Journaling and expressive writing is a powerful practice that I want for everybody. I share my thoughts and science-based research on why everybody should journal, how to develop a daily journal habit, and how to stay committed to your new practice.
I got my first notebook when I was in elementary school. What started with the words “dear diary” in a hard-covered unicorn notebook with a heart-shaped lock, matching key and a colorful poofed pen (it was the 90s, after-all) has turned into a 20+ year practice that has been my deepest form of self discovery, emotional expression, clarity, creativity and healing.
So many of us were not taught healthy tools to process and express our emotions, and our first response to difficult feelings is to ignore or suppress them. As mental health becomes more of a socially accepted topic of conversation, so does the awareness that the body keeps the score – meaning, those suppressed feelings don’t go anywhere, they fester in the body and mind causing more stress and, in many instances, physical manifestations through illness and disease… sometimes deadly. Journaling gives you a safe outlet to explore and express how you truly feel. While it may be difficult or uncomfortable to “be” with those feelings, journaling is a safe and free place to build emotional intelligence and explore your inner landscape.
When you’re in the practice of writing your thoughts and feelings and exploring how you truly feel and think about something, you’re more able to honestly communicate with people in your life. As you begin to clarify how you feel, you’re naturally better equipped to communicate that honestly with others.
Over time, the practice of journaling your thoughts will help bring more clarity to your feelings in-real time and strengthen your ability to speak your mind and heart more clearly to others.
In The Artists Way, author Julia Cameron illuminates a path to higher creativity through writing. She touts that everybody has a dormant creative spirit and skills just waiting to be unleashed, and teaches tools and exercises to help people gain self confidence in their creativity and expression. Her daily exercise, or what she calls “Morning Pages,” is a stream of consciousness writer exercise of putting on paper whatever comes up. Journaling is an opening of hidden passions and preferences waiting to be expressed.
Thoughts swirling around your head? Desires stifled by fear and worry? Journaling is a fast way to get clarity on what you really want (what you really really want … Spice Girls anybody?)
Through a journaling practice, you’ll begin to connect the dots and notice repetitive thoughts and actions in your life. Some of these might be positive – celebrate them! And some might be negative or self sabotaging. You can’t change what you can’t see, so journaling becomes a practice of truly knowing yourself – and choosing how you’d like to engage with situations differently. The key here: you get to choose. Journaling helps you see your options.
Decrease stress and anxiety
Putting swirling thoughts on paper helps alleviate the stress, anxiety and worry of spiraling thoughts, feelings and mental chatter. You’ll begin to notice a sense of calm and relaxation after journaling, deceasing overall stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
With emotional intelligence, communication, clarity, self knowing and decreased stress and anxiety comes the opportunity to let things go. Journaling, then, becomes a powerful tool for healing and moving forward with renewed vitality and clarity.
Ready To Give It A Try?
4 Steps to Adopting a Journal Practice
- Buy a journal and pen you love! Be excited to open the pages to your journal, love the way your pen feels and the markings it makes on the paper. These are my favorites, but feel free to go to a paper store and test out different options to find what works best for you (see how even this process becomes one of creativity and self discovery?)
- Set manageable goals and start small: if 20 minutes a day feels overwhelming, start smaller. Journal for 5 minutes each morning over coffee or right before bed. Feel overwhelmed by a blank page? A great prompt to start with every day is “i’m feeling ________.” Maybe even close your eyes while you write and let yourself go… see what happens.
- Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly journal prompts delivered to your inbox every Monday morning to help spark creativity, insight and self reflection. Join us!
- Remember, this is for YOU. Nobody else cares and there are no rules. Forget to journal for a few days? It doesn’t matter – just pick back up. Start today. Start now!