Putting thoughts on paper can open a new world of insight and bring many benefits.
Writer: Mary Ann DeSantis
Last year, my mother gave me an interesting and funny book: a 26-year-old journal of hers. I chuckled aloud as I read about her adventures and marveled at her insights. The journal showcased a side of her I didn’t know. It also was the catalyst for me to keep my own journal. In the months since I began with a pen and paper, I’ve noticed innumerable benefits.
Writing in a journal is one of the best ways to practice “mindfulness,” a technique to focus attention on thoughts and feelings without judgment. Research from the University of Texas shows that regular journal writing reduces stress and makes us more aware of the triggers that cause it. Writing about stressful events often illuminates ways to come to terms with them.
Becoming more appreciative
Focusing on the present as I write makes me more appreciative of my surroundings. When I sit on my lanai early in the morning and write for a few minutes, I get in tune with nature. It’s easier to let go of stress with birds chirping and flowers blooming all around. Many people start a “blessings” journal to keep track of all the good things in their lives so they can be mindful of them when the going gets tough.
Meeting goals and keeping resolutions
A fortune was made with notebook planners in the business world before computers took over completely. In the 1980s, corporate executives kept elaborate notebooks with goals and targets listed on pre-printed pages. Research shows that written goals are, in fact, more likely to be met. On the first page of my journal, I scribbled a few personal resolutions, including one to measure my success at the end of the year. Six months later, and I’m still hanging in there.
Knowing myself better
My journal routine has helped me clarify my thoughts and feelings. It’s also helped me put situations into perspective and focus on things that are important. Most importantly, seeing myself has given me a better understanding of others.
Buy a notebook. I have been inspired by the bookstore varieties with pre-printed quotes, because if I don’t know what to write, those pithy words are a prompt. Set aside 20 minutes a day for journal writing. Write quickly to free your mind and don’t worry about spelling and punctuation. It’s your book and privacy is key.