Did you know that writing your thoughts, or journaling, is beneficial to your well being? Maybe you’ve heard that before but didn’t know the “why” behind it. Or you felt overwhelmed at the thought of starting this new habit. So let’s look at how writing your thoughts, or journaling, promotes better health along with some pro tips to making it easier.
A common complaint of people who have difficulty sleeping is that they’re unable to “turn off their brain.” Their thoughts spring to life the moment their head hits the pillow and keeps them awake when they’d rather be sleeping. If this is you, clearing your mind by writing your thoughts down before you turn off the light will help you fall asleep, and stay asleep, when your mind is given permission to relax.
Pro Tip: Keep a notebook by your bed to list your to-do’s before turning off the light. Skip the electronics (computer or phone) since the blue light triggers activity in your mind instead of rest.
Rumination (thoughts that play like a record in your head) causes heightened anxiety and stress. When you can’t stop replaying an uncomfortable conversation or your mind is preoccupied trying to solve a complex problem, anxiety often follows. Journaling gives you an outlet to express your emotions in a safe place. Some studies have shown that journaling only 15-20 minutes a day for four months helps lower blood pressure and improve liver function.
Pro Tip: Use the notes app on your phone (or something similar) to write just enough to get those thoughts out and finish by saying “I’m letting it go!” or some other short phrase that helps you release it.
Along with stress reduction, writing your thoughts can elevate your mood. When you move your thoughts from an internal place to an external one, you are physically distancing yourself from any negative thoughts you may be experiencing. On the flip side, if you are in a great mood already, journaling captures that positive emotion as you “share” that experience by writing it down.
Pro Tip: Create a quick journal entry with, “I am grateful for _______” whenever you need a quick pick-me-up. Gratitude is the fastest way to change your mood!
Another reason journaling or any form of writing your thoughts is helpful to your health is that you can track your progress over time. This is not about keeping a food or exercise log (but those can be helpful, too)! Instead, reading past entries helps you make sense of where you are today. It can remind you of where you have been, where you are today, and what you are working for tomorrow.
Pro Tip: When you make a journal entry, add a number on a scale of 1-10 to indicate how you are feeling that day (10 is AWESOME and 1 is blahhhh…). It will help you see patterns you might not otherwise notice with words alone.
If you need help getting started, start small! Remove any pressure you might feel to write a book every time you write your thoughts. Journaling can be as simple as a single sentence to capture an emotion, an idea, or a problem.
Including this habit in your daily routine is an important step to supporting your wellbeing, so what will you write today?