As Nataly Goldberg once put it: “Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is that you’re having a relationship with your mind.”
It’s not just the romanticized quotes of famous authors telling us that journaling has immense benefits for our overall well-being, science has something to say as well.
To sum it up shortly, science has shown that journaling can be highly beneficial for people suffering from any psychological conditions (ADHD, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, psychosis, PTSD…), as tracking thoughts, conditions, and maybe creating daily structures helps self-reflection.
Psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believe that journaling can help us strengthen our immune system by acting as a stress management tool. According to Pennebaker, it reduces the impact of stressors on our T-lymphocyte cells (a fancy name for white blood cells, or immune system cells). Moreover, science shows that writing activates the left-brain hemisphere, our rational headquarters, simultaneously deliberating the creative right brain to just feel.
So, now you’re thinking—if it’s all about health, why don’t I just eat my beans and salad, exercise, and not waste my time on journaling?
Well, here’s a short list of the reason’s science has to offer:
Emotional well-being: journaling helps you understand yourself better and liberate daily stress and confusion;
Mental and emotional clarification: we live busy lives and sometimes need to take a few minutes to get in touch with ourselves by writing it all down;
Stress reduction: as awe mentioned already, a journal is an excellent anti-stress tool that helps you feel calmer and better-organized, consequently boosts your immune system;
Problem-solving: what do you think, is solving equations easier in your head, or on paper? Different types of journals can help you with solving different problems in life.
Perhaps you should also know that there is a type of psychotherapy called Journal Therapy, and many psychotherapists from different schools of thought practice journaling with their patients. After everything we said already, it’s needless to explain why.
Self-knowledge: with journaling you can honestly discuss your emotions, what you’re thinking, and possibly provide solutions. At the very least, journaling provides solid documentation of your actions throughout the day, so you can know how you’re spending your time. Through better awareness of your feelings, you can then determine if you responded well or not then make changes going forward.
Bedrock Habit Upon Which Other Habits May Be Built: Daily journaling is a discipline and so it isn’t surprising that many disciplined men and women also tend to be journalers. Getting one habit in place often leads to other habits following suit
Spiritual benefits: journaling also helps us see the progress of our spiritual lives. We can, for example, see how something that was bothering us before has ceased to be a problem, thanks to putting into effect some spiritual insight.
Basically, journaling in a book or on your computer, or a cell phone about what happens in your prayer and in your spiritual life is important because our human tendency is, unfortunately, it is easy to forget the wonderful things that happen in prayer—the emotions, insights, desires, memories, feelings and images that console us and challenge us.
We often do the same with spiritual experiences that happen to us in our daily lives so Keeping a journal is an antidote to this forgetting. Imagine Jesus was to come into a room and tell you something. You would obviously treasure his words and want to remember exactly what he said. So, you’d certainly write them down, maybe even paint them on the wall of every room in your house. Something like that happens with any deep spiritual experience.
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