I’ve mentioned before that journaling has saved my sanity. So I thought I’d do a blog about journaling and what it’s all about.
I started journaling about 18 months ago to try and make sense of what was going on in my head. I had a lot whirling round in there; anxieties, negative thought spirals, irrational worries. I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone as I didn't want anyone to worry. Looking back I was completely exhausted, burnt-out and overwhelmed with having two young kids in the midst of the pandemic and all that it brought. It’s no wonder I felt like I did!
That's when I started to journal. It’s had a huge, huge impact on my life, my mental health and wellbeing. I realised I was disconnected from my feelings and emotions, having shoved them down for years. That only works for so long before things come back up again, usually when you're feeling down!
Journaling became a window into my inner world and as I wrote, I started to understand myself more, and I began to see patterns.
Why should I journal?
Journaling is a safe way to express how you feel without having to worry about what other people think or if there’s someone to listen. It gives you the ability to write intuitively, honestly, freely and without filter. Writing things down frees up space in your mind, puts things into perspective, gives new insights and clarity. You can express emotions, memories, experiences, and ideas. Writing things down you’ll begin to see connections with things and you might be surprised at what comes up. Things you didn’t even know were things!
Ultimately journaling helps you have a better relationship with your mind.
Research has shown that our short-term memory storage is limited. The vast majority of us can only hold five or six, maybe seven items in our head at a time. Anything beyond and we start to forget things and feel overwhelmed with information. Recording your thoughts in a medium outside your own head clears out that storage. As a result, your mind becomes quieter: it stops returning to the same worn-out mental loops over and over. You can begin to think more clearly.
The science behind journaling
The right side of your brain is responsible for emotion and intuition. The left brain is for language and logical thought. When the right brain is overwhelmed by emotion it can feel scary. Writing helps by engaging the left brain to apply language and logic to those emotions as it gives us a better understanding of the feelings. This is a powerful way to help you regulate emotion more quickly and “get over” things. Ever had the same issue swarming round and round in your brain and no matter how much time you spend thinking about it and analysing it, you just keep going round and round? Try writing about it. I swear by it.
When we put our feelings into words, we become less attached to them and they become less distracting. Just by labelling our emotions we help our brain to process them. You also allow yourself to truly feel, rather than supress any difficult emotion. As soon as you acknowledge how you feel, it immediately loses it’s grip.
Other research shows that writing for 15 minutes per day about a difficult experience, stressor or significant life event leads to improved feelings of wellbeing, better sleep, decreased blood pressure, improved immune function and general health.
On a more practical level journaling propels you toward your goals, helping you bring your vision to life. It facilitates learning by creating a record of the lessons and ideas you have discovered, it makes you a better writer and helps you discover your voice.
Ready to dive in??
How do I do journaling?
There are so many ways you can journal. Some you’ll like, some you won’t and it’s about finding something that works for you.
Here are 3 ideas of ways that I like to journal.
1. A spring clean for the mind.
Find a quiet, comfortable spot where you won’t be disturbed and get a pen and paper. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Now write down anything and everything that comes into your head. If you can’t think of anything, write “I can’t think of anything”. Something else will pop into your mind. When the timer goes off, stop and walk away from your paper without looking at it. Do something else for 5 minutes then come back and read what you wrote. Pay attention to any recurring themes. Then throw away the paper.
2. Expressive journaling (or rage journaling!)
Any time you feel emotional, angry, frustrated and need a place to dump, try expressive writing. It's great for processing challenging emotions. You can also do this when your thoughts feel jumbled. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just see what flows. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar, keep writing and explore how you feel. Don’t worry if you change topics, write freely and openly. After you have written for 10 minutes, do something that makes you feel good.
3. The power of no
Are you juggling too many balls right now? What would you be able to accomplish if you tried to do less? Saying yes and doing absolutely everything leaves us feeling over-committed, stressed out and harbouring resentment. Remember my last blog about boundaries? This will help you with them.
Write down all the things you have coming up soon, or that you have been asked to do, and ask yourself the following questions:
1) Do I really in my heart of hearts want to do this?
2) Does it align with my goals and values?
3) Will I feel good doing this?
4) Am I doing this for me?
If the no’s outweigh the yes’s, politely decline or take a rain check if it's something you've already said yes to.
Give journaling a try. You'll find what works best for you whether that's daily, every few days or weekly. I promise it will make a difference.
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