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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 July 3, 2020

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

2. Focus on your breath

Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

3. Get organized and purge old items

A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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6. Smile more

Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

7. Don’t worry about the future

As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

8. Eat real food

The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

9. Choose being happy over being right

Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

11. Make use of filtering features on social media

You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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12. Get comfortable with silence

When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

13. Listen to understand, not to respond

So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

14. Put your troubles in a bubble

Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

15. Speak more slowly

Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

16. Don’t procrastinate

Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

17. Buy a coloring book

Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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18. Prioritize yourself

You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

19. Forgive others

Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

20. Check your expectations

Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

21. Engage in active play

Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

22. Stop criticizing yourself

The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

26. Manage your money

Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

27. Stop trying to control everything

Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

28. Practice affirmations

Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

29. Get up before sunrise

Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

30. Be yourself

Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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