Self-Care Sunday: how journaling can improve your well-being

Morgan Grindy

Keeping a journal doesn’t have to mean you’ve got a bedazzled notebook with a butterfly on it, hidden away in your room under lock-and-key. Although it can be if you want.

A journal can be anything from a basic spiral notebook like you’d use to take notes in class, to an extravagant sketchbook full of drawings. A journal can take on many forms, but the most impactful element of keeping a journal is what you put inside.

Journaling regularly has been proven to reduce stress, improve immune function, keep your memory sharp, boost your mood and strengthen emotional functions according to Intermountain Healthcare. Engaging in expressive writing helps unlock creativity and strengthen self awareness. “Expressive writing can help individuals develop more structured, adaptive and integrated schemes about themselves, others and the world,” Intermountain Healthcare said.

Making time to write down how you feel, work through difficult situations or just spill out the things that run through your head at the end of the day, are all beneficial uses of a journal. Business Insider, a financial and business news website, shared that the two reasons why expressive writing is so healthy are the ability to disclose information and to find meaning.

“If you access, express and process those blocked-up emotions, you’ll feel better, in all of the ways. For the same reason that talking about your breakup with your best friend makes you feel better, journaling about getting fired lets you process it,” Business Insider said.

They also said writing about experiences in your life, especially traumatic experiences, will allow you to find their meaning which otherwise may have been overlooked. In an article about journaling that Business Insider published, they asked Harvard Business School psychologist Francesca Gino and her colleagues about a study they completed on journaling.

The study found that when “new employees who had 15 minutes to write and reflect at the end of the day performed 22.8% percent better than those who didn’t.” Gino then stated that, “When people have the opportunity to reflect, they experience a boost in self-efficacy. They feel more confident that they can achieve things. As a result, they put more effort into what they’re doing and what they learn.”

In Gino’s study, employees only wrote for 15 minutes and were able to see significant improvements in their performance at work. If you’re going to write a journal, it doesn’t need to be a novel. There are many different types of journaling that will allow you to engage in expressive writing and reap some of these benefits.

The Livestrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides support to people affected by cancer, shared four different journaling options in an article published last year. First, the one sentence journal. Writing just one sentence down at the end of each day will allow you to ease into journaling and keep things short and sweet.

A bullet journal, is one of the ways you can journal and keep yourself organized too. It’s similar to a to-do list, but you can keep track of more personal things such as “thoughts, hopes, dreams, workouts, friends’ birthdays, habits, food intake and anything else you want to keep track of.” Make a key of symbols that you can use to keep track of when you get things done, how you feel about things on your list, or anything else. Your journal is about you.

A third option they shared was a night time journal. “When our head hits the pillow, our brains release the ‘static energy’ that builds up throughout the day. That energy can come in the form of creative ideas, negative thoughts or list upon list of things we have been setting aside while dealing with immediate concerns,” Livestrong said. Reflecting on the ideas and thoughts that build up throughout the day will allow you let them go before the next day.

Lastly, if words aren’t really your thing, creating a visual journal can allow you to reflect just as well. Include drawings, sketches, paintings, photos, comics, or anything else visual. Keeping a collection of visual elements let’s you identify patterns and changes in your life and well-being.

There are many more kinds of journals you can create and many different ways you can curate one. However most importantly, your journal will allow you grow through changes and find meaning and understanding in your own life. No matter which route you take into journaling and whatever comes out of it, building a journal is an accomplishment in itself.