When many of us were young, we may have kept a diary. Keeping a journal is the new term for the task we all know about. We’ve even created the term “journaling”, which is the verb meaning ‘to keep a journal’. But did you know that it’s different these days? And did you know it can even be good for you?
Benefits of Journaling
We all know that writing something down is an effective way to remember it. Even just the process of writing something down by hand has been linked to the memory centers in our brains (in ways that typing the same thing isn’t).
Memory recall. Studies are now showing that journaling can actually increase memory recall. And earlier studies, done in the 1990s and early 2000s had already shown that writing by hand helps to keep the brain active and improve communication skills (even regardless of the quality of writing).
Physical coordination. Organizing our thoughts and writing them down keeps the connection active between our brains and our coordination skills as well. When we keep the parts of our brains active that control thought to action, we’re helping our cognitive skills stay healthy, which in turn can help our bodies.
It can increase creativity. Some people will write poems or draw in their journals. Because it’s just for you, you can do whatever you want inside your journal. Having a creative outlet has been linked to reducing anxiety, stress and depression.
Possibly boosts our immune systems. Studies have been done with groups of people who have experienced trauma or who have serious health conditions. It was suggested by the results of all 3 studies that the people who wrote expressively about their negative experiences or personal struggles had lower blood pressure, better heart rates and a higher level of immune functioning.
How to get started
Find a journal that you love. Of course, before you can begin, you need a place to put your thoughts. Choose one that reflects your personality and that you feel good about opening up. There are so many different kinds, it can be a little confusing. Here are some categories of journals:
- Blank or lined pages (most common)
- Sketch/doodle Journals
- Themed Journals (these journals have a theme such as “positivity” or “celebration”:
- Daily Quotes
- Keepsake / Legacy
- Religious with Bible Verses
As you can see, there are many different styles and types. No matter what you choose, if you look forward to seeing it and opening it up, that will make it all the more enjoyable. Have a peek here for some more ideas on specific journal styles.
What if I don’t have anything to say?
That’s a very valid question. It should never feel like something you have to do, but keeping some regularity with writing will help you to reap more benefits. Even the most prolific of authors had days when they suffered a bit of writer’s block. If you’re having days when you truly can’t think of anything to express (or just want a good starting place), try some of these prompts (from Hearthside Senior Living):
- What period of your life do you look back upon most fondly?
- Who have been the most important people in your life?
- Describe a time when someone was unexpectedly kind to you.
- Describe a random act of kindness you did for someone else.
- Finish this thought: Nobody knows that I . . .
- What is the biggest lie you have ever told?
- Describe your first love (this could be a person, a place, a thing, etc).
- Have you ever done something that you thought you couldn’t?
- What have you done for love?
- Find an old photograph of yourself. Write about the memories it inspires.
- What recurring dreams and nightmares have you had?
- When in your life did you feel most proud?
- Of all the places you have lived, which most felt like home?
- What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
- What would you like to tell your future self?
- Do you have any regrets?
- How have you learned from your biggest mistakes?
- What do you love most about life?
- What advice would you give to your children and grandchildren?
- What matters most in life?
- What would your childhood self think of your life thus far?
- How did your experience of adulthood differ from your expectations?
- What is the best advice you ever received?
FUN & RANDOM
- List 30 things that make you smile.
- What do you think your body would say if it could talk?
- What scares you?
- What places have you most enjoyed visiting?
- What is your favorite book/movie/song? Why?
- What are your pet peeves?
- Do you like your name? Has it ever changed? What is your favorite name?
- Describe your favorite time of year: the scents, the weather, the activities . . .
Not only is journaling good for us, it’s downright enjoyable. Not only can it be therapeutic and a stress-buster, it can give us a sense of purpose, perhaps even legacy. Read here about Doris Carnevali, a retired nurse who at the age of 95 started blogging (writing) online, sharing her thoughts regarding aging with the world.
Whether you keep your journal for your eyes only or share your thoughts with the world, you deserve to reap the benefits.
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