When you hear the word “journaling”, most laugh a bit because the stereotypes from movies or childhood memories of “diaries”. What most don’t know is this is how many of the great leaders of past and present have come to be so successful or iconic. They may have not known it then, but their journaling helped them become the person they were and even paved the way for how we do things today. This isn’t a history lesson though, I want to talk about the health benefits that have been shown through research and how I have come to love it.
Well, what is “journaling”? It is the physical writing of thoughts, ideas, and feelings in a collective manner of an individual. The beauty of it is that it can be whatever you like and for whatever reason, just as long as it is physically written. I say that for a reason, because our society is so wrapped up in doing everything on their phones and/ or computers. The act of physically writing something down is becoming a thing of the past and it’s unfortunate because it is so powerful to our health. In fact, there is evidence that supports that journaling daily can help improve overall health. University of Texas at Austin psychologist, researcher and author of “Writing to Heal” James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. I mentioned this piece to keep the Longhorn fans interested. Sounds pretty farfetched but when you look at the fact that writing words on paper signals your brain that “this is important.” A part in your brain [reticular activating system (RAS)– not important just cool science stuff] starts flagging things that relate to what you wrote. Ever heard of writing your goals down on a note card and carrying it around if you want to achieve them. This is why that works! How this plays into improving health is by what you are journaling. If you journal about positive things, what you are grateful for and/ or working through problems in your journaling, you are in turn reducing stress. When you reduce stress, you improve your health therefore strengthen the immune system.
Okay, enough of the science stuff. The science piece is one of the reasons I adapted this practice but what has evolved from it is a bit more than I expected and that is why I decided to share this. To start this my journaling off, I needed a bit more direction than just “write your feelings, thoughts and ideas” down on a piece of paper. I heard about the “The Five-Minute Journal” developed by Tim Ferris and decided to order it. It focuses on practicing Gratitude and only journaling 5 minutes in the morning and at night. This was something I felt I could invest some time in especially since it guided me. After only a couple weeks of doing it religiously, I found myself having a different outlook on my day, life in general and being more productive during the day. Because every morning I was physically writing down “3 things I am grateful for”, “3 things I that would make today great” and “a daily affirmation”. I have started to look at the world different and found myself contacting people that have made a impact on my life telling them how much I appreciate them. I have always been good at saying “Thank You” but showing gratitude to someone is being a little more specific and that has come a lot easier lately. The productivity has been great as well. As most of you all know, I juggle multiple jobs and getting one thing done can be tough sometimes. The journal helped me prioritize the 3 most important things and my brain “flagged” things throughout the day to accomplish them. AHA, see how I threw that back in there