I’ve kept journals on and off for most of my life. They’ve always been a safe space to free my mind and just write. No editing. No scratching things out. No over thinking. Most important, no tearing out pages after the fact (I used to be bad about that). I like reading past entries and noting areas of personal growth. I’ve also grown more comfortable exploring areas where I was, and in some cases still am, stuck. Reflecting on these times can be difficult (hence, the torn out pages). But I’ve come to realize that it’s important to accept every life experience that has helped shape me into who I am today.
I recently ran across an article that referenced the Center for Journal Therapy. I had no idea that something like this existed but it makes sense. There are numerous studies that tout the health benefits of journaling. This article highlighting the work of Dr. James Pennebaker, a psychologist at University of Texas at Austin, shares benefits that are surprising. Really surprising.
• Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
• Improved immune system functioning
• Reduced blood pressure
• Improved lung function
• Improved liver function
• Fewer days in hospital
• Improved mood/affect
• Feeling of greater psychological well-being
• Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
• Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms
Social and behavioral outcomes
• Reduced absenteeism from work
• Quicker re-employment after job loss
• Improved working memory
• Improved sporting performance
• Higher students’ grade point average
• Altered social and linguistic behavior
So if you’re someone who doesn’t currently journal, or who has never journaled, how do you get started? First, consider the medium that works best for you. I love notebooks and carry my journal with me should I feel like writing while out and about. There are some great electronic options too – the Day One app for Mac and Red Notebook’s cross platform diary and journal have received positive reviews. This probably goes without saying, but blogging is also something to think about. Ultimately, the most important thing is to choose a medium that you’ll use regularly.
Once you have your journal, find a place (like a favorite coffee shop) that inspires you to go within and write your first journal entry. If you have writer’s block, consider writing prompts to get the juices flowing. Whatever you do, keep at it. In time, journaling will become a regular and very healthy habit.