Journaling for Dummies


I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this blog is definitely a little more focused on the women. Journaling is something most of us women have done- you know- the middle school diaries we kept? I’m thinking men, not so much. But EVERYONE can benefit from journaling, so since we’re not middle schoolers any longer, lets read on and see if maybe there’s something to it?

Most of this comes from Real Simple magazine, lest you think all this brilliance is my own- its not. 🙂

Evidence shows that labeling your emotions calms your experience of them. Writing about your sorrow or outrage- owning it, in words, in the journal of your choice, may help you better cope. According to Beth Jacobs, PhD, a clinical psychologist, and author of Writing for Emotional Balance says “There’s an incredible release when emotions become tangible and visible, out of your head an into the world in a contained, self-controlled way”.

But beware the tendency to spew! Allow 3 pages, or 30 minutes to vent (your preference). Then spend a little time (say, 10 minutes) writing a positive affirmation or questions to ponder post-journaling. You might also look at yourself from an outside perspective. Reread whatever you’ve last vented about in your journal, pretending that someone else wrote it, and spend some time reframing it. What would you ask the person who’d written those words? What would you suggest to that person do to move forward? Another helpful exercise for working through sadness and pain is to write about your best possible self– the person you’d be if everything went right. Just the basics- what job would the ideal you hold? What does your ideal self’s house look like? What steps would you take to get there? One study found that writing about he ideal self was at least as beneficial as writing about trauma.

Too touchy-feely for you? Here’s some more practical journaling ideas:

If you want to get organized, get a bullet journal. Use it for scheduling, setting and taking long term plans and goals, and creative writing and drawing. Its great for detail oriented people who crave a sense of control as it keeps daily and monthly tasks and creative pursuits in one place.

If you want to tune in to your creativity – a journal doesn’t have to be text based. It can be a multimedia sketchbook or scrapbook with photos and art. Try this kind of journaling with key words- ponder the days’ experience and write down words phrases, and images that pop into your head without making an effort to connect them, you might gain surprising insight into your psyche.

If you want to be kinder. (Aaaand we’re back to the touchy-feely!) Feeling snarky? Overwhelmed and upset about the state of the world? Grumpy about a co worker? Research has fond that keeping a gratitude journal- a place to write what you’re thankful for- can help you feel better about you life and more charitable toward other people. In one study, people were asked to list 5 things for which they were grateful for once a week for 10 weeks. After, they felt more optimistic and satisfied with their lives than participant in control groups. They also reported fewer headaches, coughs, bouts of nausea and even pimples! Other studies have found that expressions of gratitude are associated with improved sleep and feelings of connection with others.

If you want to sleep better: Nighttime journaling can be a great sleep aid. “When you put your thoughts in a book you can literally close, you can take everything running around your head from the whole day and just plop it in.” Or, first thing in the morning, when your still half asleep, write 3 pages then stop. Just ramble, don’t try to craft anything. When you look back, you may be astonished by what you were working through, and knowing that you’ll unleash everything in the morning can help you rest better at night.

Beginning a journaling practice of your own can be daunting. So, check out the how-to dept on Amazon if you would like a little more guidance.

Getting in touch with your emotions is essential for your mental and your physical health! Learn how I use the mind-body connection in my massage practice and more in some of these related posts:


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