There is something powerfully healing about regularly engaging in the simple act of putting pen to paper.
Keeping a journal is a potent way to invite our thoughts and feelings to come out in the form of words, sentences, ideas, and (if we’re lucky) the occasional revelation.
As with any new habit, integrating the mindful practice of journaling into your day-to-day life takes some time and effort. Be patient with yourself, while also remembering that consistency and dedication are essential. Consider journaling like peaceful meditation or yoga practice. Choose a particular, cozy space in your home to dedicate to writing, placing your notebook and a few good-quality pens and pencils there, along with a couple of items to create a simple altar to creativity, such as a candle, a stone, a colorful piece of art, or a photograph that makes you smile.
Invest in a crisp and sturdy notebook (something built to last) or diary to dedicate specifically to your writing practice. Handwritten journaling is ideal, as there is a direct connection between our hearts and our hands. Pressing pen to paper brings forth a different energy than typing words on a glowing screen, something that most of us are doing all the time for work and to communicate with friends and family. This “old school” act of writing by hand whatever is on our minds, without editing or judging, offers a slew of mental and emotional health benefits.
Here are four likely effects of keeping a written journal:
1. Free therapy.
According to Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal, “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable."
Journaling empowers us to process our emotions. By writing down our experiences, worries, ideas, and plans, we gain a better understanding of our challenges, strengths, desires, and dreams.
Refusal to deal with our feelings will, sooner or later, lead to a heightened stress level. Studies have pointed to the idea that the emotional release journaling allows helps reduce anxiety and alleviate stress, which in turn leads to better sleep and enhanced health and wellness.
2. Paying better attention.
Keeping a journal automatically conditions us to pay more attention: to how we feel, to what we want and don’t want, and to what we are choosing to put into our bodies, minds, and hearts.
Through self-reflective writing, we strengthen our mindfulness muscles and begin to pay greater attention to how we sit, stand, move, and behave both in the sanctuary of our homes and out in the public spaces of the world.
3. More self-discipline.
Depending on whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, writing either first thing in the morning or last thing before sleep is a solid plan. And it’s ideal to make it happen around the same time each day.
Creating the time and space to write requires discipline. The more you engage in the practice, the stronger the habit will become. The really cool thing is that developing the writing habit will infuse discipline into other areas of your life, encouraging the establishment of more good habits based upon self-discipline, such as regular exercise, greater devotion to personal practice, more consistent healthy eating, and the like.
4. Greater self-knowledge.
Journaling, with dedication and focus over time, peels back the layers and gently strips away the masks that we wear. It increases self-awareness, helps us continue our personal growth and, ultimately, makes friends with our mind stream.
Once you’ve established a routine of contributing to your journal daily, or as often as possible, the next step is to reread. This can be challenging, as a major resistance to delving back into your past may arise. If you’re like me, you may sometimes find yourself preferring to organize your closet or deep-clean the bathroom rather than paging back through your journal.
Yet, this reflection piece is key to healing. Find a time, perhaps weekly or monthly, when you can sit with a warm mug of something delicious and reflect upon what you’ve written. Then, spend a good 5 to 10 minutes writing about these reflections and planting seeds of intention for the next cycle or season of your life. May these tidbits of information and advice be of benefit and help you initiate or revive a journaling habit. Happy writing!