Why journaling is good for your health
Why journaling is good for your health

Keeping a diary can significantly improve your well-being: sleep and pressure are normalized, the immune system begins to function better, and even wounds heal faster. And if you have long wanted to start a personal diary, but did not know where to start, in this article you will find 8 useful recommendations.

Why journaling is good for your health
Why journaling is good for your health

I have been keeping a personal journal for many years. Twelve, to be precise. When I tell people that I keep a diary, some begin to think that these are some kind of notes related to work. Others imagine a teenage version like: “Dear diary! Now I feel …”And that's all.

When I first started keeping a journal, the first page was a real torment. But today, journaling is one of my favorite parts of my day: writing down my thoughts makes me feel better both physically and mentally.

Surprisingly, improving your wellbeing with journaling is not just psychosomatics. This business really improves the health of those who do it. According to Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychologist and leading expert in expressive writing, journaling helps strengthen immune cells, T lymphocytes. Thanks to this, mood improves, social activity increases. It also has a beneficial effect on the quality of close relationships.

Most of the research on expressive writing is done with measurements of physical health indicators, so that changes can be tracked. As a result of numerous scientific experiments, it became known that thanks to keeping a diary, the immune system begins to function better, blood pressure normalizes, sleep improves, and stress decreases. After a few months of journaling, people begin to see fewer doctors. Other studies have found that this activity promotes faster wound healing and greater mobility among people with arthritis. And the list goes on.

So what is journaling? It is a combination of factual personal accountability with the exploration of your inner experiences, sometimes irrational, but always important.

giphy (9) personal diary
giphy (9) personal diary

There are weeks when I take notes every day, and sometimes I don’t write a single word for a month. The point of journaling is not only to organize your thoughts - you can just think about them carefully, and this will also bring certain benefits. When keeping a diary, it is the act of writing down thoughts that yields the most results.

When you take notes, the left, rational hemisphere of your brain is at work. While it is busy, the right hemisphere can do what it does best: create, anticipate, and feel. Keeping a diary removes all psychological blocks and allows us to use all the capabilities of our brain to better understand ourselves and the world around us. Maud Purcell psychotherapist, writing expert

Intrigued already? I think yes. But maybe you are like me 12 years ago when I didn't know where to start. Therefore, here are 8 tips to help you master the art of journaling in no time.

1. Use a pen and paper

The modern world is keyboards and touch screens. But when it comes to journaling, there are more advantages to using a regular pen and paper.

I have noticed that most of my patients intuitively understand that writing down thoughts by hand is more effective than using a keyboard. And research confirms this. It turns out that during writing, the reticular activating system is stimulated - that area of the brain that filters and brings to the fore the information on which we focus. Maud Purcell

There are additional benefits to handwriting. This keeps us from editing our own thoughts. Although many people in their 20s and 30s have already lost the muscle memory of handwriting and this activity may seem slow and inconvenient to you, it will not take long before you will feel comfortable writing by hand again.

When I manage to convince young people, especially 20-year-olds, to take notes in good old fashion, they are always amazed at the result, because this activity really calms and helps to cope with problems. Maud Purcell

2. If you don't like writing with a pen, find the right tool for you

Perhaps, having tried to write by hand, you will realize that this option does not suit you. There is nothing wrong with that.

Fortunately, there is a huge variety of options today. Personally, I prefer to keep my diary by hand using a V5 Hi-Techpoint pen with a very thin shaft. Yes, just that particular option. I think this is the perfect tool to help my thoughts flow from my head to the pages of a Moleskine notebook.

But, if paper and pen are not for you, turn to their technological counterparts. Standard editors (Word from Microsoft or Pages from Apple) and more minimalist solutions like Ommwriter will do. Perhaps you prefer touch screens. In general, look for the most convenient solution for yourself.

3. Set a reasonable limit for yourself

giphy (10) personal diary
giphy (10) personal diary

Previously, people set themselves a limit on the amount of writing, for example, 3 pages every day. But experts agree that a time limit is a more effective solution for journaling.

