7 Ways Journaling Can Save Your Life
By Diana Raab, PhD
The journal or notebook is a powerful tool not only if you are a writer, but a tool for wellness. Here is how you can use journaling to boost your well-being.
“Whether you're keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it's the same thing. What's important is you're having a relationship with your mind.” ~Natalie Goldberg
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My passion for journaling began at the age of ten when my mother handed me a journal to help me cope with my grandmother’s suicide in my childhood home. I poured my fears, tears and worries onto its pages. I’ve inspired all three of my children to journal and now more than five decades later, I continue to journal and advocate that it’s saved my life on many occasions including a turbulent adolescence, bedrest with three children, the loss of loved ones and two cancer journeys.
The journal or notebook is a powerful tool not only if you are a writer, but a tool for wellness. It’s a place to intimately express feelings and emotions, record memories, explore secrets and transcribe musings. Journaling can help us tap into the heart of our souls. The journal makes no judgments; it is free of editors, critics and teachers. It is the music and voice of our true emotion. Journaling regularly can help with problem-solving and stress reduction.
There is no right and wrong way to journal. The goal is to just get your words on the page. When you begin journaling, it’s a good idea to do it regularly at the same time each day. This way it becomes a habit and an integral part of your day. It’s also a good idea to date entries so that when looking back there will be a landmark to return to when you want to know how you were feeling about something at a particular time.
Here are some ways that a journal can save your life:
1. It provides a container for emotional release.
The journal is a place to vent your feelings in a non-threatening venue that’s free of judgements and rebuttals, especially if going through difficult times. It’s a safe and private container for feelings to gather. Once they are gathered you can begin to process them rather than keeping them bottled up inside. Whether affected by change, loss or pain, finding the time to journal is vital for mental health. The journal can act as your counselor when he or she is unavailable to talk.
2. It helps on your path to self-discovery and self-awareness.
When you write what you are experiencing and feeling about an experience, you’re learning about yourself and what is important to you. Writing about your fantasies and dreams also helps you understand yourself better and will help guide you on your path. The main idea behind daily journaling is learning how to open up about yourself, as a way to bring awareness into your life.
3. It improves mental health.
Sharing feelings with a journal is cathartic, and can make us feel better. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting things off our chests and a journal is an unbiased venue for that. A journal can be told anything. Sometimes journaling is used in conjunction with talk therapy. Journaling can also be used as self-care modality in between therapy sessions.
4. It helps tap into the authentic self.
It’s important to embody the journaling experience and write from a deep place because the journaling process is about having an authentic relationship with oneself. The more comfortable we are with our true selves, the easier it will be to handle stress. It’s also about trusting our inner wisdom, intuition and heart. If you do this, your true inner voice will emerge on the page.
5. It encourages a grateful attitude.
Gratitude encompasses love and appreciation. Writing about and recording what we are thankful for nurtures a positive and healthy outlook. Studies have shown that those who are the happiest are those who are grateful. It’s also good to look back at your gratitude pages for a boost of inspiration when feeling down.
6. It helps identify life patterns.
After journaling for some time, it’s helpful to go back and identify similar subjects and concerns being written about. These might be interesting to explore at a deeper level. As Eudora Welty once said, writing is a way of discovering the sequences of the experiences in your life. In this way connections emerge and you can connect the past to the present to the future.
7. It fosters a sense of mindfulness.
Being mindful means that we are present in the here and now. Journaling helps us be present because it taps into the messages of our heart and soul. Being mindful entails awareness and interconnectedness between the inner and outer worlds. If we are more awake and alert, we can more easily receive the messages from within us and from the universe.
About the Author: Diana Raab, MFA, PhD is an award-winning memoirist, poet, and blogger, and speaker who advocates the healing and transformative powers of writing. She’s the author of eight books and her essays and poetry have been widely published. She’s a regular blogger for Psychology Today. PsychAlive, Thrive Global and Elephant Journal. Her latest book is Writing for Bliss: Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life (Loving Healing Press, Sept 2017)
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.