Less is more can seem counterintuitive in a world that loves excess. Hence, the notion that we can achieve more by doing less is not easy to fathom.
But in recent years, this approach to life and work has gained a lot of popularity. The “less is more” approach is really about simplifying your strategy to concentrate on what really matters.
You can attain more clarity, efficiency, and fulfillment by eliminating distractions and unimportant details from your life. This philosophy is frequently linked with the Law of Least Effort, a law based on the notion that nature operates with effortless ease and carefree abandon.
For thousands of years, people have been using writing as a form of expression. But it wasn’t until 1966, when Dr. Ira Progoff used journaling for personal growth, that its therapeutic effects were appreciated.
Progoff discovered that through writing, we can access our memories and experiences at an unconscious level. This is where we unknowingly store our repressed thoughts, feelings, and memories.
When you’re writing down your thoughts and feelings about your personal experiences, it can help you clear your mind. Writing down negative thoughts, feelings, or experiences allows you to “release” them on paper and reduces their influence over you.
As University of Texas psychologist James Pennebaker puts it:
“Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. You don’t just lose a job; you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are – our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves. … Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.”
If you’re under stress or carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, journaling is an effective self-care strategy. And probably the least costly form of therapy.
Ever wonder how journaling benefits and improves your life? Here are ten insanely powerful reasons why you should be journaling.
When you write your thoughts down, you’re able to handle your anxious thoughts objectively and without getting emotionally involved. As clinical psychologist Barbara Markway puts it:
“To work with our thoughts and make them more adaptive and realistic, we first need to know what they are. There’s simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down.”
The University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center testified that journaling benefits your mental health and mood on two levels:
1. Writing allows you to liberate depressing thoughts that might be stuck in your head.
In a journaling experiment, participants were asked to reflect and write down the most painful events in their lives. Those who journaled daily experienced an increment in immune system functioning, fewer sick days, and doctor visits months later.
One rationale for this phenomenon is that immune health is compromised when unpleasant, trauma-related thoughts are suppressed.
This is in line with Dr. Pennebaker’s hypothesis that secrets contribute to physical illness:
“What was it about secrets that were so toxic? In talking with colleagues in clinical psychology and other disciplines, I developed a working theory that keeping a secret was a form of active inhibition.
Concealing or holding back powerful emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, I reasoned, was itself stressful.
If keeping a secret about a trauma was unhealthy, it made sense that having people reveal the secret should improve health.”
Since it’s impractical to get people to share their secrets with another person, the next best thing is journaling. Journaling benefits you by lessening the effects of stressors on your immune system.
Numerous studies have shown that gratitude brings with it social, physical, and psychological benefits. The best definition of gratitude comes from Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude:
“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
Writing about things that you feel grateful for requires you to reflect on all the good things in your life. You’ll probably begin to evolve into a more upbeat person once you start focusing on the positive aspects of life.
A growing body of research links counting blessings to better sleep, reduced stress, and improved interpersonal relationships.
Journaling is an act of reflecting on past memories. As you document your thoughts, feelings, and events in your life, your memory function will improve.
Klein and Boals two psychologists, asked thirty-five college freshmen to write about their feelings about attending college. This is part of their research involving the effects of journaling on working memory.
Seven weeks after expressing their emotions in writing, these students’ working memories showed a noticeable improvement.
While journaling, you are remembering, reflecting, and recording details of the events in your life. This enables you to keep those memories in your mind for a much longer period of time.
When times are tough, is happening in your life. It also keeps you focused on the good aspects of your life.
Additionally, it has been proven that keeping a journal might speed up recovery from traumatic experiences. A therapeutic form of journaling known as expressive writing has proven to help in the recovery from traumatic life situations.
Expressive writing, pioneered by Dr. Pennebaker, prioritizes emotions above events, memories, or people in the contents of a narrative.
This form of journaling benefits those who dive right into the intimate and emotional details without regard to perfect grammar.
A student at the University of New Hampshire expressed her thoughts on why everybody can benefit from expressive writing:
“It was the most liberating experience. I didn’t have to think about verb tense. I just wrote my thoughts and didn’t pause to edit the sentences. Expressive writing provided me the opportunity to let loose and write whatever was on my mind with no requirements or expectations.”
According to clinical psychologist and author Beth Jacobs of Writing for Emotional Balance:
“Journals are like a checkpoint between your emotions and the world.”
