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EXPRESS IT: The Whats and Hows of Journaling

EXPRESS IT: The Whats and Hows of Journaling

The COVID-19 pandemic’s looming presence still affects different facets of our lifestyle. Especially, with an unprecedented increase in the number of people with mental health problems during its duration. It begs the question of how do we cope with the demons and uncertainty in our minds. The simplest answer I can say revolves around trying to understand them. As a persistent journal keeper and promoter, you may be surprised to learn that one of the best self-help tools to understand ourselves is a journal.

Famous and highly successful individuals have kept journals. The Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Anne Frank, and many other personal heroes of people worldwide. Of course, you can do it, too. I listed down the scientific benefits of keeping a journal through pen-to-paper or fingers-to-screen, and how you can do your very own journaling.

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Reduce Stress

The study of Thoele, MD et al., titled Health Care Practitioners and Families Writing Together: The Three-Minute Mental Makeover, shed some light on the benefits of expressive writing. They used 3MMM, a short expressive writing exercise tool wherein participants are free to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotion.

It has an evident result in reducing stress for practitioners, patients, and families. In a follow-up study, eighty-five percent of the participants stated that the writing exercise was helpful, while fifty-nine percent continued using writing to cope with stress. We can conclude that writing really helps in reducing stress instead of running wildly and repetitively in your mind.

Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity

Did you know that expressive writing can increase your memory capacity? According to the observational study of Klein et al., thirty-five freshmen who write about their feelings and thoughts demonstrated an increase in working memory compared to thirty-six writers assigned to a trivial topic.

They found out that increased use of cause and insight words was associated with greater working memory improvements. It is also reported that a person who accounts for negative personal experiences is more likely to remember things and lessen intrusive thoughts compared with participants who log positive experiences.

This shows how writing your experiences in a consistent manner not only helps you track down your triggers to reduce your disturbing thoughts but can also improve your memory.

Greater well-being

Writing and expressing your thoughts helps in increasing your well-being. The study by Smyth, Ph.D. et al., observed seventy of the adults diagnosed with medical conditions and anxiety. The participants were asked to write their positive experiences for twelve weeks in web-based Positive Affect Journaling (PAJ). After a month, participants reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, developed greater resilience, reduced distress, and increased levels of well-being.

Achieve goals

Obviously, writing has various benefits. It is a good thing to know, right? Writing serves not only as a tool for emotional quotient, but it is helpful in other ways. Journals can be used to write down your goals and track them. This will help you stay responsible and focused on what you need to do to accomplish them.

Improve writing and communication skills

Writing improves with practice. When you journal every day, you’re developing your writing skills. But how does journaling help you improve your communication skills? The moment you express your thoughts and ideas, you’re already improving your communication skills. It requires careful articulation of thoughts and ideas in your head. Daily practice inspires continuous growth within you.

Journaling deepens self-discovery

As you persistently write, you get to discover a different piece of yourself every single day. Journaling provides a much-needed break to help you reconnect with yourself and to rediscover who you are. When you write, you practice self-care, and you learn more about minor and deeper things about you—your favorites, dreams, pains, and breakthroughs. Journaling serves as a self-help tool. If no one is listening, it listens. It is a significant witness to your changes and growth.

Learning all those benefits for sure entices you to start journaling. Here’s how:

Start small

If you are just getting started or getting back from a long-time hiatus, don’t pressure yourself. You don’t need to rush and burden yourself with what you will write. You can aim for a page or ten minutes of continuous writing. If it still cannot bring you into writing, a sentence or a paragraph will do. You can write anything that comes to your mind. Remember to celebrate the small progress you make and take.

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Try what works best for you

The diversity of people means that there are endless learning and coping mechanisms present for us to use. Journals don’t require to be written in a creative blank notebook, nor in a colorful journal; it requires what you “want.” You have your preference. If you are not a fan of pen-to-paper writing, you can try it on your phone, laptop, tablet, or computer desktop.

Free writing.

Free writing is letting your thoughts, ideas, or feelings flow. It is all about keeping your hand moving and not pausing to go back and edit. If you run out of ideas, you just keep writing whatever comes to mind since it is your personal account anyhow. It serves your eyes only so no one will judge whatever you write.

Try a to-do list or bulleted form

When you find free writing too intimidating, lists are a great journaling technique to use. If you are using your journal as one of the goal-oriented individuals, a bulleted form helps you organize, track and record anything related to your career, personal life, relationships, and more. It can be written in a one-time session or maintained regularly like a log. Sounds easy, right? Of course, lists are quicker to write than long-form journal entries, but they’re still a great record of your life.

Dream journaling

Keeping a dream journal may sound outlandish and mystical, but there’s plenty of evidence on how this journaling technique helps you understand your emotions. You may start by writing down what you remember from your dream. The more you journal, the better your memory will get. It helps you with new ideas or solutions. Remember that even Einstein used his dreams to develop some of his formulas. As soon as you wake up, write about your dream because dreams become more difficult to remember as the day goes on. It is worth noting that recording your dreams improves your overall memory and exercises your brain.

Make it personal and messy

Do not worry about how it may appear. You can add your creative doodles, cut-outs, and stickers. You are free to decorate and include designs around your writing space. When it comes to journaling, it has no limits or standards. If you are fond of free writing, write more words and narrate your experiences as much as you like. If you possess artistic skills and sense, decorate and be more creative in your designs.

Schedule and track your journaling habit

Once you start your journaling practice, you may include it on your daily schedule for better tracking and monitoring of your progress. You may place it on your morning routines, sudden and random afternoon coffees, and on your gratitude nighttime.

If you are having a tough time finding the right person to trust, worry not, because your journal got your back. Why not start your healthy and safe space journey within yourself?

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