Using just a notebook, pen, a bit of curiosity, and a sprinkling of mindfulness…
Sounds too good to be true?
The past time of journaling, keeping a diary or writing reflectively has been with us for donkey’s. Think Samuel Pepys or Wordsworth’s sis Dorothy.
These days Dr Jordan Peterson is actively encouraging people of all ages to write about their lives, hopes and aspirations through his online self-authoring programme.
Personally I’ve always written a journal. It’s contributed to my independence of mind, clarity of purpose and not inconsiderable ability to laugh at myself.
Whether it’s for posterity, self- knowledge or “something sensational to read on the train”, as Oscar Wilde would claim, journal keeping has historically been a human occupation that both captures experience and expands the mind.
And there is now evidence that keeping a journal has even more astounding benefits – such as all the ones listed in the heading.
Still not convinced?
Let’s consider each of these incredible potential benefits of reflective writing one by one…
First off, how can we get healthier physically, maybe heal after an illness or injury?
Healing the body is as much about applying mental and spiritual focus as it is about medical care. It is becoming well-documented that state of mind, and the ability to feel cared for, have a direct impact on recovery times. We can help ourselves tremendously in our journal by caring about our own recovery.
- Take notice of any discomfort, pain and sensations you are experiencing. Enquire of it. Find out its message through conducting a dialogue with it in your journal. Give your body and mind time and space to figure out between themselves what the next right step is.
So what about weight loss? Studies show that getting slimmer is also possible through journaling. Writing about values that are important to them has been shown to promote weight loss in female university students.
- Free write about something you feel strongly and positively about – anything from art to zoology, personal, or universal, in response to the prompt “I appreciate…” How does this effect how you feel about yourself?
Becoming more intuitive
Deepening our intuition and getting cleverer over decision-making is also linked to the body’s intelligence. And accessing this through direct interrogation in our journals is extremely powerful.
Have a go at this:
- Reflect on a gut feeling about something. Confess it in the pages of your notebook. Allow yourself to admit it, with no second-guessing and no judgement. What new possibilities are emerging?
The more we write the more we are integrating both hemispheres of our brain – thus getting cleverer. Putting pen to paper engages our fine motor skills; it gives the left brain a logical task and the right brain free rein to express emotion and imagination. All together this harnesses our brain power to work together more effectively.
To calm our mood we can avoid being completely consumed by our emotions by taking a step back and becoming an observer.
- Try writing about what you are observing in the third person, beginning, “Today, (Juliet) is…”.
Becoming more playful in adult life is definitely desirable. Here’s how:
- Reflect on the type of activities you used to enjoy as a child – “When I was 7 I used to love…” – and consider how to reintroduce elements of that joy into adult life.
Create more time
Last but not least it’s possible to create more time through journaling – or at least substantially change our relationship with it.
Try to nix procrastination like this:
- If there is a task that you are avoiding, write about it. What are you resisting? What’s so bad about the task? How long does it really take to complete it?
When we procrastinate our anxiety increases and the task takes on greater proportions than are warranted. When we want to create more time, if we shrink the anxiety the task shrinks too!
Whichever one of these exercises you try, be sure to practice it a few times for a minimum of five minutes.. Notice its effect. What new insights and perspectives does it bring?
Journaling enables us to engage our higher self in our inner discourse. By writing our commentary on our thoughts and experiences we gain perspective, get out of our own way and can live a more healthy, calm and present life.