Would you like a simple and proven way to reduce your stress and anxiety?
Then welcome to the world of journaling.
“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.” — Robin S. Sharma
Keeping a daily journal can not only help you identify the ‘pain points’ in your life, it can also help you to find ways to resolve them.
Before I give you some guideposts to starting a journal, let’s first look at…
What Exactly Is Journaling?
For most people, journaling involves spending a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes at night jotting down their thoughts.
It’s a way to dive into your emotional and mental states, and uncover things that may be holding you back.
On top of this, journaling can help you to discover answers to your issues, and put you firmly on track for a balanced, healthy and fulfilling life.
Journaling is actually nothing new; people have been doing it for hundreds of years (think Samuel Pepys, Henry David Thoreau and Virginia Woolf). And, its popularity is for good reason.
Check out some of the benefits that journal keepers have found:
• Reduced stress
• Management of anxiety
• Power over depression
• Help in prioritizing and overcoming problems and fears
• The ability to track issues day-to-day, enabling triggers to be recognized
• Opportunities for positive self-talk
For example, your journal (or diary) could help you control your diet.
Let’s say you wanted to cut back on the amount of junk food you’re eating. The first step would be to write down how much junk food you ate every day. After a week or two, you could analyze just how much junk food you’ve been eating (you might be shocked by the amount of calories and fat you’re consuming from these products). If you then decide you want to cut back on junk food, then you would write down how much you want to reduce your intake by, and then keep a daily track of your efforts.
In this case, your journal will prove most helpful on the days when you eat more junk food than you intended to or should have. By writing down in detail what caused you to eat more, you’ll soon notice a pattern that reveals the triggers to your excess junk food eating. And once you know the triggers — you can then work out how best to avoid them!
Of course, journaling can be used for much more than sticking to a diet. You can use it to help with your career goals, build better relationships, and to improve your mental and emotional health.
The latter benefits often result from following something called ‘journal therapy’ (aka writing therapy).
How Journal Therapy Can Change Your Life
As you might imagine, journal therapy is simply journaling for therapeutic benefits. Unlike traditional therapy, however, journal therapy is accessible to all and costs nothing but time (although some therapists use this technique as part of their practice).
Why should you consider journal therapy?
Well, firstly, it’s a great way to accelerate your personal growth. It can do this by keeping your thoughts, ideas and actions focused on specific goals — such as learning a new language or setting up your first company.
But, journal therapy can also do much more than this. When practiced regularly, it can help you release your creative genius, give you control over your life, and fill you with a wonderful sense of empowerment.
And, according to Positive Psychology, journal therapy has proven effective in aiding conditions like:
• Post-traumatic stress
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Substance abuse
• Eating disorders
• Low self-esteem
If you’re wondering how journal therapy differs from ordinary journaling, then let me explain…
Typical journaling involves recording events as they occurred in a diary or journal. While journal therapy, takes a different route. It involves thinking about, interacting and analyzing the events.
For example, in standard journaling, you might simply make a note of an argument that you had with one of your colleagues at work. But, with journal therapy, you would use your writing to try to ascertain what caused the argument — and what could be done to prevent a repeat of it.
This approach is much more active and directed than that of standard journaling; and in my experience, it’s much more powerful.
Journal Therapy: How to Get Started
The Center for Journal Therapy has come up with a great way to get started with journal therapy.
It’s five easy steps under the name WRITE:
• W — What do you want to write about? Think about what’s going on in your life, and how you feel about it. Then decide which topic is most important to you to write about at that moment.
• R — Review or reflect on it. Relax by closing your eyes and taking two or three deep breaths to put your mind into focus. To help you out, you may want to start with phrases like: “Right now…” “I want…” or “I think…” or “I feel…”
• I — Investigate your thoughts and feelings. To do this effectively, simply start writing and keep going. If you find yourself getting stuck, close your eyes for a moment and bring yourself back into balance. Then go back over what you’ve already written and continue putting your thoughts down.
• T — Time yourself. There is real power in deadlines, which is why when practicing journal therapy, it’s a good idea to set aside a specific time for writing. This could be 5 minutes, 15 minutes or more. Use the timer on your phone or tablet to make this effortless for you.
• E — Exit. How? By re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it. You can do this by jotting down a sentence or two that captures your thoughts on what you’ve written. You may also want to note down any action steps to take.
Journal therapy really is as easy as putting pen to paper — or fingers to keys — and then starting to WRITE!
Want to experience the power of journaling right now? Then simply write down a list of stuff that you need to complete. Upon finishing this, I guarantee you’ll immediately feel a stress release.
Try it and see.
Featured photo credit: Aaron Burden via unsplash.com
|||^||Positive Psychology: Writing Therapy: Using A Pen and Paper to Enhance Personal Growth|
|||^||Center for Journal Therapy: A Short Course in Journal Writing: It’s Easy to W.R.I.T.E.|