By Randall Winter ’12, Public and Community Health Major, Center for Health and Wellbeing Intern
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.
Journaling, or the process of recording your personal thoughts and daily experiences through free writing, can do more than provide an outlet for cathartic venting. It can serve as a powerful vehicle for self-reflection and emotional growth.
Think of your journal as a space to check in with yourself, clarify values and desires and process fears and anxieties.
Increasing scientific data is uncovering powerful physical benefits of keeping a journal, such as managing stress and strengthening the immune system and reducing physical symptoms of chronic illness when writing about stressful events.
It can be a problem-solving tool as well, helping you gain insight into effective and unexpected solutions. We tend to approach problems analytically with our right-brains. Writing can awaken the creativity and intuition of our left-brains.
Journaling is emotionally therapeutic. Writing can help you process and cope with complex feelings and work through the difficult healing process in a healthy, constructive way.
- Invest in a journal. Choose a notebook that is uniquely you and make it your own. Or, if you are more comfortable, simply write on loose-leaf paper and discard it when you’re done. The benefit comes from having done the writing, not necessarily keeping it around. However, a record you can refer back to can help you notice trends and track improvements over time.
- Make the time. Set aside as little as 5 minutes each day to write. Make it part of your morning, lunch-time or evening routine and be consistent. If possible, write in the same space at the same time of day. Make it a goal to work up to a daily 20 minute writing practice.
- Just begin. Try not to over-think it. Simply write whatever comes to you. If you’re feeling stuck, you’ll find some helpful prompts below.
- Make it a judgment-free zone. Leave self-criticism and censorship at the door. Try writing with a pen rather than a pencil with an eraser to avoid worrying about neatness, spelling or grammar. If you skip a day, or two or ten – don’t give up.
- Get personal. The greatest emotional and physical benefits of journaling occur when you move beyond a simple recounting of your day’s activities. Dig deep and tap into your rich emotional landscape – the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Keep it for your eyes only. If you are worried about someone else reading your journal, chances are you’re going to have a hard time being candid and honest with yourself. Put it in a place where you feel confident no one will find it. Maybe consider putting it in a safe or buying a lock for it.
Having writer’s block? Here are some prompts to get the pen moving…
- Where would you like to be in 2 years?
- If you could have three wishes – one for yourself, one for somebody else and one for the world – what would they be?
- What was important to you five years ago? How about now?
- What are you grateful for?
- What is your earliest childhood memory?
- What or who makes you the happiest?
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
Do you maintain a journaling practice?
- What are some tips you would share with someone just getting started?
- What are some of your favorite writing prompts?
- Where are your favorite places to journal on campus?
Tell us in the comments below.