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Keeping A Journal Can Make You Mentally Stronger, Science Explains Why

Keeping A Journal Can Make You Mentally Stronger, Science Explains Why

Some people might think journaling is just for recording bits of daily life. But usually it’s more than that. Science has proven that keeping a journal is good for your mental health, as it helps you process events, vent out emotions, sharpen your mind and even drives creativity.

Study Findings

In a recent study published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, researchers found that writing three to five times for 15 minutes a session was enough to help the participants deal with emotional and even traumatic events. But it is not enough to simply write about events. How you write about them is also important.

In another study, researchers told participants to write about one of three things. One group focused on how they felt about a stressful situation. A second group wrote about the thoughts and feelings they had when dealing with stress. The third group was told to write factually, without emotion, about events in the media.

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The participants who wrote about their thoughts and feelings on an event were actually able to see the positive benefits of the event. They were less likely to focus on the trauma or anxiety.

Those who wrote only about their emotions actually suffered more. This was possibly because they focused on their negative emotions while they were writing.

But research says writing out those negative thoughts is still preferable to keeping them inside because even writing about negative thoughts prevents you from avoiding them, which is linked to helping you be able to cope with stress more effectively. Avoidance is a huge issue when it comes to dealing with trauma. According to Kitty Klein, a researcher from North Carolina State University, “If you’re suffering from a traumatic or stressful event, your ability to pay attention and focus on life’s stressors isn’t what it should be.”

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Journal writing can help you focus on the problem at hand, ensuring that you don’t bottle everything up inside.

How It Helps

Even if you’re not going through a stressful period, regular journal writing is still a useful tool. Rather than processing your emotions and thoughts, you can use a journal to help remind you of your accomplishments and mistakes. Although it may seem like a record of all the mundane details, like your new dishwasher or your meeting at work; when you return to it later you will have a new perspective on your day. Then, you can really begin to re-evaluate where you are and where you came from.

Putting a pen to paper is a cathartic and private way for you to deal with the stress of your daily life, whatever that stress might be. When you keep a journal, you’re able to approach and release the anxiety you have. Using a journal allows you to process your emotions in a place that is safe and secure.

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Ultimately, keeping a journal allows you to relive the day or week’s events with perspective, a very valuable tool when it comes to dealing with the hard stuff.

How to Get Started

The most important thing about writing is that it needs to be about you. Your decision to start a journal should reflect anyone else’s needs or ambitions. Thus, your decision should be a highly personal choice so that it means more to you and so that you’ll stick with it.

If it suits you, the traditional pen and paper method is a fast way to get started. If you’re looking for more structure you can look for notebooks that feature prompts like “Name 3 Successes Today.”

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If you’re living your life online, you can use journaling apps and websites. Here you can combine your thoughts with photos, videos and links. You can also use a simple word processor and keep everything stored on the cloud.

Another option is to try blogging. If you’re looking for outside perspective or you want to share your story, there is no better platform than the internet to do so.

You can try one of these options or all of them. There are no rules when it comes to keeping a journal. Just remember to take the appropriate steps to protect yourself if you want to maintain your privacy.

Remember, you don’t need to be a master of prose to write a journal. Your journal is a judgement free zone. Instead, keep your writing time all about you and you’ll quickly see the results.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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