I put together a journal prompt series not too long ago, you can check it out here, because I am a firm believer in the healing power of writing. What’s funny is I think I put the cart before the horse — first I did a journal prompt series and today I had the thought “hm, I probably should’ve started with the benefits of journaling.” Either way, this post is going to get you all inspired to journal and then you can go ahead and get your buns over to the other articles for some prompts to get you started. Who wants to stare at a blank page anyway? Here for you is my roundup of the very best benefits from a journaling practice:
1 | Vent all you want!
With all that happens to us throughout the day — mean people on the road, stressful situations at work, even frustrations at home and with family — it helps to know that you have an opportunity to vent it all out. Friends, your partner, co-workers, family members, a therapist or life coach can be great resources for venting and support, but what if you need more? Sometimes we don’t want to burden people around us with negativity (or even worse, have them join in and have it spiral into a complaining-fest!)
A great way to vent without any negative repercussions is to write that stuff out. There is something uniquely therapeutic about writing out your hurts, fears, annoyances and all the rest on paper. I believe that when you put something down on paper, in a way you’re releasing it from your system. It can also give you perspective from the problems themselves. I've certainly had times when I wrote some feelings and issues out that I was having, and after reading through them was able to laugh at the situation and even at myself! Laughter is also a great way to let stuff out. :)
2 | Work through past issues
We all have baggage that we carry around from the past. Some have huge bags and others just a few little ones. There’s always something we can let go of just a little bit more. A great way of letting go of emotional luggage from the past is to write about it.
Not sure where to start? There’s a cool visualization exercise I learned from Rebecca Kordecki called “The Slides of Life” where you sit or lie down in a comfortable position and get into a meditative state through taking several deep, cleansing breaths. You then go back in time 5 years at a time and visualize yourself and your life at each age. (For me — 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5 years old.) Don’t get too caught up in any one image, just let them float by. Notice any feelings that come up at each age. If you found one milestone particularly challenging to imagine emotionally, that might be a good starting point for you.
3 | Manifest your future
I don’t know about you, but I have big, lofty goals for the future. You wanna know what some of ‘em are? :) Okay, I’ll tell you! My dream for my business is to own a holistic healing center where people can come and take advantage of all sorts of healing services such as somatic psychotherapy, meditation classes of all sorts, self-growth workshops, nature retreats, yoga, nutrition and a bunch of other cool stuff.
Often, I get so excited about all the ideas I have, I get overwhelmed. Writing down my goals (and action steps towards them) allows me to chunk my goal into smaller, more achievable steps, which in turn reduces that sense of overwhelm. Journaling is an awesome way for me (or you!) to take all our wonderful visions for the future and start making them a tangible reality by writing them down. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of visualization and intention for goal achievement. And there is also hard science to back the efficacy of writing down your goals!
Want to take this a step further? In the study mentioned above, the participants who took their written down goals and sent status updates to a friend had the best luck following through with their objectives. I recently leveraged this technique with some friends of mine (I started a 15-minutes per day meditation challenge with them) and it has been incredibly successful for me. This is the most consistent I've ever been with meditation (in a 7-year-long practice!)
4 | Gain clarity on decisions
Do you guys remember that "Friends" episode (am I dating myself?!) where Ross writes down the pros and cons of Rachel and Julie to decide who he wanted to date? Well, for those you who remember, that didn’t work out too well for Ross — Rachel found the document and was not happy! Believe it or not, a famous psychological study showed that making a "pros and cons" list does not actually help people make decisions that they’re happy with in the long-term.
This may seem odd. Isn't introspection a good thing for decision-making? Think of it this way — a "pros and cons" list relies heavily on logic and reason, (and even the quantity of pros versus cons,) but doesn’t factor in important holistic aspects of the person’s decision-making abilities such as intuition, self-trust, wisdom and your emotional responses.
Keep this in mind when brainstorming in your journal about a big decision. Remember to rope in all of those wonderful mind/body/spirit superpowers that make us human. Your "gut feeling" really is your biggest asset!
5 | Express your creativity
You never know what’s in you until you start letting it out! Whether you consider yourself a creative person or not, we each have an authentic voice and way of expressing ourselves. Journaling is a safe space to do this.
I know that when it comes to my creative side, I tend to be shy at first about sharing anything I’ve made for fear of being rejected or criticized. (I’ve worked on this, but there are some remnants still!) What I find is that I feel most comfortable working on a project when I have the choice to share it or not and can be as open and candid as I want while I’m working on it. Then, once I’ve had time to get used to the idea of sharing it with others (or even publicly, like on this blog!) I’m usually cool with it by that point.
A journal is an awesome way to get started with creative expression without any pressure of putting yourself out there. It’s good practice. :)
6 | Reminisce about the fun times
I kept a journal all throughout middle school and high school and I’m so glad I did! It started as a middle school assignment and I just kept it up until I started college (got way too busy, eek!) and then picked it back up as a self-care practice as a young adult on and off until the present.
What I love about having old journals is if I ever need a good laugh, I pick one up and read about old times. It’s crazy how much we forget over the years about the shenanigans we got into when we were younger. The stories all kind of blend together in my memory for me. When I read an old journal, it not only makes me laugh, but makes me smile to see how much I’ve grown and to see the different types of beliefs and attitudes I had in different phases of life. (This benefit takes a few years to take hold, but is one that I think is so worth it.)
Now I would love to hear from you!
- Do you journal regularly? If so, what do you gain from it? If not, have you ever journaled in the past?
- If you were to start journaling, (or pick it back up) what do you think you would journal about?
- Are there any benefits from journaling that you have gained that I forgot to mention here?
- Is there anything I wrote about here that you’re excited about for your journaling practice?
Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. Thank you for reading and be well. xoxo Nat
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.