If you could improve your health without dieting or going to the gym, would you? By lifting nothing heavier than a pen you could boost your immune system and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, according psychologist James Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin. It’s easy to imagine that journaling is good for the soul, but somewhat surprising to learn that it also has benefits for our physical health.
Other benefits of regular journaling include:
Improved problem solving. Journaling engages right-brain creativity which can help us find new and unexpected solutions.
Personal conflict resolution. Writing about a misunderstanding may help you calm down, access deeper feelings about the conflict and understand the other person’s point of view.
When thoughts and feelings get all knotted up inside, writing about them can help gain clarity about your internal process.
Reduce stress. Writing about painful emotions helps ease the intensity of the feelings and promotes a sense of inner-calm.
Building confidence. A journal is a record of personal growth and improvement. Looking back at how you solved past conflicts or worked through tough times gives more confidence to deal with current issues in your life.
It seems like a writing in a journal would be one of the easiest new habits a person could start, but like many well-meant resolutions, journal writing can fall by the wayside if you don’t set yourself up for success.
Begin with the guideline that you have permission to write anything about anyone on any topic that you want. Kick the inner-censer to the curb. Write about your boring day, your painful past or how much you love your dog. Writing leads to more writing. If there are deeper issues that need to be revealed, even writing about what you had for dinner can serve as in inroad to the important stuff.
Computer or paper? It’s up to you. One downside to writing in a word-processing program is the temptation to rewrite, correct and edit. Writing by hand is more visceral and engages the right brain more completely. However, whichever format makes it easier for you to spend a few minutes writing every day is the best format for you.
Try stream-of-consciousness writing. Set a timer and journal for a predetermined amount of time, 10 to 20 minutes is ideal for most people. The key to successful stream-of-consciousness writing is to keep the pencil moving for the entire time, writing whatever nonsense comes into your mind. It may seem like a foolish exercise at first, but stream-of-consciousness writing is a great way to get out of your own expectations or judgments and write what’s important in the moment.
Journaling is one of those good habits we can practice wherever we go in life, at any age. Of course, it doesn’t really replace eating well or exercising regularly, but daily journaling might be the easiest thing we could ever do for our physical and mental health.