Journaling. Everybody’s talking about it and plenty of people are doing it. But what are the benefits of journaling? Isn’t it just writing ‘things’ down? How on earth could that do you any good, and why should you set aside time to do it when your to-do list is already never-ending?
The fact you’re so busy and overwhelmed is precisely why journaling should be a top priority. Chances are, you’re feeling at least a little bit stressed. Well, journaling can help!
What is Journaling?
As well as describing events from your day, journaling usually involves noting down thoughts and feelings. It enables you to step out of autopilot and deepen your awareness of the patterns you’re in. Journaling turns attention inwards, helping you notice your feelings and develop a more balanced way of thinking.
It’s an incredible tool for reflection, it’s cathartic, and it helps provide focus and clarity. Ultimately, it can have a positive impact on both your mental and physical wellbeing.
Here Comes the Science Bit…
Writing is a left-brain activity. This side of the brain likes thinking in words. It’s logical and analytical. Journaling fully engages the left-brain, freeing up the right-brain to deal with non-verbal cues, to intuit, and to tune into feelings. Both parts of the brain get to do what they’re best at, and they get to do it in tandem, allowing you to better understand what you’re thinking and feeling.
Taking this a step further, the physical act of writing things down increases focus and motivation, making it easier to achieve goals and form habits. If you think something and don’t write it down, you’re only engaging the right-brain. The mere act of putting those thoughts down on paper means your left-brain is on-board too.
The power of this whole-brain activity is that it taps into the subconscious mind, allowing you to see things differently and feel more confident about the steps you need to take to achieve the change you want in your life.
The Benefits of Journaling
Simply put, journaling makes us feel better. Here’s a handful of things it can help with…
Improved Self-Awareness – Regular journaling will help you gain clarity about the situations and things that cause you to react emotionally – whether in a good way or a bad way! It’s only once you have this awareness that you’re able to actively engage with the things that make you feel good and disengage from those that make you feel bad.
Reduction of Stress – Writing down how you’re feeling and what’s causing you to feel that way helps release the intensity of these feelings. The emotional and subjective right-side of the brain is instantly able to share the weight of your worries with the logical, rational left-side.
Improved Relationships and Conflict Resolution – Writing about relationship issues or disagreements, rather than just thinking about them, means both sides of the brain work together to look objectively at the bigger picture and find a positive way forward.
Increased Problem-Solving Ability – The right-brain isn’t great at problem-solving, so if you’re only going over and over things in your head, you’re unlikely to reach a resolution. But by writing things down you engage the logical left-brain, making problems clearer and easier to overcome.
Just write. Try setting aside some time every day and make journaling part of your routine. Ten minutes will do, 20 minutes is even better. Don’t think about what you’re writing, don’t edit, and don’t worry about spelling or grammar or making any sense. You can learn more in my post about how to create a journaling habit.
As well as the benefits of journaling outlined above, there’s lots to be gained from following a structured journal, focusing on a specific issue or topic, aiming for a set word-count, or limiting your practice to a set of short, simple bullet points. But the key to getting started is to just let the words flow and see where they take you.
The Mini CBT Journal
The Mini CBT Journal blends elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with the practice of journaling to make you more aware of how you think, feel and act.
I created this free tool to serve as an introduction to the practice I’m so passionate about. If you’re new to journaling or keen to strengthen your practice, the Mini CBT Journal is available here.