This is a guest post by Prudence Sinclair.
Hello, lovely YOU!
What do John Steinbeck, Oscar Wilde, Queen Victoria and Ben Franklin all have in common? They were all journalers! They, among other very notable historical figures, looked at journaling the same as French writer and philosopher Foucault, as a “weapon for spiritual combat.”
The Benefits of Journaling
It turns out journaling has some pretty profound benefits that are backed by science!
A study conducted by Harvard Business School found that people who journaled at the end of each day saw a 25% increase in performance. The researchers found ‘reflection’ to be a powerful tool to learn and experience new information.
A Stanford University study found there was a critical link between writing and speaking. When we journal, our minds form clear thoughts, which we can later be translated into clear spoken communication. This can only improve the relationship we have with our partners, friends, family and coworkers.
Another interesting study found that those people who journaled right before bed reduced their instances of rumination and worrying, allowing them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
Improved Overall Well-Being
A study at Cambridge University found that journaling helped to improve a person’s well-being both physically and psychologically after a particularly stressful or traumatic event.
This is the benefit that really excites me. I believe had I journaled years ago when my father was tragically killed by a drunk driver, I would have perhaps never developed cancer. It seems that when we write about our feelings and darkness, instead of just thinking about them, we help our mind, soul and body process these events so we can move past them. Without this processing, our emotions can become trapped and make us very sick.
If you don’t currently journal, I highly recommend you begin the practice. It is a very fun, worthwhile and rewarding practice that I believe should be a part of everyone’s healing journey.
There are no rules to journaling and that’s a point I really want to get across. I get so many emails from people who are trying meditation and think they are doing something wrong. And admittedly, there are a few rules with meditation.
But not so with journaling. You are free to write about whatever you want!!
Having said that, here are some tips to help you get started with this practice:
Think of Your Journal as Your best Friend
We all want that one person we can turn to and tell ANYTHING and know they will never judge us for it. Your journal can be this kind of sounding board for you.
Anything goes. Tell your journal your deepest darkest fears, hopes wishes. Give those pages the darkest parts of you. Let it all out. It is a profound experience and you will be amazed at how much lighter you begin to feel when you stop carrying around that darkness wherever you go.
But you really can write about anything – big things and small. Old childhood trauma and wounds to the news headline that has you a bit worried. The coworker who drives you nuts. Anything and everything that frustrates you on a daily basis. Jot it all down.
Date Each Entry
This is really important because it helps you be able to look back and see your own growth. This helps you recognize that positive change is not only possible, but YOU are capable of bringing about that change.
It’s a really good idea to spend a bit of time before you start writing just to breathe and clear your mind. If you practice meditation, spend 10 minutes getting still and becoming present. If you don’t meditate, just get into the habit of creating a mental and emotional space in which your true feelings can come through. This can be as simple as taking three long deep breaths and inviting your feelings to come.
Don’t Judge – Just Write Stream of Consciousness
No one else is ever going to read your journal entries. Do not write slowly and try to get spelling and grammar and syntax correct. Just write in stream of consciousness form and let the thoughts and feelings flow through you and onto the page. Never censor or edit yourself. This process shouldn’t feel hard or stressful. It should feel fun and like a relief.
You Can Use a Timer
You may find at the beginning you have a hard time writing anything down. You may not be used to contacting your truest feelings and letting them flow. So make a game of journaling to help encourage the process.
You can set a timer for 10 minutes (or 20 or 30) and write, literally, whatever comes to mind. You can write that you hate bananas and that you saw someone fall off their bike on the way to work and that your butt hurts and that you hate writing. Literally write down every and anything that pops in. Eventually your mind and heart will see that you are committed to this process and, as you get used to it, the real emotions that have been buried will start to surface!
If you’re like me and a lot of the people I know, this process will be a bit challenging when you start, but it will quickly become something you love to do and can’t image a day going by that you don’t journal. I encourage you this week to go out and buy yourself a special journal – whatever speaks to you. It can be a pretty hardbound journal with parchment paper or a 5 subject notebook. Doesn’t matter. It’s whatever YOU like and will draw you into the process. While you’re at it, get yourself a new pen as well!