For generations, the practice of journaling has been considered a useful way of processing your thoughts and feelings. 2020 however, has brought many new challenges. We live in an extraordinary time with so much going on worldwide. It’s not always easy to make sense of it all and find ways of coping. One way that many agree can help is by writing a journal.
With the complex and persistent challenges we face, many people have decided that now is an ideal moment to start (or restart) journaling. In fact, this is a habit we often encourage our cancer patients to pursue as it provides numerous emotional benefits and can help you process past difficulties and prepare you to take on future challenges. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will see the benefits. The good news is, it doesn’t necessarily take too much effort to begin. Perhaps, just a little bit of self-motivation.
Why is a Pandemic a Good Time to Start Journaling?
As mentioned, we are truly living in momentous times. Although this is a shared experience, the impact world events have on us as individuals can be unique and singular. Hence, taking moments throughout the day to chronicle your feelings and personal experiences can be a vital way to help you endure. In a sense, we are recording history – at least our version of history. Additionally, writing a journal can prepare us to explain to future generations what we are now witnessing. Having this approach can make the activity more meaningful.
It can also be a great way of reminding yourself of everything you are thankful for and what brings you joy. Interestingly, the simple daily act of listing what you are grateful for can help to balance your emotions and rid yourself of chronic negative thinking. The long term advantages are many as journaling can continuously remind you that whatever is going on around you, there are still many good things in life.
Keep in mind that this is your personal history. You are documenting how you feel on any given day while at the same time taking special note of the positive aspects of your experiences. At a later point, you might want to re-read some portions to remind yourself of what you went through and the lessons learned.
Journaling = Free Therapy
It’s interesting to think that keeping a journal is also a way of giving yourself your very own therapy session – for free. It can help you acknowledge your feelings and enable you to be more in touch with your inner person. Although some may shy from it, we often say that therapy is beneficial for everyone, regardless of whether you need to work through issues or not. By writing down our worries, challenges, and problems, we can discover ways to work through them. Spending time reflecting on our lives is considered the number one step in solving issues, and it’s a great way to increase positivity and happiness.
Specialists agree that it is a mental health tool that is very effective, and studies show that keeping a journal can benefit your health in many ways. Firstly, it can help you sleep better. When you work through your issues by writing them down, you will spend less time lying awake at night thinking about them. When you write down your concerns, you are subconsciously telling your brain that the problem is safely stored in a “filing system” and can be dealt with later, thus encouraging your mind to let go of the matter until another appropriate time.
Good sleep and feeling well-rested can decrease your stress levels and help you deal with the new day’s challenges in a better way. Some studies show that as well as reducing fatigue and tiredness, you can reduce the number of times you get colds throughout the year – all by writing down and documenting the challenging events, you experience.
How to get started
Starting to write down a journal is much easier than it might seem. All you need is a computer, tablet, phone – or a good old-fashioned pen and notebook – along with a little bit of time. There is no right way, and there is no wrong way to write a journal. Each individual is different, and therefore, each journal is unique. It is best that you just let your thoughts flow and write down whatever comes to mind. The subject, structure, and frequency of your journal-writing will come with time.
However, before starting, you could decide on the type of journal that you want to write. Traditionally, journals and diaries record things that happened throughout the day or week but don’t necessarily include feelings about what has happened. On the other hand, some document all the events of each day and every emotion attached to those events. If you have specific goals in mind, you could try journals like:
How frequently will you write in your journal? It is entirely up to you. The key is to make sure that you reserve a particular time to focus on your journal, i.e., once a day, once a week, in the morning or evening, etc. Once you have a consistent routine, you will find it interesting to see how your journal evolves with time. You might start with a specific structure and see a complete change over the months or years. The most important thing is that it helps you and doesn’t feel like a chore, but rather something soothing and relaxing.
Journaling Vs. Social Media
There are a lot of people who turn to social media to record things about their life. Social media entries are, however, very risky. For one thing, they often come with feedback and a reaction from the public, whereas ideally, journaling is always best as a private undertaking. These are your musings, your feelings; it’s an insight into “your” view of the world.
Additionally, as you revisit certain portions of the journal later, you will see where you have grown, and you’ll identify areas of your personality or your life that you want to improve or change. The journal essentially represents your life journey. It is easier to be completely open and honest when you know that you (and perhaps your loved ones and trusted friends) are the only ones who will read what you’re writing. The real benefits do not come with sharing all your thoughts and feelings with the world, but rather that you are in tune with yourself and are becoming an ever more grounded person capable of facing the many challenges of life.
When we share with others, we tend not to share everything, which is why turning to social media might not allow you to reap the same benefits as keeping a journal would. Creating a private space where you can feel free to share everything openly is truly an enriching experience. Finding a place to let everything out without worrying about being judged or what others will have to say is essential, especially nowadays, when everything is out in the open for others to share their comments.
So, is now an ideal time to start journaling? We think so. However, to experience the long-term benefits, we encourage you to keep it simple and progress slowly.
Whatever your objectives may be, the following simple tips can help you get started:
- Be kind to yourself – Fix a reasonable time to journal, i.e., once a day, every two days, once a week, etc. You chose.
- Get comfy – chose a comfortable place to write, such as your favorite armchair, desk, soda, or perhaps while commuting on a bus or train.
- Start slow – perhaps just 5 – 10 minutes sessions.
- Just start – without thinking, begin writing and see where your thoughts take you.
- Look back – review past installments and compare how you feel now with how you felt then.
- Enjoy the process – Journaling is not an extra task on your to-do list but rather a healthy and calming moment of quiet reflection.
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