According to PsychCentral, journaling has been around as early as 10th Century Japan. Writing out our thoughts, stories, and journeys has been a part of humans daily life throughout time. In this century, our form of cave drawings or inscriptions on rocks has taken a digital form. With social media and the internet at our finger tips we have began journaling to the world rather than just to ourselves or our communities.
Photo by Aaron Burden
While these new forms of what I will label as “social journaling” can be helpful and productive, there is something to be said for the old version. A pen and paper. Writing out our thoughts and feelings is a form of what we therapist's call processing. Processing takes many forms, and in the case of journaling it helps us see what we are going through from a different perspective.
Journaling has been heavily studied in the field of psychology. One small study conducted by Dimitroff, Sliwoski, O’Brien, and Nichols (2017) looked at nurses who journaled daily and their performance at work. Their study showed that nurses who journaled reported feeling they could express their “inner most thoughts” without judgement, understand their own feelings better, and make decisions based on well rounded thoughtfulness rather than abrupt decision making. Another study done by Flinchbaugh et. al. (2011) had a group of students incorporate journaling into their routines. Their results showed that students who were in a combined intervention group or gratitude journaling group showed more, “meaningfulness and engagement in the classroom” than their counterparts.
These are just a few examples of how intentional mindfulness skills such as journaling can change the way we view things. Writing can help you process your thoughts in a way that helps you see things with less emotion and more of your rational mind. It can also help you develop a deeper connection to your own patterns in life. Having higher self awareness helps us figure out what we appreciate that we are doing and the areas of ourselves we wish to develop. Self discovery and building our “ideal self” changes all the time. As the research above shows, journaling not only helps us make more thoughtful decisions, it also has a byproduct of self-soothing. By creating self-trust through our relationship with ourselves becoming healthier, we are able to be more decisive with confidence. It may not seem that simple, so why don’t you do a self experiment? Write 3 self-love/empowering affirmations to yourself each day as if you are writing a good friend. Over time, try to log the differences in how you currently view your self worth, love, body image, and self-trust, and in 3 months look back and see how much of that has changed.
Photo by Doug Robichaud
A plant might grow healthier if it is given Beethoven music versus negative comments. And you are that plant now. Words have deep, lasting effects on our sense of selves, and so why be the meanest person to yourself when you can be the kindest?
Along with the why of journaling, there is the how. There are so many new ways to journal that cater to your preferences. Maybe you like the old school, pink journal with a mini lock and key you wear around your neck journal (come on we all had in the early 2000’s), or maybe it’s a beautiful custom leather journal, it could even be a notes app on your phone. Whatever way you journal, it is a great tool to view your thoughts from a new perspective. It is also a great way over time to see where you were, and how far you have come. What do you want to learn about yourself?