Today we welcome a guest post from Kelly, who discovered journaling’s positive effects beyond being mental fit:
It’s great to discover that something you like doing is actually good for you. That was the case for me recently when I read an article about the health benefits of writing.
I always suspected that journaling helped keep me sane. I’ve been doing it since I was in my early teens and have boxes full of spiral notebooks to prove it. Writing down my thoughts and feelings helps me process experiences, make decisions, set and track goals, cope with stress, and work my way through problems. In the past few years it has also become a creative outlet as I’ve rekindled my love for writing poetry.
So it made sense to me that journaling would be good for emotional health; what surprised me was learning that putting pen to paper can positively affect physical health as well. But of course, it’s well known that mental/emotional health isn’t separate from physical health.
Turns out, people who write regularly about their emotions (also known as expressive writing) enjoy a slew of health perks, including fewer illnesses, less time in the hospital, lower blood pressure, better liver and immune function, and faster recovery from wounds—just to name a few. And the good news is it doesn’t take a lot of time to reap the benefits. Writing for just 15 to 20 minutes a day can make a significant difference in your well-being.
The 79-cent Therapist
Psychotherapist and author Kathleen Adams, LPC, calls her journal her “79-cent therapist,” and I can relate to that. In my twenties, within the span of three years, I experienced two major personal losses—unexpected deaths of two people very close to me. Looking back, I know that writing was a lifeline during those dark times. As I poured out my grief, anger, and confusion into my journal, I slowly began to heal.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not discounting the value of seeing a professional therapist. I’m just saying there is something about a blank page that is very comforting. The page doesn’t give advice or judge. It just listens. In fact, many therapists recommend journaling as part of treatment.
Not sure where to start?
While my example above is a dramatic one, you don’t have to have some Big Topic in order to write. Start with whatever is going on in your life and how you’re feeling about it. Here are some great tips for those new to journaling.
Another little secret: You don’t have to write well in a journal. No one else has to see your scribbles. It’s the process that counts. And if you find your inner critic won’t leave you alone, here’s a trick I use: visualize or draw your inner critic. Have fun with it—make him/her ugly and ridiculous. (Mine is a warty green witch with cat-eye glasses.) Then imagine a thick, sound-proof bubble around this creature. Voila! Its lips are moving but no sound is coming out. If you’re like me, this will make you laugh and put that negative little voice into perspective.
I Still Eat Carrots
Whether it’s due to good genes, healthy lifestyle choices, regular journaling, or a combination of all of the above, I can attest that my general health is very good (knock on wood). Writing is just one tool in my wellness toolbox.
The great thing about journaling is you can do it pretty much anywhere. It’s easy, cheap (think back-to-school sales), and doesn’t take much time. If you’re already journaling, pat yourself on the back. If not, why not give it a try?