5 Ways Journaling Can Improve Your Life
I’ve kept a journal since I was in the 3rd grade. And just as I’ve evolved as a person, throughout my twenty-something years of life, so, too, has my journal content been shaped by my experiences.
Journaling is my form of therapy – it has kept me sane, and been the “ear” that listens when I need to share my thoughts, but don’t have, or want, someone else to share those thoughts with.
In all my years of journaling, I’ve never thought critically about how journal writing has helped me to improve myself. I just knew that it did, because I felt it.
So when I was given an advanced copy to review of “Write for Recovery,” a new book by Diane Sherry Case, I was eager to read about all of the benefits of writing for emotional health. I had experienced these amazing benefits, but this book helped me realize, with excitement, just how amazing writing can be for self-improvement.
The author uses her background in psychology and creative writing to provide real-life stories and hands-on techniques for journaling, with exercises geared towards providing clarity and healing “for heart, mind, and spirit.” Case is a life coach, and she explains that journal writing can help people to process emotions, increase self-awareness, and clarify personal dreams and goals.
Not only does this book explain why journaling helps you, but the short exercises teach you how to begin journaling for self-improvement, specifically healing from emotional pain and loss.
With this book, expect to get a better understanding of the benefits of journaling, AND some actionable activities to help you start your journaling journey.
It’s great for anyone interested in journal writing – for those of you that are curious to begin, and those of you (like myself) that would like to take your journaling a step further. I also recommend this book to psychologists and therapists, or anyone working with individuals that are dealing with trauma and grief.
Here are five major ways I’ve learned from the book that journaling can improve your life.
1. Creates a safe place within yourself.
My journal doesn’t judge (at least I don’t think!). Because of that, I’m able to communicate my thoughts freely onto paper, without fear of judgment or feelings of insecurity. When I’m writing in my journal, this is one of the few times that I can honestly say that I am expressing myself freely.
Humans need someone to listen – as a soundboard for our expressions. But, all too often, when we are going through issues or emotions, we hold back what we feel because we are worried what others will think. In effect, we bottle these thoughts and ideas inside, like trapped gas that can’t escape. This is not only harmful to our wellbeing, but it also is self-limiting.
Writing in a journal creates a safe place within yourself – you can let your thoughts flow freely without insecurities. Writing it down can give life to your expressions, so that you aren’t trapping it all inside, but are still safe from judgment.
2. Helps you explore positive and negative emotions.
Case explains in her book that a common misconception on journaling is that it should focus on negative emotions, but that shouldn’t be the case at all. Express all kinds of emotions – don’t limit your journaling experience by only writing when you feel sad, angry, or hurt.
When you express yourself without inhibition, it’s freeing – not just with “good” feelings, but “bad” ones, too. It feels like you’ve taken a load off, almost like when you get some news, and you just have to call someone up and share it.
With journaling, you’re able to go back and read what you’ve written. This is important because it helps you visualize your thought process, and recognize the emotions you felt compelled to share.
If I wrote down every thought in my head, and at the end of that day, had to come back and read it – I would be in for a world of reflection. And that’s exactly what journaling allows you to do, essentially: reflect on your feelings.
When you write freely through journaling, you’re able to explore any positive feelings you have, and negative feelings. This’ll teach you so much about yourself, and your own mindset.
3. Improves your resilience.
Journaling isn’t just about writing down your day-to-day thoughts and activities. In fact, it should be so much more than that.
Instead of just writing about the day’s events, Case provides specific writing prompt exercises in her book to guide you. The prompts can help you recognize stories and themes from your life.
Through your own storytelling in journal writing, you can overcome obstacles you’ve experienced in the past, which will help you build up resilience and “bounce back” in the future.
And by expressing, and reflecting, on challenging emotions and events, you not only become mentally strong, but can improve self-actualization.
4. Promotes mindfulness.
Journaling also encourage mindfulness – that is, bringing your attention to the present moment. Many of us are constantly thinking about the “what ifs” or the past and future. We live in constant mental noise, because of our unruly thoughts.
The exercises in the “Write for Recovery” book are geared towards improving mindfulness, that encourage you to focus on feelings and sensations in the “now” so you don’t miss the experience of the moment.
Writing in a journal is a solid first step towards practicing mindfulness, and you’ll see that the more you practice it, the more you’ll appreciate the present, not only in writing but in your daily life.
5. Awakens your inner creativity.
Writing in itself is a creative process, is it not? Some people don’t think so when it comes to journaling, but the very act of journaling your thoughts, emotions, and experiences, is a creative way of you telling your own story – uninhibited, and without restraint.
In her book, Case teaches you how to stay away from the rational mind when it comes to writing. Her reasoning? To move the writer’s intellect out of the way, so that creativity can come forth. She explains that creativity lies deeper in your soul, and channels the wisdom that comes from beyond the mind.
The free-flow writing exercises help awaken that creative spirit inside you, so that you can access hidden talents you may not have even realized were there.
So there you have it – journal writing has amazing benefits, and it honestly just feels good. I love my journals because they have saved me my sanity and strength in so many situations. I’m definitely the strong and silent type, meaning I hold in my emotions and don’t outwardly express myself often.
That being said, if I didn’t have a journal to “vent” to, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. In fact, I know I wouldn’t be.
And, you don’t have to be a writer to start journaling. In fact, the book states that you should not be worried about “writing well.”
If you’re looking to be inspired, rediscover yourself, feel empowered, become more mindful, and awaken your creativity, start with “Write for Recovery.” I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working through the writing prompts, and it’s taught me a lot about my own journaling process, even though I’ve been doing it for much of my life already.
Journaling is probably one of the best practices you can do for yourself – and it’s a great way to start a new year of self-improvement.
How has journaling helped you? And if you haven’t tried it, what’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments!