As writers we are often encouraged to write every day. Journaling can help with your daily writing practice and it has many psychological benefits for the writing process. You’ll probably find it overflows into your daily life.
I admit, I don’t journal every day, because if I only have a thirty minute block in the day to write then I want to work on my WIP. However, I do tap into the benefits of journaling at times when I most need it.
Ever since I was a kid i’ve haphazardly kept diaries and journals. I’ve always been far better at expressing my thoughts and feelings through the written word rather than verbally. Recording my internal experiences in a journal has provided a safe place for me to offload strong emotions such as distress, fear and hurt. It has allowed me to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It allows my feelings to be lifted up so that I don’t become overwhelmed with the intensity of my emotions. There have been times when I’ve needed my trusted friend, the blank journal, which listens to me without judgement, unscrambles the confusion and relieves the tension I’ve carried around. It provides me with a new sense of understanding. It has often allowed me to process grief, loss, hurt, anger and sadness.
Of course, talking with a trusted friend or a professional is also just as useful. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out what you’re feeling or thinking until you start to write it down. You may find that you can then articulate your experience more clearly with a friend or other trusted person.
When I’m feeling bogged down by life, it interferes with my creativity and the writing process. That’s when I’ll open a blank document on Word or flip open a journal and just free write. It allows me to get anything that’s on my mind, out of my head and onto paper. Whatever I’m feeling is processed. Then I can set it aside and focus on my WIP.
Journaling is often used as a therapeutic technique by psychologists and social workers to help people become more attuned to their thoughts, feelings and their behavioural responses.
What is the purpose of Journaling?
Journals serve two main purposes. They record your experiences and they offer a cathartic release for the stresses of every day life. Free writing allows for the uninterrupted flow of your thoughts. Guided journals (with prompts and exercises) can help tap into the subconscious mind and unleash repressed thoughts and emotions.
3 Benefits of Journaling
Journaling has psychological and emotional health benefits which can not only support your writing practice but influence the way you approach your life in general.
- Process Experiences: In the case of trauma, the field of psychology has been a long-term believer in the processing of experiences in order to move forward with an improved frame of mind. While our instinct might be to block out memories, or shut out painful experiences; the intense feelings are usually re-channelled into unhelpful, avoidant behaviours. The processing of a painful experience actually allows the experience to become just that, an experience. It lessens the hold it has over you and you become desensitised to the intensity of the emotions it once activated. When you journal, you process what’s on your mind. It provides a space to reflect on yourself, your relationships and your experiences. It allows growth, development and the chance to learn. Personal reflection in turn allows the development of good patterns in your life. Essentially, journaling helps clarify your thoughts and feelings.
- Reduces stress: When you write about negative feelings, it releases the intensity of those feelings. When these emotions are released, you will feel calmer and more focussed.
- Harness creativity: Scientific evidence supports that journaling accesses the left brain which is the logical and analytical side of your brain. When you write it removes the mental blocks in place and allows your creative right brain to reign free. You will be amazed at how much better at problem-solving you will become when you unlock the right-brain!
There are many more benefits of journaling, but these are just a few. For some people, they experience negative effects such as becoming too analytical about their thoughts and behaviours, or becoming self-obsessive or self-blaming. If this has been your experience, then I’d recommend speaking to a professional instead. Allow someone else to help you make sense of what you are thinking and feeling, so that you don’t get too stuck in your own head.
Is journaling for you?
I won’t go ahead and recommend you journal every day for the rest of your life. But I will recommend you give it a go. Trial it daily for a month and see how it feels. Even if it’s just ten minutes a day. Then make a commitment to use it when you need it. Journaling may help you if you:
- Feel stuck or struggling to move forward with the creative process
- Are feeling overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities
- Want to improve your self-awareness
- Want to develop an intimate connection with the characters on your page
- Want to write daily but don’t know what to write yet
- Are feeling stressed, sad or anxious
If you’re feeling sad or depressed, or this article has brought up difficult feelings for you, then I’d recommend you call Lifeline (Australia) o 13 11 14 and speak to a trained counsellor or, discuss your concerns with your GP.
What are your journaling experiences? Share them in the comments below…