The Blog

Write This Down

There’s a simple 5-minute practice you can do anytime that can and will change your life.

A growing body of evidence shows that keeping a journal (written, sketched or a combination of the two) lowers stress, improves our mind and can even help our bodies heal faster.  However, instead of jotting down their thoughts for the day, too many people are putting their lives on social media.

Platforms like Facebook are all about input. Each scroll down the page, each “like”, or each “follow” gives users a hit of something new and fresh. This stimulates the brain’s dopamine receptors, much like a drug.  And like any drug, social media soon becomes as addictive.

Something that requires output – something that forces us to think for ourselves - exercises and strengthens our brain’s higher functions.  That’s why everybody who has ever studied the subject recommends picking up a piece of paper to do some old-fashioned journaling.

Writing down events of the day helps us solidify memories and learn from them.  When we write ideas down, our brain divides them into specific categories, which facilitates recall.

Journaling helps us release emotions and entertain new perspectives, a key to lowering stress and anxiety levels.  Writing down our thoughts at the end of the day also increases our gratitude.  The more thankful we are, the happier we are as well.

New research shows that keeping a simple journal is good for our physical health too.  Expressive writing is now believed to boost our immune system and enhance the overall body function.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 107 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, who wrote for 20 minutes on 3 consecutive days.  Four months later, those who wrote about a stressful event in their lives showed less functional deterioration and more improvement in their symptoms compared with controls.  An Australian study of patients with HIV and AIDS also discovered that 20 minutes of daily journaling was associated with significant improvement in immune system health.

You don’t need to write for 20 minutes at a time to see benefit.  As little as five minutes of journaling about the most important events of the day can be worthwhile.  Two short sessions – one in the morning and one in the evening – are optimal and very doable for most of us.  By bookending your day, you set the tone for what’s ahead and then reflect on what went right or wrong afterward.

Here’s the most important thing to keep in mind about this sort of journaling. Your personal journal is not meant for anyone else but you.  It’s a record of your thoughts and feelings, not a story of your life for others to read.  There should be no social pressure…no worries about what others will think if they see your words, sketches or doodles.  If you want to keep a memoir, that’s fine but it should be a separate thing.

Give journaling a try today.  You’ll be amazed at the results!

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