A simple, effective way to reduce your stress, gain clarity of thought and improve your emotional state is through journaling. Yes, like when we were in grade school, keeping a journal.
Journaling has some surprising health benefits and there is quite a lot of science to support this notion. Research shows that journaling strengthens T lymphocytes, or immune cells. So it is good for our immune function, the system in the body that fights off sickness, illness, bacteria and viruses. Journaling also decreases symptoms of asthma and arthritis. And it improves memory and cognition.
Writing down your thoughts consolidates your memories and adds clarity to your thinking. In addition, when you revisit a journal entry, you generate self-awareness. This is another powerful tool in stress-management and improving mental well-being. Reflecting on what you’ve written facilitates new thoughts and helps improve upon old ones.
For example, when journaling about something that gives you anxiety (like the amount of work you have to do at your job each day) you can analyze the situation, develop a plan on how to address it, and start to rectify it.
You might create a to-do list for the day. When do you need to complete each task? Who could help you with it? What might you say to your manager asking for help? What is your goal for finishing everything? Once you’ve completed all the tasks, you might list everything that would improve your workload going forward.
Because of the deeper thinking and cognitive complexity associated with writing, it is heavily used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If it is used in a clinical setting to help those who are struggling with things like stress, depression and anxiety, why not give it a try? It’s pretty easy to do.
How to Journal
Just buy a notebook and write in it every day. You could also use a document on the computer, but the act of writing is preferred. Think about something you want to accomplish – whether that’s stress reduction, learning a new skill, becoming a better parent or spouse. Describe your feelings in detail and express yourself honestly.
Construct a vision and a plan for health or other improvements, set goals, and take action. Look for ways to bring your thoughts and goals to life each day, then write about it in your journal. If you learn something from reading or talking to someone, from watching a video or listening to a podcast, write about that, too.
Revisit what you have written, add to it, change it, learn from it, and keep at it. If you want, share it with others and ask for their input. Journaling is also a great way to facilitate connections and conversation with the people in your life. That, too, has excellent health benefits!
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