Journaling helps balance and regulate your emotions. While writing, you are managing your feelings and keeping them in check.
In her book, she lays out the Seven Essential Skills of Emotion Management:
1. Distance yourself from your emotions.
2. Define what your emotions mean for you.
3. Release blocked and conflicted feelings.
4. Regain focus while experiencing overwhelming emotions.
5. Use structure and organization to clarify feelings.
6. Regroup after an emotional set back.
7. Maintain your new skills and incorporate them into your life.
The best way to develop these skills is through writing. Your subconscious mind will force you to organize your thoughts as you write. This will enable you to gain mastery over your emotions.
Expressing and releasing your thoughts through writing can accelerate your healing. Journaling helps you put events in your life into perspective.
In a study on expressive writing, people who wrote emotionally about traumatic events before getting a biopsy experienced faster healing.
You gain the most from journaling when you are actually writing. Journaling expert and psychotherapist Maud Purcell explained to Fast Company that:
“Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, ie. create, intuit and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.”
Journaling benefits your life by boosting your level of self-awareness. It enhances your self-awareness because it allows you to get to know yourself in a deeper way than ever before.
Self-awareness begins when you start becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Being self-aware is not easy. There may be a part of you that opposes the idea of being open about your emotions.
This is your subconscious mind attempting to shield you from aspects of yourself that you are not ready to accept. By writing down your thoughts, you can access some of these emotions that your subconscious mind has buried.
Journaling gives these emotions a stage, making it easier for you to make them conscious. This ability to observe yourself objectively through self-reflection is made possible through journaling.
Journaling can be a powerful tool that leads you to reflect deeply on your life. It forces you to take responsibility for your actions.
Journaling helps you to reflect on what is truly important in your life. It makes you get back into awareness and distance yourself from the rush of everyday life.
The only way to grow as a person is to discover more about yourself. In essence, this echoes what spiritual teacher and author Iyanla Vanzant said:
“The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination. … until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.”
The best tool for exploring and reflecting on your thoughts and feelings is, without a doubt, journaling.
Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the act of focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. However, since journaling necessitates reflecting on the past, it appears to be at odds with the idea of mindfulness.
Yet, there are some very distinctive parallels between journaling and mindfulness. Both urge you to suspend judgment and pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.
While being mindful means being in tune with your surroundings, journaling requires that you put your emotions into words. Hence, at the intersection of mindfulness and journaling, you will find yourself being in the moment while recording your experiences.
Therefore, even if you’re not consciously practicing mindfulness, journaling as a self-reflective tool contains the awareness aspect of mindfulness.
There you go. Ten compelling reasons to get you started on your journaling journey. You’ll not only be discovering more about yourself when you are writing about your feelings and emotions. Furthermore, journaling benefits your overall wellbeing.
Journaling allows you to sort out any problems you may be struggling with. Additionally, it enables you to address your issues rather than avoid them.
Kathleen Adams, a psychotherapist and the author of Journal to the Self, tells Huffington Post about its benefits:
“Journal therapy is all about using personal material as a way of documenting an experience and learning more about yourself in the process. It lets us say what’s on our minds and helps us get – and stay – healthy through listening to our inner desires and needs.”
If you have not experienced journaling, or have fallen out of the habit, try Dr. Pennebaker’s recommendations. He suggests that you reserve 3 – 4 days to write for 15 to 20 minutes a day.
Ever since the outbreak of the global pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased by 25%. This has left us with a big mess in our mental, emotional, and physical health.
One of the most effective ways to survive these tough times is by developing the habit of journaling. This practice also happens to be the most economical.
All you need is a pen and paper. (If you prefer to record your thoughts digitally, that would work too.)
Psychotherapist Kathleen Dahlen deVos, however, is an advocate of journaling with pen and paper. She has a common reason that a lot of us can resonate with:
“While I love a good $30 Moleskin, I’ve noticed I am more afraid to write something ‘bad’ if I invest in a fancy notebook.”
Furthermore, she adds:
“I find that writing, as opposed to typing, helps slow us down a bit so we can be more intentional and reflective, and also activates a more creative area of the brain.”
Whatever method of journaling you choose, remember that your journal is only for you. Nobody (not even yourself) needs to be impressed by your writing.
At the end of the day, if journaling does not resonate with you, do take this advice from Dr. Pennebaker:
“Stop doing it. Go jogging. See a therapist. Go to a bar. Go to church.”
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