On day 28 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I explored the therapeutic art of journaling, an activity that I’ve always been drawn to as an introvert.
I’ve always been much better at expressing myself through writing rather than speaking. To me, writing is more forgiving because it gives me an opportunity to rearrange my words until they reflect exactly what I’m trying to convey. And it seems that I’m not the only one who feels this way (despite our reliance on technology to communicate these days).
This isn’t to say that verbal communication is not important. In many ways, it’s far superior to the written word. Real human connections allow us to transfer subtle non-verbal information as well. But the written word can be a powerful tool when it comes to personal growth. Journaling, for example, provides a safe, non-judgmental environment for self-reflection and problem-solving.
Over the years, writing in a journal has been quite therapeutic for me personally. It has allowed me to express my thoughts and feelings without having to consider how they might be received by someone else. Scribbling down my thoughts on paper also makes it easier for me to evaluate them for truth, and to determine what, if anything, should be done with them.
When we find ourselves in a state of ambivalence or indecision, journaling can be especially helpful. Whether it’s making a pros/cons list, creating an action plan to solve a problem or achieve a goal, or simply letting thoughts and ideas flow freely, putting thoughts into words helps us make sense out of them.
Researchers believe that expressive writing may improve immune function, increase IQ, help us heal from emotional trauma, reduce depression, increase productivity, and cut down on visits to the doctor. Some evidence also suggests that having written goals increases our likelihood of achieving them.
Spending time with our thoughts is a form of self-care, and having an outlet for our concerns and challenges prevents them from building up over time, thereby reducing stress, which often carries negative health consequences.
If you’ve never tried journaling before, or have struggled with it in the past, just remember there is no right or wrong way to do it. Since you’re the only one who will read it, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, flow, or having a proper format. You could even create an art journal, using drawings rather than words for that matter. Some people prefer to use technology while others prefer old-fashioned, hand-written journals. The method doesn’t really matter; what matters is that we periodically take time for ourselves.