Writing a journal can stop stress – and help you live your dream life
Putting pen to paper can have powerful effects on our health and happiness – in more ways than you might believe. And that’s a scientific fact.
More than 30 years of research has proven the benefits of journaling. Studies by Dr. James W. Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal and Expressive Writing (also by John Evans), showed positive health benefits in those writing expressively about traumatic events. They had significantly fewer trips to the health centre, enhanced immune function and less absent days from work.
Writing for Wellness Coach Lynda Monk, who is Director of the International Association for Journal Writing, says penning a diary of her thoughts is a key part of her self-care, and how she manages stress. “It’s a reflective practice that allows me to process my emotions, gain clarity, express my dreams, desires and more,” she says. “It’s like meditating with a pen in my hand and encourages mindfulness. This supports me in all my roles, as a mum to two teen boys, a wife, a daughter to a mother with Alzheimer’s disease and an entrepreneur – journaling helps keep me grounded and living my life aligned with what matters most to me.”
Monk says it has allowed her to take action on these expressed dreams, such as living with her family in Hawaii for three months and starting her own business. “Journaling helps me to live my life by design instead of default.”
Why does it help so much?
Monk has worked with thousands of clients and journaling has often transformed them. “I’ve seen them gain self-confidence and make life decisions including changing careers, falling in love and leaving marriages, through the self-awareness, courage and clarity they gain from writing about their thoughts and feelings”.
Releasing inner emotions in written form can prevent them from festering inside of us and presenting themselves in other ways. Evidence also indicates that, by dealing with repressed emotions, journaling can assist with recovery from mental or physical stress-induced illnesses.
Though it’s important to talk to friends, family or someone you trust, journaling can offer an escape where you can be honest and express emotions without a filter. The biggest hurdle is learning to be honest with yourself – complete authenticity will provide you with the release you need.
Five journaling techniques that could help to positively impact your health
1) Sentence openers: Starting with phrases like ‘I worry that…’, ‘I fear that…’, ‘I’m angry that’ or ‘I’m sad that…’ will prompt you to release each element of your emotion. Finishing on a positive such as ‘I’m grateful that…’ will leave you on a high and remind you of all the good in your life.
2) Free-flow: No rules, no neat handwriting, just write. Get everything down that comes to your mind, as it comes to your mind. You might want to do this on a particular topic or just see what happens. You’ll most likely be surprised how much you had to say and how good it felt to get it out.
3) Unsent letters: This can prove to be quite an emotional one, so only do it if you feel ready, or want to. It’s an opportunity to get everything off your chest to someone who may have impacted your life, whether they’re still close to you still or not. Once done, you might find it easier to let go – and as you know it’s unsent, there’s nothing to fear.
4) Doodling: If you’d prefer not to write, this is still a great way to creatively express yourself in your journal and calm your mind.
5) Listing: We all know how to do this one. Diaries are for shopping lists, work lists, to-do lists. Why not add lists for things that are causing you stress to the mix? This will clearly outline what is bothering you – you can then use the previous techniques to help you work through each of them.