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Hobby Highlight: Journaling

It is funny how many simple things in life have profound effects - one of these simple things is the art of journaling. While we are all not the next Shakespeare, myself included, writing has several benefits that often go overlooked. Setting aside a little time each night to process your thoughts and emotions for the day goes a long way in improving your mental health. Let’s get into why that is.

Why You Should Journal

The list of reasons why journaling is particularly beneficial is interesting in itself. If more people knew the perks of establishing the habit, they would invest in it. The best thing is that, like meditation, there is no significant time commitment, nor are you required to be incredibly talented. Unless you are a sixth grader, no one will read your journal except you.

Many of us fall victim to the stress of being unable to process our emotions. By writing down our thoughts and feelings, we can bring to light many sentiments lying dormant in our subconscious. By starting this website, I have been able to better sift through my thoughts and feelings personally and professionally, many of which I did not know existed, which I am thankful for.

According to Talkspace, the benefits of journaling include:
  • Reducing stress.

  • Identifying and tracking goals.

  • Achieving those goals.

  • Tracking problems so you can recognize triggers.

  • Finding inspiration.

  • Improving self-confidence.

  • Overcoming fears.

  • Identifying and addressing negative thought patterns and behaviors.

  • Starting a habit of using self-talk and creating mantras.

Goal-setting. Writing down our goals is a form of holding ourselves accountable. Research shows you are far more likely to obtain your goals if you write them down, and each night you will be provided a reminder as to the status of your progress. If you are not holding yourself accountable for the goals, you will at least acknowledge such before choosing what to write down.

Think of someone venturing to lose twenty pounds. Each night, this person may realize they had a good or bad day. Depending on your personality, we may even weigh ourselves and record our findings. Regardless, each night the goal and our progress are acknowledged. It is almost as if it makes the goal more tangible.

Tracking trends. Think about the times you have identified problematic trends. Were they more visible when they were right in front of you? The science says yes. I mean, we don’t even need science to understand why. Logically, if you are writing the same thing down in a distinguished pattern, it will stand out.

Our situation is often degraded over time when we fall into a rut. By journaling, we may be able to catch the downward spiral before we find ourselves pounding bags of Cheetos watching Netflix. By diagnosing these patterns, we can step outside of what’s going on to better come up with a solution.

Reducing stress. How often are we bothered by what we feel is no reason? Things rarely happen without provocation - the more likely explanation is that whatever is bothering us is lying dormant in our subconscious, creating high-stress levels. Not knowing is often the most potent form of stress, after all!

Writing down an intrusive thought is enough to separate the rational from the irrational. Further, we provide a simple outlet for your brain to relax enough to give it something else to concentrate on. We never want to bottle things up, eventually reaching a point where we explode.

Personal development. The benefits of journaling extend far past just making us happier. The more you do something, the better at it you become. You will find that the more you write, the more you will become a better writer. You will express your thoughts more efficiently, and your vocabulary will improve.

In most jobs, this will also provide us with professional betterment. For example, aspects like my work emails and reports have profoundly improved. Further, I can better communicate with my coworkers and process my thoughts more deliberately. As someone with ADHD, this has been something I have always struggled with.

Feel good. This last point is the most important - you will feel good. Studies show our self-confidence will benefit from a consistent habit of journaling. Good vibes are contagious. We begin feeling better when we start solving our problems and expressing our thoughts in writing.

Other Benefits

Some reading this may be in the audience of people hesitant to start formal therapy. Good news - journaling may be an effective way to get the ball rolling. According to Talkspace,

A review of 31 clinical studies on the use of journaling as an intervention determined it can indeed be effective as an adjunct therapy in addition to other evidence-based forms of treatment.

Essentially, journaling in itself is a form of therapy. Now, think about what that can do for us when paired with other therapeutic activities, such as running or - well - the treatment itself. Depending on the person, this could have a multiplying effect of significant variables.

As humans, we all have a specific emotional capacity. From time to time, this capacity is overloaded. No matter what it is, we can unleash the excess negative emotions and make it more manageable. When we finally overcome the challenge, we can look back and see our progress.

First-Time Journaler?

Interested but don't know where to start?
  1. Get a journal. This is self-explanatory. I like to say, like my planner, it should have a little personality!

  2. Start writing! That's it. You are not writing to publish the next New York Times Bestseller. Let it flow (the stream of consciousness or flow state)!

  3. Commit to a schedule. Try not to make it a habit you start but taper off eventually.

  4. Enjoying it? Think about starting a blog!

That's really it! The best thing about journaling is its simplicity and availability. You could start tonight if you like. Who knows, maybe it will spark the next blog to read.

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