New year, fresh start. And what better way to dust off the cobwebs than with a shot of self-improvement? Introducing our favorite method of decompressing the scary outside world; journaling. A low-maintenance self-care practice that’s cheap and accessible to all. Get the lowdown on this effective practice. If we aim to love ourselves like we say we do, we should all be familiar with the concept.
What is Journaling
A hobby firmly in the spotlight during 2021, journaling is the self-care practice of recording and expressing thoughts and feelings via writing, typing, or drawing. Known for its meditative purposes, keeping a self-care journal provides an opportunity to explore deep emotions that may be holding you back, or boost those positive affirmations to take you forward. It may incorporate decluttering the mind, organizing thoughts, or prompting creativity. And the best part? There’s no ‘wrong’ way to journal. It’s for your eyes only.
Benefits of Journaling
The benefits of adding journaling to your daily routine are vast and varied. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Reduces Anxiety
A variety of studies suggest a link between journaling and reduced symptoms of anxiety. This could be a side-effect of managing stress levels by scribbling thoughts to a point where they feel more manageable or simply taking a step back to reflect and take a breath.
Journaling is a meditative practice. Getting your stresses or worries down on paper allows you to view them in a more analytical manner. This helps fears to seem smaller, emotions to be calmed, and ultimately allows for a more rational approach to be taken in response to them. The same is said for reducing symptoms of depression. In adolescents, keeping a journal for mental health has been said to have been as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
2. Improves Memory Function
The relationship between the hand and the brain is a powerful one. When writing, you stimulate a collection of cells called the Reticular Activating System, which processes whatever it is you’re focusing on at a deeper level. Simply writing something down improves your ability to remember it, not only to capture the moments in life you never want to forget but reaffirm ideas. By writing down those positive affirmations, you’re not only helping your brain to remember them but in turn, believe them.
3. Inspires Creative Thinking
Just like learning an instrument, increased activity on a certain task will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways, allowing you to see and construct ideas a little differently. Like anything, practice is key, so the more frequently you write in your journal, the more comfortable you’ll become at structuring language and thus, expressing yourself. Communication in itself is a creative process, so if it’s inspiration you’re seeking, try using thought-provoking prompts to help ignite creativity. Don’t feel like you can’t sketch your thoughts too, a visual journal can be just as impactful.
4. Assists in Achieving Goals
With a new year often comes new goals. Touching pen and paper and writing out your aims for the next 12 months enables you to better keep track of intentions and, as a result, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable. A journal often serves as a reminder of what needs to be completed to accomplish these goals. Want a tip? Set aside time every month, quarter or 6 months for a self-appraisal. Turn back the pages and check you’re on track to achieve those markers, no matter how small they may be.
5. Strengthens the Immune System (Yes really)
Who knew? There are a number of studies that suggest the act of journaling and expressive writing in general can improve wellness in both body and mind. Put very simply, the act of journaling is a relaxing practice and when the body is relaxed, the release of adrenaline and cortisol is decreased. Overproduction of these stress hormones can suppress your immune system, making you feel tired, weak, and more susceptible to other illnesses. Therefore, dedicating time to process your thoughts and keeping your body as stress-free as possible can, in theory, improve overall wellbeing.
How to Journal
Our first tip; write on anything. Journaling need not be as literal as touching pen to paper. If typing on a laptop is more maintainable in your busy 2022 lifestyle, this works too. Although the power of physically writing forces you to slow the pace, and in turn, slow the mind, making the practice a little bit more reflective.
Likewise, you can pick up your pen at any time of day, but first thing in the morning or last thing at night works especially well if you want to set intentions or reflect on your day. Setting a time each day also helps to make the practice a habit, which will help you maintain the activity as the months go by.
Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself in January with pages and pages of writing. It might help to set a timer for 3-5 minutes at first, and gradually increase the more comfortable you become.
We’ve covered how to journal. Next, what to journal about? In truth, there’s no right answer for what to write in a journal except what feels most appropriate to you. The mind is a strange place, and until you start to explore those thoughts you won’t know what’s lurking in there. Start writing, and you’ll find out what you should be writing about.
For the planner personalities, here are some avenues you might consider:
- Reflective Journaling
- Creative Journaling
- Gratitude Journaling
- Artistic Journaling
- Project Journaling
- Letter Journaling
- Mood Journaling
For more wellness content check out our piece on how to cultivate joy into the everyday.
Or, reconnect with nature and shop our outdoor essentials here.