What are the benefits of journaling on one’s happiness and mental health?
First, we need to understand what the root word, jour, in both journal and journey means. Jour comes from the Old French jor, or jorn, and from the Latin diurnum or diēs which all translate to day. According to wiktionary.org, the definition of Jour, is
2. Daylight, light.
3. Opening, aperture.
In other words, when there is daylight, or when there is light, we can see and we become aware of our surroundings. Journaling our journey allows us to become aware of our surroundings. It allows us to see our paths clearer as we approach them, to become more mindful, keep track of our emotions and thoughts then make more conscious decisions by acting, not reacting to them. As a photographer, when I photograph at night, I need to increase my aperture to let in more light to get a brighter picture. The aperture is a hole within a lens, through which light travels into the camera body (think of your pupil enlarging at night which increases the field of light so you can see better.).
Second, I thought I’d share how journaling helped me:
I’ve been a stay at home mom for about 18 years. I nurtured my family and answered to each of their beck and call. It was my job. I helped my husband with his work, my kids with their homework and 4 terminally ill parents. In other words, I gave all of myself to my family. My kids were in school full time and I was left with the dilemma of “what do I do now?” I decided to journal my dreams. Only then did I realize I was having similar dreams throughout the months. My dreams were about going to the airport but never getting on the plane due to the fact I left my bags or my passport at home. Time and time again this dream popped up. After journaling and asking myself what the dreams were telling me, I came to the realization that until I let go of my baggage and find my own identity, I would never get on that plane and soar. With this realization, I kept journaling for introspection, and found my inner child. I took care of my inner child and supported her till she decided to grow up and find her voice. I no longer put my needs last. I explained my needs to my family and I made changes. I went back to school and started a new career path for myself. One night, I dreamed I got on that plane…and the feeling was exhilarating. Every once in a while I regress but when I do, that dream about not getting on the plane resurfaces shaking me like a bolt of lightening in order to remind me to stay on track.
Third, I believe journaling is highly therapeutic. There are many benefits to journaling on one’s happiness and mental health.
- When we journal our gratitude, we become aware of those things that bring us joy in our life. It increases our endorphins, it exercises our smiling muscles and creates a calmness within.
- When we journal our dreams, we become more aware of patterns. Once we are aware, we have the opportunity to choose to take action to change the negatives in our life into a more positive and balanced lifestyle.
- Journaling can help us understand our physical or emotional pain and it can teach us how to heal ourselves. I had a client who had migraines. She drew a picture of the first time she felt a migraine. I then I asked her where in her body does the drawing resonated. She said her throat. Her throat chakra was blocked. When she wrote about it, she realized she feared asking anyone for help. Her mother was abusive and always scolded her for asking the former questions. When the throat chakra is blocked, it’s like being strangled. The blood flow to the brain is restricted causing a throbbing, followed by a painful sensation. I suggested she ask one person a day for help in some way and journal their response. To her surprise, she realized people were happy to help. After a while, her migraines went away.
- Food journaling for people who want to lose weight – not just for what they eat but to also to jot down the emotions behind what and why they are eating – is also a helpful tool to change patterns.
- Journaling is an active meditation. Instead of clearing your mind of thoughts, you are present with your writing. It becomes a reflection of your thoughts, emotions and memories that you can always refer to and tweak. Journaling is similar to painting, dancing or playing a sport. You attempt/endeavor to be present and mindful while doing these activities, but when you reflect on your work you tweak it until you are satisfied.
- Journaling helps bring the subconscious to the conscious to create awareness and make connections so we can make shifts in our lives: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Fourth, I offer you tips and tricks for helping those who’ve never been able to stick to journaling:
- You don’t have to journal for an hour a day. You can put pen to paper for just 10 minutes a day. Using a timer helps. You can always add additional 10-minute segments. In time, you might even enjoy journaling!
- Put journaling on your calendar just as you would add any other appointment. We need to remember to schedule ourselves. Some people, especially nurturers, put everyone ahead of themselves then neglect themselves. It’s like the car that needs fuel to drive, because if it’s not refueled, the car breaks down. We must nourish ourselves in order to help others.
- Keep a journal on your nightstand or table. If you wake up in the middle of the night because you are anxious or stressed due to having so much going on in your life, jot down everything on your mind. Sometimes we stay awake just to remember what we need to do during the daytime. Another reason to have your journal by your bed is so that when you wake up from a dream, you write it down immediately before you’ve forgotten it. Write it down before you go to the bathroom, you go back to sleep, or you wake up your kids up for school. Question your dreams and answer them.
- We can write affirmations and our gratitude on separate sticky notes and place them to on our mirror in the bathroom or closet to remind ourselves of the positivity around us as we start our day.
Finally, journaling has helped me and my clients process our inner truth, find our voices and enjoy our journey with our eyes wide open. Won’t you try it? If you do, please keep me posted. If you want help getting into the habit, feel free to contact me.