Consider rationally how much time per day you can set aside for this activity in your busy schedule. Even if at first it is only 5 minutes.

The limited time frame helps people focus on a specific goal when they start journaling. Seeing 3 blank pages in front of you can be tricky, and it’s over before it starts. And the time limit will not seem like an ordeal.

Pennebaker recommends writing 15-20 minutes a day. In this case, the only rule is to do it constantly.

4. You don't need to be Shakespeare

Most aspiring writers (whether they write diary notes, an article for a popular magazine, or a voluminous novel) are usually mistaken in the belief that everything they write must be deep and sensual. And when, with this delusion, you start keeping a journal, be sure that it will lead to failure. Such activity is directed outside, at others, and you must keep a diary for yourself personally. True depth comes naturally, by itself, even by accident. Pretentiousness occurs when people deliberately try to appear smarter.

Shakespeare was a great writer because of his natural talent and careful study of human nature. But what's good for him doesn't have to be for you. You don't need to showcase your literary talent. You just need to write.

I advise my patients to forget about spelling, punctuation and just pour their stream of consciousness onto paper. So journaling will help bring information that is stored a little deeper than consciousness to the fore. Let it pour out. Maud Purcell

5. Don't edit

One of the goals of journaling is to explore areas of your consciousness that you may not want to venture into. Diary entries are not articles. No one will check your spelling, grammar, punctuation or content structure. When you are editing, you start to think and focus on the presentation, not on your thoughts.

The essence of journaling is to write without thinking. Thinking, we interfere with our intuition, and, therefore, the whole meaning of the diary is lost. A diary can help us explore pathways that we cannot consciously discover. We can find extremely interesting topics if we stop thinking for a while.

6. Take your diary in the same place every day

e.com-resize (18) personal diary
e.com-resize (18) personal diary

You don't have to lock yourself in a secluded ivory tower to record your thoughts. However, having a specific place to keep a personal journal will help you create better introspective notes.

I have a favorite cafe in London where I like to write. Even when it is noisy there with clinking cups and chatting customers, I find the background noise soothing. He helps me immediately tune in to the right mood, and I dive into my diary. If a cafe isn't for you, try writing in a quiet room at home or on a park bench.

Let it be an inviting place, where it is cozy, where there are things that inspire you, where you can see them, touch them or smell them: flowers, sentimental photos, memorabilia or pleasant drinks - your choice. Maud Purcell

7. Leave room for content

When I buy a new Moleskine, I always skip the first two or three pages before starting a diary. When I fill out an entire notebook (usually a year), I wait for a while and then reread it.

As I reread, I highlight notes or thoughts that I consider important, mark the page numbers or date of writing, and then put them at the very beginning of the diary. This is how the content gradually develops, thanks to which I can easily find important entries. It helps me a lot when I face difficulties. I can watch myself run into problems in the past that seemed insurmountable to me, but which I was eventually able to cope with.

The experts disagree on whether a table of contents is needed in the diary or not.

“Some people like the structure, some don't,” says Pennebaker. - Someone likes to re-read what has been written, someone does not. The key is to find a way that works for you."

Purcell has a different point of view: “I love this idea. Of course, some parts of the journal will feel more relevant to your life as a whole. And quick access to these notes will be useful, especially in confusing or stressful moments of life. It's great to be able to remind yourself of how you've dealt with seemingly desperate situations in the past."

8. Keep the diary away from prying eyes

Find a safe and secure place for your journal. For this activity to be truly effective, you need to feel as free as possible and write things down that you cannot tell even your best friend.

A personal diary is not a letter to another person. This is not a document by which others should judge you. Want to write a book? Good. Write a book. The diary is just for you alone. If what you write might hurt the feelings of others or harm your reputation, destroy the diary or hide it in a safe place.

Remember that you are only writing for yourself.