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What do you think of when you are told to journal?

Do you think of this?


or this?


or maybe you think of an assignment that your awesome psychology professor (aka me) made you do?  or maybe you think of opening a word document and typing your thoughts?

Whether you journal every day, every once in a while, almost never, or actually never – this post is quickly going to outline just a few of the reasons that journaling is good for your health.

Give yourself maybe 10 minutes and quickly do the following exercises:

1. What did you have for lunch each day this week?
2. What do you feel about the last thing you did today (prior to starting to read this post)?

Well my friends, congratulations! Just in writing answers to those questions you have brought some healing to your life. Yes, even just listing what you had for lunch this week can be therapeutic, especially because it tests your memory. While the more personal the journaling the greater the therapeutic benefit, research has shown that the simplest of journaling provides therapeutic benefit.

I started journaling years ago (nope, not gonna tell you how many years ago) when my mother gave me a gratitude journal (it was the book of the month from Oprah). I have been journaling with varying consistency ever since. At some point during my time at Christian Theological Seminary I noticed that I was far more consistent in my journaling during times when I was beyond stressed or fairly happy. When I started having great success with the clients I was counseling who were journaling, I decided to look at the role of journaling in the healing process. My master’s thesis was entitled “Journaling and the art of self care”. Through the research for and writing of the thesis I synthesized a theory of how journaling works to increase health.

My research, in brief:
1. Honestly, no one is entirely sure how journaling works. What we can see, or measure, of course, is self ratings of happiness/contentment.
2. In other words, people report that they feel better, do better work, have more fulfilling friendships, etc after journaling.  Specifically, people say that journaling is helpful in the following ways:
a.  clears one’s head
b.  is an outlet so that people do not “bottle” their emotions
c.  is an emotional release
d.  helps rationalize
e.  or allows for the exact opposite – no one has to be rational when he/she journals
3. My understanding of what happens/why journaling is beneficial is two fold …
Part 1 of the benefit of journaling:  There seems to be multiple parts to the self. One might even say that “I” is made up of multiple selves.  Think about the “voices” that speak in your head.  A few of the selves that I can label in my head are:
– my work self
– my wife self
– the God within me
– my perfectionism self
– my friend self
– my school self
– my pessimistic self
What selves can you list that together create who you are?
I believe the acts of writing and reading what is created when one journals bring the different parts of the self together into one conversation. For example, it might be that the voice of my school self does the writing, but it is my friend self who will do the reading of what I wrote. It is the bringing together of these different parts that leads to healing. It is as though through journaling we learn a little more about ourselves AND through learning about ourselves we learn to listen when to glisten to which voices and when to ignore them all.
Part 2 of the benefit of learning:  Learning to silence your inner critic(s) is one way that we can learn to love yourself better.  When we love ourselves better we are living out the saying, “Love your neighbor as thyself” – which means we have a greater ability to love our neighbor
More about journaling next Monday.