In our fast-paced, modern world, it's easy to feel caught up in your own head. But many health experts and psychologists are urging adults to pick up a pen and start a journaling habit.
Journaling is a way for us to follow and enjoy the narrative of our lives. It's a way to deal with difficult emotions, and find greater positivity in each moment. Plus, it's a way to keep our bodies and minds healthy.
The notion of writing thoughts and feelings down on a regular basis can feel intimidating to some people, but the beauty of journaling is it can be done in a way that suits you and is convenient to your lifestyle.
Let's explore the health benefits of journaling and how you can get started today:
The physical benefits of journaling
Sitting down to focus on yourself and your thoughts can feel good, but many scientists have discovered tangible physical benefits to keeping a journal too.
A much-publicized study by James Pennebaker, chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas in Austin, compared two groups of students. One group was told to write about their emotions and thoughts, while the other group was told to write about "superficial topics," reported The Huffington Post Canada. The results showed that members of the group who wrote about their emotions had better immune function than those who wrote about superficial topics.
Other research shows that regular journaling can decrease high blood pressure, asthma symptoms and arthritis pain, according to Best Health Magazine.
The mental benefits of journaling
Scientists theorize that the physical health benefits of journaling may be related to the activity's ability to reduce stress.
By taking the time to write down our thoughts and feelings, we have an opportunity to separate ourselves from our emotions and analyze them critically. Putting our thoughts on paper lets us objectively look at them and decide whether they are healthy and productive or anxious and irrational.
In addition, journaling is also a chance to adopt a more mindful approach to living. With the internet, social media and other sources of distraction competing for our attention each day, taking the time to journal can help us feel like we are living in the moment. It can help us slow down and learn to appreciate the little joys that happen each day.
As an article by Licensed Clinical Social Worker Maud Purcell noted on Psych Central, journaling helps us know ourselves better, solve problems and resolve conflict with others more effectively - all behaviours essential to reduce stress and maintain good overall mental health.
"Journaling is a chance to adopt a more mindful approach to living."
How to get started journaling
With all these health benefits, journaling is an easy, efficient and worthwhile habit to adopt. Follow these tips to get started:
Journal in the way that works for you
Writing in your journal every day works for some people, and has some benefits, like giving you a larger "data set" from which to examine your life and thought processes, however, it's not necessary for everyone. Pennebaker's study found that journaling is also effective when it's done in short bursts, on an as-needed basis. You could journal every other day, once a week, or when you're going through a difficult time - choose the schedule that works best for you.
Use a specially designed journal
Buying a blank journal can feel overwhelming to many people. That's why there are a wealth of journals on the market specially designed to make it easy to start and continue journaling. Some options include:
Let the words flow
When journaling, don't worry about spelling, grammar or getting the words just right. Let your pen move quickly and write what you feel. No one needs to see your journal but you!
In this busy world, journaling can be a wonderful way to get in touch with your emotions and help you manage stress - and, as studies show, it can also bring some great health benefits. Follow the tips above to start journaling today!