real your memories will become. This could make you experience tears of joy as you remember the happy events, or make you feel excruciating pain as you remember the painful ones. Focusing on any memory connected to your past can make you feel as if it is happening all over again. Take control and choose to relive the joyful high points rather than the troubling low points by keeping a journal of all the wonderful things that happened to you in the past.
Everyone has some good memories and some bad memories. There’s nothing we can do to change that about our past. But we can decide how we live and feel in the present moment. No matter how many bad things happened, if there is just one good thing in your mind, it will be enough. Write it out. Focus on all the little details of that good thing. Think back to how you felt in the moment. Try to imagine those positive feelings again. The joy, happiness, laughter, excitement. Block the bad memories from your present consciousness. The more you write about the good aspects of the past rather than the bad ones, the less you will be bothered by the more difficult times in your life.
The only way that details from your life can survive is in your mind. If you stop thinking about the details that caused you pain, suffering, and misery, they will eventually disappear over time. They will stop controlling you and haunting you. You will be able to free yourself of the bitter past and focus only on the sweeter memories of pleasant times. And doing so will also empower you to deal with the present. Whenever something bad is happening in your life, think back to a time when you were happier. Then write about it in your journal. Relive that moment as fully as you can. Take that positive energy and use it to get through whatever you are currently struggling with. You’ll be amazed at how powerful the mind is when it comes to overcoming your problems. Only after you've cleared all your negative memories from the past can you start appreciating each day and living it fully. Now you can write what gifts each day brings in your journal at the end of the day.
--Milana Perepyolkina, Gypsy Energy Secrets
Before 2017, my thoughts were all over the place perpetually. My brain couldn’t stop worrying. My heart beats very fast at night and I had difficulties going to bed.
This caused tremendous undue stress and anxiety which had an impact on my personal life and relationships.
I was determined to get over this and was willing to do any means possible to achieve it. One day, I read somewhere on the internet that journaling helps with clearer thinking so I seized the opportunity and got into action.
My first day journaling resulted in over 5,000 words and I felt I could still go further (shows how much I was thinking and worrying).
Though, as a digital entrepreneur, my life circumstances are more or less the same today - filled with uncertainties, worries, stresses - but I’m happy to say that today I’m facing life with a whole different perspective and attitude.
I am thinking clearly and have more positive thoughts due to the power of Journaling. Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way: “You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.” And I totally agree with it.
--Jeremiah Say, Gracious Quotes
Journaling, an age-old technique that has been around for years, serves as one of the best forms of self-therapy. As a writer and daughter of a life coach, I honestly don’t know where I'd be without it. It calms my mind, declutters my thoughts and compartmentalises new creative ideas. But I am aware that for a lot of people, sitting in front of a blank page can feel a little daunting, you don’t know where to start and all of a sudden, each sentence has to be perfect. I really know how that feels. This is why I love audio journaling. The process is far more mobile and efficient than paper and removes that logical critic we adopt when we go to write down how we're feeling. Essentially it allows us to be completely free with our thoughts. I find I come to such deep and profound conclusions just from hearing myself speak, that I wouldn’t have come to through writing alone. Now, I know a lot of people love to write. All im saying is there’s no reason you can’t do both! For me, making an audio recording is possible in many situations where writing is not. I use it on the train, in the car, in between meetings or even making breakfast (my favourite). The ability to document the inner workings of my mind on-the-go supplements my written journal in a way that fits around my hectic routine. In every way, it truly gets my thoughts out of my head in a matter of seconds. If your curious and want to learn more, head over to journify.co where we talk about all things audio journaling, stress, happiness and burnout 🙂
--Sasha Worrall, Journify
I think of journaling as the "master habit" it provides a place to collect thoughts, make plans and explore opportunities. It captures the fundamental power of the written word and language to represent ideas. By organizing thoughts, plans and dreams you have the ability to crystalize things and make progress. Whether you use your journal to reflect on your day, track goals, or understand the relationships in your life you increase your life satisfaction and create awareness. The research on this is clear, people who take time to reflect on their life report lower anxiety, live healthier lives in general and report increased happiness. Some research even shows measurable improvements in physical health and immune system function. Journaling truly leverages and proves the "mind over matter" concept.
--Sean Miles, habitbetter.com
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