Journaling. It sounds like another chore“to-do” on a tiring daily list of things to accomplish, but you may want to rethink that. Evidence-based research is showing that those who journal have shown quantifiable improvements in mental and physical health.
James Pennebaker, psychologist and researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, found that writing about feelings and thoughts about stresses and life experiences(called expressive writing) may help people cope with emotional fallouts. One theory behind this is that it may help people overcome emotional inhibition. In other words, people can learn from experience and reflect on a memory; for traumatic events, writing it down may help people learn to move beyond it once they’ve expressed their emotions about it. However, the act of thinking about an experience is also critical. Writing is an intellectual process that enables people to organize thoughts, give meaning to traumatic experiences, and regulate emotions better.
Journaling is also positive for healing and improving physical health. Joshua Smyth, PhD, of Syracuse University further suggests writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis. A groundbreaking study of writing's physical effects appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association(Vol. 281, No. 14) in which 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients wrote for 20 minutes on each of three consecutive days. 71 patients wrote about the most stressful event of their lives and the rest about the emotionally neutral subject of their daily plans. Four months after the writing exercise, 70 patients in the stressful-writing group"showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluations compared with the control patients. In addition, those who wrote about stress improved more, and deteriorated less, than controls for both diseases.‘So writing helped patients get better, and also kept them from getting worse,’ says Smyth.”
What’s worth keeping in mind is that there is no“right” way to journal. While some suggest that it will be most effective to write for about 20 minutes every day, however long works for you is the most effective. That could be 5, 10, or 45 minutes. Begin anywhere and forget about grammar and spelling. The journaling is for you and you alone. Write whatever comes to mind and free your brand from the“shoulds” and“should nots”.
The most important rule to remember is that there are no rules.
P.S. Here are some perfect notebooks to start journaling with!