I’m not one of those “do as I say, not as I do” kind of people. For instance if I’m going to teach meditation, I better be keeping a regular practice myself. And I do, almost always, at least once a day (ok, not always so good when traveling). So when I taught a six week course in meditation, and I included using journaling as a form of meditation, I added it to my own practice. It was never something I used in the past, not enough time, not feeling creative, don’t see the benefits, yadda, yadda. Since then, I’ve become a believer. Do I journal everyday? Nope, sometimes not even every week. But when I do, I reap the rewards of a clearer mind, self-reflection and self-discovery.
Journaling can be used as a form of meditation because it brings you in to the present moment. Sure you may be writing about past events, or even what your plans for the future are, but that connection to your thoughts, those observations are what keep you present. That’s why it’s important when journaling to allow those thoughts to just flow without censorship. You’re not trying to change anything, you’re simply observing and recording your thoughts as they arise.
When I say journaling, I’m talking about a hand written journal in ink. The practice of writing by hand has it’s own value that writing on the computer can’t deliver. Studies show that writing by hand is considered a more personal experience and those that keep a hand-written journal will sustain the practice for a longer period of time. Not only that, but writing by hand makes learning easier, improves memory and enhances creative expression. And with ink, you can only cross through your “mistakes” instead of deleting them, only to glean benefit from those mistakes at a later time. Just like any meditation, if you don’t think you have time, or don’t know what to write, start somewhere. Even just five minutes writing about how cute your cat is can be beneficial (writing about my Stripey Boy can keep me busy for months!). Just be consistent and give it some time. Try journaling for a full month and then decide if it’s for you.
Need more reason to journal? Here are some benefits to consider:
- A journal serves as a record of your life. It’s sort of your life story and when you forget the details – what year did I get chased by turkeys on San Juan Island (true story) for example – it gives you a tangible reminder.
- A journal can be cathartic. When you get the tough stuff out on paper, you feel better. Journaling gives your emotional health a quick boost.
- You view your challenges in a new way. When you see things written on paper, you can look at them a little more objectively. You might find that many of your challenges aren’t as challenging as you first thought.
- You can see your progress. When you record your thoughts and your life, they’re right there in front of you. It’s easy to see how much your life is, or isn’t, progressing. Just looking back at your old entries can tell you a lot.
- You will progress. When you record the most important happenings for the day, you’ll start to make new things happen. You may do new things in order to have something interesting to write about.
- You’ll achieve more. Studies have shown that just writing down goals significantly increases the likelihood of increasing them.
- Journaling organizes your thoughts and improves your problem-solving abilities. You can clear some of the clutter out of your head when you journal, and your subconscious can begin working on a solution to a challenge.
- Your memory will improve. If you reflect on your life at the end of the day, and record it, you’ll be much more likely to remember it. It’s exercise for your brain and an effective way to remember more of your life.
- You’ll be in good company. Many famous people kept journals. Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, and Mark Twain are just a few that believed in the power of journaling.
- You learn about yourself. When you keep a journal, you quickly see your behavioral patterns and tendencies. Knowledge is power.
- You can leave them to your children. Depending on the types of things you choose to write about, you might want to leave your journals to your children or other family members. I only wish I had my mother’s or grandmother’s journal. What a gift that would be.
- Journaling can lead to improved health. One study at the University of Auckland showed that writing in a journal can lead to faster wound healing and minimize the symptoms of several ailments, including asthma and irritable bowel syndrome.