In this blog, Stacie explores the benefits of writing therapy by journaling; what journaling is (and isn’t) with tips on how to get started…
We live in a progressive digital age but I’m about to explain how powerful pen and paper can be as a powerful tool to help us. Did you ever keep a diary when you were younger? One filled with amazingly exciting secrets? I remember having one with a lock on that you opened with a tiny key. I can’t remember the secrets it contained and I’m not so sure they were amazingly exciting but I do know it helped me to express what was whirling around in my head during the emotionally fraught teenage years.
Did you know there is a difference between keeping a diary and journaling?
I didn’t until fairly recently and it actually helped me to get past the blocks I previously encountered keeping a diary. What I realised was that I found it quite boring writing ‘dear diary’ type entries of what I did in a day – let’s face it, writing our daily lives down during a year of a pandemic would probably be repetitive!
Research has shown journaling to have many health benefits, improving both physical and mental wellbeing by reducing stress levels. It is believed that the act of writing accesses the left brain, which is analytical and rational. While the left brain is occupied by writing, the right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. Therefore, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use all of our brainpower to better understand our inner world, others and the world around us.
Journaling is essentially self-directed writing therapy; a tool to share our inner world and story about the experiences, difficulties and joys we go through. It creates the space and opportunity to remove ourselves from identifying with the challenges; moving into awareness that it’s an experience we are going through, it is not who we are.
Journaling is like any other practice - we need to make time for it on a regular basis, even 10 minutes a day to feel the benefits. The longer you can write, the better because initially the ‘monkey mind’ will hijack your thoughts however, after a few minutes you will write what is actually behind those thoughts and you may be surprised what comes out.
Try not to force it onto your daily ‘to do’ list though – this will make it feel like a chore and then it works against you, not for you. Release any expectations of what it ‘should’ be or that you have to write perfectly. It is meant to be raw, unfiltered honest self-expression – give yourself permission to forget about spelling and grammar and just…write. If you prefer technology, there are note apps you can use or just simply type your words out…there are no rules, only the ones you create.
Journaling does not…
Suggested questions to get started
Asking open ended questions like the ones below are helpful to uncover the thoughts and emotional responses that just by thinking them alone can’t; revealing our inner world so that it can be processed and released.
What do I want out of this practice?
I believe journaling will help me…
Am I willing to commit time and energy to getting the most out of this practice…?
Am I willing to be gentle with myself when writing out my inner world…?
Am I willing to look within, even when it’s uncomfortable…?
Today, I feel…
I give myself permission to…
Through writing, you may just discover that your journal is an all-accepting, non-judgmental friend…providing the cheapest therapy you will ever get!
Originally written and posted on Psychologies Life Labs blog 23rd February 2021
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